Sex & Relationships

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Orla Barry answers: How can I encourage my husband to be more accepting of our son's sexuality?

Orla Barry

Published 08/07/2013 | 04:00

  • Share
Old woman having problems with her relationship
I worry that my husband's failure to embrace our son's homosexuality will drive a wedge between us

I attended my first Gay Pride parade recently. It was great fun and enlightening.

  • Share
  • Go To

I'm not gay but my son is. He came out to us three years ago although he says he has known that he is gay for about 10 years.

He really wanted me to go to Gay Pride last year but I wasn't sure if I was ready for it. Last year he was also dating a fellow who was 10 years older than him and I really didn't like the relationship.

Anyway, now he's single and we're closer than we ever were. He's happy but for one thing. His dad. My husband point-blank refused to even consider going to the parade.

I'm hurt he's behaved like this and see now why it used to upset my son so much. His father never really talks to him about being gay.

When I was at the parade, I realised just how important it is for gay people to be accepted by their families. Time and again during the day, I would meet one of my son's friends who would say they would love to have their parents there.

Up to then, I always acknowledged it but never embraced it. Being gay was something to be accepted but never celebrated.

Now that I have seen how much his gay friends respect him and what fun they have, I realise that I need to change my attitude again. Sadly it feels like I am alone in doing that and the more I embrace my son's world, the more distant I feel from my husband.

He's a bit of a man's man – loves having a beer in the pub with his friends, trains a football team, likes his rock music, etc. And in fairness, when my son first came out, my husband was great. He was the one who was very reasoned about it all and told him we would love him no matter what.

Now I wonder if that's really true. My son just says to let it be but I can see they have drifted apart.

I worry that my husband's failure to embrace our son's homosexuality will drive a wedge between us too.

GAY people often say that they feel they spend their lives coming out. There's always someone new to tell, another explanation to give or prejudice to overcome. For parents, it's not just a snap decision of acceptance either. As you've discovered, acceptance comes in many forms.

Words are meaningless if not backed up by at least a little action. Acceptance in your husband's eyes might mean refraining from expressing his opinion. However, silence can be as hurtful as insults.

Your husband may take longer than you to accept his son being gay and he may never accept or embrace it in the way you would like. But allow him the opportunity to discuss his difficulties before letting it become this wedge between you.

Well done on attending the parade. For many, gay or straight, the event can seem overwhelming. The images the press produces generally feature the most dramatic of drag queens lapping up the limelight. In reality, the day sees people from all walks of life coming together to celebrate diversity in sexuality, from teachers, to gardai to mothers.

I would be surprised if your husband knew anything about the day in reality. Not all parents need to attend. I imagine many gay people would be more than happy not to have their parents marching down the streets with them. It says something about your relationship with your son that he wanted you to be there with him, though.

Your son sounds like a well-adjusted young man whose acceptance of his sexuality is surely thanks to your openness. I wouldn't be too hard on yourself for failing to respond to his last relationship, given that most parents would be equally uncomfortable with such an age difference.

To what extent did you talk to your husband about your son's sexuality when he first came out? As you tried to understand your son's life, perhaps your husband found it harder to connect with both of you.

We are all often too quick to make judgments of people or behaviour based on limited experience. If he is a man's man as you put it, there is no reason that he still cannot share experiences with his son.

Think of something both enjoy doing. First time around, perhaps join them so it doesn't seem such a forced situation. Second time around, see if you can pull back and leave them at it.

Like you, it's possible your husband also felt that he was losing out when he heard your son was gay. Of course, just because someone is gay does not mean you have to miss out on weddings or grandchildren.

Is it possible your husband feels a little locked out of this relationship? He may have backed away from involving himself in his son's life and now might find he is unable to connect with either of you.

Encourage him to become a more close part of the family. In my experience, it's usually heterosexual men who have greater difficulty coming to terms with gay men.

Generally the more comfortable a man is in himself and his sexuality, the more open he is with someone of another sexual orientation.

See if you can have your husband open up on his thoughts on homosexuality. Try and see how his thinking originated and if it can be changed.

Be mindful your son may well be just as reluctant to engage for fear of rejection.

Irish Independent

Read More

Editors Choice



Also in Style