Is My Teen Son Gay or Is It a Phase?

Dear Dr. G.,

I am beside myself. My 17-year-old son and I got into a bit of a heated argument this weekend and in the midst of it, my son said he's gay. I was so shocked that I ignored his comment and ended the argument. I have spoken to my husband about this. My husband says that he has always thought that our son is gay and that if he's gay, he's gay. My husband seems fine with this. I don't understand why my husband is so calm and resigned but I guess he's just a more relaxed type than I am. I love my son with all my heart and want an easy life for him.

I feel differently than my husband. Could my son just have said this because he was angry at me and wanted to upset me? Or, maybe he's just going through a phase... Should I have another conversation with him about this? Should I take him to a therapist? There are no other gay people in our family as far as I know.

-A Distraught Mother

Dear Mother,

First and foremost you need to sit down, regroup and take several deep breaths. Breathe deeply as I tell you what I think. Please try not to be in panic mode. It is highly unlikely that your son told you that he is gay simply to upset you. Sometimes, kids tell their parents important things in the middle of a fight because they feel that they have nothing left to lose since you are already upset with them.

It is also unlikely that your son is going through a phase. It is probably more likely that he has known that he is gay for some time. If he told you that he was heterosexual, would you wonder if it was a phase? I suggest that you and your husband talk to your son during a calm moment and ask him how he is coping with being a gay teen. Perhaps he would like to join a support group. If he is experiencing any teasing, bullying or anguish, then you should offer him the opportunity to see a therapist to get support.

I am aware that you probably wanted your son's life to be as conventional and easy as possible. He hasn't presented you with that, so I suggest that you make peace with his identity because more than anything in this world, I am sure that your son needs your support and love. And, it sounds like you have that to offer him. If things get difficult for you, perhaps you can get some emotional support as well. I highly recommend that.

Also, please keep in mind that gay teens need the opportunity to talk to their parents about relationship issues just as straight kids do. A conversation with your gay teen does not end after an acceptance of their sexual choices. They, too, need help getting out of complicated relationships and negotiating all of the tricky aspects of relationships.

Good luck,

Dr. G.