RULE NO. 23: YOUR PARENTS DID THE BEST THEY COULD

Bernard Fouquet Modern Gay

When I was 14 my dad took me on a father and son snowboarding trip. The drive from my home to the mountains was over 7 hours and during that time our conversations touched on various topics. I had always had a great relationship with my parents and talked openly with my dad about sex, his sexual experiences and girls. We had never spoken about homosexuality; until that point I hadn’t considered that I might be gay. A few months before my 14th birthday I had started thinking about boys and an older kid at my school had asked me if I was gay. Not knowing what any of this really meant I decided to broach the topic with my dad during our extended car trip. I loved asking my dad questions about sex and dating and being a reformed playboy, he had a lot of tantalising stories to share.

“Dad, how do I know if I’m gay?” I curiously asked. Taken aback, he answered with a very involved and convoluted explanation, using analogies and metaphors that were somewhat confusing for a 14 year old to decipher. He finished his explanation with the statement “although I’ll be disappointed if you’re gay, I will always love and support you”.

I realised two things from our conversation 1. by my fathers explanation and reasoning, I was definitely not gay and 2. that if I ever was to be gay then I would be a disappointment to my father. The latter realisation was particularly troubling as I had always been taught that family was the most important thing and therefore disappointing the family was for me, an unimaginable act of disrespect.

Looking back on that formative conversation I’ve realised that my father was simply handling the situation in the best manner that he knew how. While his explanation would have been understood much better had he just said that being gay meant that a boy liked a boy in the same way that other boys likes girls, he was obviously trying to protect to me.

Although I’m fortunate to have parents who now support and love me regardless of my sexuality, I understand that other people have had much more trying experiences with their families. Whether your parents have dealt well with your coming out or have responded negatively, it’s important to understand that their response is based on their own experiences and their own capability to deal with the situation. Their opinions and values may be based on religious or cultural beliefs or they may not understand what it means to be gay. Whatever their response, one must realise that we cannot change the perspectives of others. What we can do is try empathise with them and see things from their perspective in the hope that they will learn to empathise with us too.

The thought of disappointing  my parents prevented me from coming out to them for much longer than I would have anticipated. When I realised what that disappointment actually meant, I found the confidence to finally tell them. They weren’t disappointed in me as a person, they were disappointed that the life that they had imagined for me wasn’t going to be, and that was OK. They were entitled to that disappointment and even then, those feelings were dealt with and forgotten faster than I anticipated. Once we come out, no matter how our family responds, we must give them space to come to terms with the situation. This may take days, months or even years.

Often I wondered, to the point of resentment why my parents had never asked me if I was gay. It would have been so much easier had they just approached me at 15 and asked me the question rather than waiting for me to come out. This resentment was intensified one evening at a restaurant when my dad pointed out to me a table of good looking men who were clearly gay and jokingly said “there’s some boys for you”. I responded with “if your gaydar is so good then how come you never asked me if I was gay”? to which he responded that he had always known but wasn’t sure how to approach the topic without upsetting me.

Obviously the past cannot be undone but I now see that my parents dealt with the situation the best way that they knew how and with that realisation comes a sense of peace.

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10 thoughts on “RULE NO. 23: YOUR PARENTS DID THE BEST THEY COULD

  1. Beautifully written Joshua.
    My father did ask me… pre-empted of course with the exact same uncomfortability that your father expressed… “(un-)sure how to approach the topic without upsetting me”…
    When I answered “yes”, he told me to remember 3 three very important things;
    1. Be careful.
    2. I love you.
    3. I will always be here for you.

    Of course, then we cried and hugged. I was clearly one of the lucky ones!!!

    As for my Dad’s gaydar… he preferred going out with me and pretending/wondering whether everyone else thought “he was my sugar-daddy”, and of course he revelled in being able to tell them “No, actually, I’m his real Daddy!” (Cheeky bastard!!!)

    • joshvansant says:

      Thanks for sharing your story. What a beautiful response from your dad. It’s nice to hear positive stories as so many gay men have experienced negative reactions from their families. Your dad sounds wonderful (and cheeky too)!

  2. Jodi Lee says:

    This is so insightful and honest. You’re depth of character and level of understanding is so incredible, and what you wrote spans far beyond homosexuality and resonates with every child of every parent. You’re such a gem. x

    • joshvansant says:

      Thanks for your post lovely. You’re right though – we all need to be patient with our parents and realise that they’re only human and don’t always know how/have the skills to respond to every situation. I think this realisation comes with age x

  3. Kristian La Greca says:

    The insight you possess is truly inspiring and I agree 110% with what you’ve written. I only came out to my parents just over a year ago and what a weight that was off my shoulders…but then came the aftermath. At times I got angry that my Mum couldn’t just “get over it” but with time, I realised, if it took me this long to comes to terms with my homosexuality, the least I can do is give my Mum space. Thanks for the entry, really good read!

    • joshvansant says:

      Thanks for sharing your story. You really highlighted a fundamental point that I didnt mention in the article; it took us all time to come to terms with our sexuality so we should be patient while others take the time to deal with it too. Parents are often unprepared to deal with a child coming out and just like we’ve never been taught how to be gay, they’ve never been taught how to deal with a gay child. Thanks so much for this enlightening observation.

  4. michaelt says:

    I really enjoy your blogs and thoroughly enjoyed reading this agreeing with you like Kristian 110%. It is hard for our parents and their generation for many reasons including religion and cultural expectations of marriage etc. However, I’ve learned that education is the way forward for example once parents see that you are happy and can form satisfying long-term relationships with the same sex, they start to see the reality that it is not just a label but a way of life that can be as fulfilling and enriching as that of a heterosexual.
    Thanks so much for sharing Josh – great article.

  5. jgreen says:

    This is a beautiful read.
    I was blessed with amazing parents, but even then they couldn’t be expected to understand straight away. I think the biggest part of it for myself and many of my friends, was our parents wanting the best for us in life, and not wanting the additional struggles that can come with being gay to burden us. It genuinely comes from a good place, but it just does’t necessarily reflect reality and can come across as negative.
    My mum took some time to completely understand it but after my siblings reassured her she came around. The first thing my dad said was that I’ll always be his kind hearted son and that regardless of my sexuality I have to treat my partner right. Months later when I was discussing it with him he said “For a little while there I worried what other people might think about you, but then I realised I don’t give f**k what they think”. At that point I knew i was extremely lucky to have them

    • joshvansant says:

      Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your story. My dad expressed similar sentiments when I came out. The gay men that he has known haven’t had the happiest of lives and so he was worried that my sexuality would make my life more difficult.

      You’re very lucky to have such understanding parents.

  6. finnwest2015 says:

    Amazing post bro! You lucky to have the dad you did. Really touching story.
    Finn

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