Once you've taken that big step to finally accepting who you are and embracing your newfound lesbian/gay identity, you may want to shout it out and share it with the whole world. However, you're not sure how you'll be accepted, if everyone is going to feel that same euphoria as you are feeling, especially your family and more specifically your kids. Teenagers are going through a sexual awakening; the last thing they want to face is their mom's or dad's sexual re-birth.
Nevertheless, it must be dealt with, as keeping it from them won't help unite the family. It will most likely prevent you and your kids from properly bonding especially at a time when they need you most. Most lesbian moms and dads spend a considerable amount of time worrying about how to come out to their teens and asking themselves questions such as:
• Will they hate me?
• Will they yell and scream at me?
• Will they walk away from me?
• Will they still love me?
• Will they accept me?
Thinking about all the possible scenarios and outcomes can lead to anxiety. Begin to change your way of thinking from - what will they think of me, to how am I going to tell them so they'll accept me lovingly. Here are some pointers as to how to begin the process of broaching the subject with your teenager. If you wish to approach your son or daughter with..."I'm a lesbian I'm gay and I'm proud of it", that's great, go ahead. The following advice is for those who might want to take a more gradual approach to the issue because of fear of homophobic responses from their teens. These steps are designed to prepare you for a successful coming out reception.
Step One: Begin by bringing home books on lesbian and gay issues and leaving them around the house, on the coffee table, by the phone, etc. Wait for their reactions. When they ask why these books are around, or comment on them, just say you're doing research on the subject. If they ask why, simply say, "because I find it an interesting issue;" then walk away.
Step Two: Rent or buy a movie in which one of the characters is gay or lesbian. Sit down with your teens on movie night and watch it together. At the end ask them what they thought of the movie and especially the gay/lesbian character. Accept whatever response they say. Do not become defensive in any way. Then add your opinion, whatever it may be, but of course it should be positive. For example, "I think the lesbian/gay character was well acted, a strong and powerful performance."
Step Three: If you have a girlfriend/boyfriend or partner bring him/her home for approximately one hour. Introduce him/her only by name. Have your kids say "hi" and enjoy a drink together.
Step Four: If you do not have a boyfriend/girlfriend or partner, engage your kids in a conversation about Meredith Baxter or Neil Patrick Harris or another known celebrity that is lesbian or gay and has come out. Ask your teens for their opinions on the subject. Tell them that you think he/she has been very courageous for deciding to live a true and honest life.
Step Five: Seize the opportunity. Sometimes the opportunity just arises when your teens mention something about a lesbian or gay friend or schoolmate. Take this opportunity to ask them how they feel about it. Encourage discussion on the issue. If it's negative, don't be alarmed or defensive just add your own positive angle to it.
Step Six: Come Out: I find it best to come out to teens on a one to one basis and not in a group format. On a day or night your teens are home alone, approach them individually and ask them if you can share something very important and personal. Say it's about you and although you have been hesitant to share it, you now feel it's the right time. Then say something to this effect: "I have come to the realization that I am gay/lesbian" or that "I'm attracted to men/women" or "I now identify as gay/lesbian and plan to date men/women" or "I now identify as gay/lesbian and I have a boyfriend/girlfriend (which you have already met)" If that's the case.
Step Seven: Wait for their reactions. They may surprise you and hug you and say they knew it all along. Whatever the reaction, take it in a positive stride. If they become upset, let them express their anger. If they ask you to leave the room, comply and let them take the initiative and return to you later. If they don't return to you, wait a few days and then broach the issue with them. By then they'll have had time to talk about it with friends (possibly) or just had time to toss around the whole my mom is a lesbian/my dad is gay notion.
Questions are always a good sign that your teen is trying to accept you. Through questions you'll have the opportunity to share your coming out process. Don't be surprised if it takes a few days (possibly weeks) for your teens to accept you and your new lesbian/gay identity. Begin to take steps now to creating a more meaningful, honesty based relationship with your teenager. Seek support from your local lesbian/gay community centres and PFlag groups. Begin to pick up brochures, books and films to help you in the coming out process. Most importantly, don't stand alone, have a good friend stand by you for support. Ensure to keep a positive attitude towards yourself and your new identity and that energy will be conveyed to those around you.
About the author: Esmeralda Carvalho has an Honours BA from the University in Toronto, specializing in Sociology and Psychology. She has done extensive work as a lesbian activist, chairing numerous gay/lesbian committees and co-founded a lesbian and gay multicultural association. She has done extensive volunteer work in the area of gay/lesbian counselling, and has facilitated coming out groups for many years.