Someone I Love is Gay…. Now What?

Learning that a loved one is gay, lesbian or bisexual can be an emotionally difficult situation for all involved. For the person sharing the secret they have long harbored, it can be incredibly stressful anticipating the reactions of their friends and family, while those who they come out of the closet to may be in shock or denial and have a hard time dealing with the news.

Dr. Amity Pierce Buxton, founder of the Straight Spouse Network and author of “The Other Side of the Closet,” says that there are five stages that “straight spouses” go through after discovering their spouse is gay:

     1. Shock, denial and disbelief
     2. Facing the reality
     3. Acknowledgment and acceptance
     4. Letting go of the past
     5. Healing
     6. Reconfiguring life and identity
     7. Transforming and starting a new life

After you have time to accept the revelation that a loved one is gay, you may wonder how you can best support him or her. After all, it is the same person that you felt so close to before – they have just trusted you enough to reveal another side to you.

P-FLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays provides the following guidelines for dealing with the situation:

Do listen to what your loved one’s life is like, and what kind of experiences he or she has had in the world.

Don’t blame your own feelings on your loved one.

Do take the time to seek information about the lives of GLBT people from parents of GLBT people, friends of your loved one, literature, and, most of all, directly from your loved one.

Don’t rush the process of trying to understand your loved one’s sexuality or gender identity.

Do get professional help for anyone in the family, including yourself, who becomes severely depressed over your loved one’s sexuality or gender identity.

Don’t assume that your loved one should see a professional counselor.

Do accept that you are responsible for your negative reactions.

Don’t criticize your loved one for being different.

Do help your child (or loved one) set individual goals, even though these may differ drastically from your own.

Don’t expect your child (or loved one) to make up for your own failures in life.

Do try to develop trust and openness by allowing your loved one to choose his or her own lifestyle.

Don’t try to force your loved one to conform to your ideas of proper sexual behavior.

Do be proud of your loved one’s capacity for having loving relationships.

Don’t blame yourself because your loved one is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.

Do look for the injured feelings underneath the anger and respond to them.

Don’t demand that your child (or loved one) live up to what your idea of what a man or woman should be.

Do defend him or her against discrimination.

Don’t discriminate against your loved one.

Do respect your loved one’s right to find out how to choose the right person to love and how to make relationships last.

Don’t try to break up loving relationships.

Do say, "I love you."

Don’t insist that your morality is the only right one.

 

QUICK CLICKS

P-FLAG
www.pflag.org
As a national support, education and advocacy organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) people, their families, friends and allies, P-FLAG provides local support groups, public education resources and a platform for change.

Straight Spouse Network
www.ssnetwk.org
Founded by Dr. Amity Pierce Buxton, this organization is devoted to supporting the spouses and children of gay individuals. Through the network, mentors, outreach members and therapists are referred and provided.

Voice Roundtable
voiceroundtable.com
For information about the private roundtable discussions on sexuality and relationships, contact John Craig at john.craig@aya.yale.edu.

RECOMMENDED READING

     
Someone I Love is Gay: How Family and Friends Can Respond
By Anita Worthen and Bob Davies


     
My Husband is Gay
By Carol Grever


     
The Other Side of the Closet
By Dr. Amity Pierce Buxton


     
Gay Husbands/Straight Wives: A Mutation of Life
By Bonnie Kaye


     
The Secret Lives of Married Men
By David Leddick