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Q & A's

A: The answer to this question, is the same as this one, ‘What causes someone to be heterosexual?’ To this point, research has highlighted only one thing, we do not know what causes anyone’s sexual orientation. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people have been raised in all kinds of homes, as have heterosexual people.

A: Some families believe they may have been happier not knowing. They start to recall the time before they knew as “problem free”, remembering an ideal situation rather than the reality.

Sometimes families try to deny what is happening by rejecting what they’re hearing by shutting down or by not registering the impact of what they’re being told. Parents and families may feel resentment towards their child or loved one’s sexuality. This feeling is based on the belief that to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex (GLBTI) was a conscious decision.

The main decision most GLBTI people have to make is whether to be honest about who they are or hide it. Hiding it imposes a tremendous burden. A large part of their life would be kept secret from you, and you would never really know the whole person. While people may experiment for some time with their sexuality, someone who has reached the point of telling a parent or someone close to them they are GLBTI is not usually a person who is going through a phase. Generally they have thought long and hard to understand and acknowledge their sexual orientation. Telling family or someone close they think they are GLBTI involves overcoming a great many negative stereotypes and often taking a great risk and few would take that step lightly or prematurely.

A: Your child or loved one has probably been thinking this through for
months, even years. This does not mean a lack of trust or lack of love, neither is it a reflection on your relationship. If you are a parent it can be painful to realise you don’t know your child as well as you thought you did and you have been excluded from a part of their life. To some extent, this is true in all parenting relationships, regardless of sexuality.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people often recognise at an early age that they feel ‘different’ but it may take years before they can put a name to it. It is often not until this stage that they consider telling someone. Even though you may have some sadness for not having been able to help your child or loved one through that period, or the outcome would have been different if you’d known earlier, understand your child or loved one probably could not have told you any sooner. More importantly, doing so now is an invitation to a more open and honest relationship.

A: Parents and family members can sometimes experience feelings of guilt when they first find out about their child or loved one’s attractions for the same gender. However, there is no evidence that different parenting styles or family situations have any bearing on the development of sexual orientation. What families can provide is an environment in which a young person can understand themselves and strive to reach their full potential.

A: Our culture and society provides us with messages about a number of issues, including sexuality. The negative messages and myths we have
learned from our society about sexuality are very strong and not easy to dismiss. However, developing a better understanding of your child or loved one and becoming more familiar with the issues will help reduce these uncomfortable feelings.

Homophobia is a strong part of our culture and is similar to many other forms of discrimination and prejudice. As long as homophobia exists in our society, GLBTI people and their families may have very real and legitimate fears and concerns.

A: Support for parents and families coming to terms with their child or loved one’s sexual orientation can be gained from a counsellor or therapist trained in the area. You may want to talk about your own feelings and how to work through them. It may help you and your child or loved one communicate clearly through this period. Young people who have acknowledged their attractions to people of the same gender can still have feelings of depression and fear and may need help with self acceptance.

…when my brother came out I just really wanted somewhere I could freely express whatever thoughts and emotions I was having about it, be they negative or positive. I found myself opening up much more than I thought I needed to, and I love that I have the support there for whenever I might need it…

…my Mum has come to the last two meetings and she always loves it and has lots of really awesome questions for me afterwards about being a trans guy. We are both getting so much out of it – thanks for all your amazing hard work…

…as proud parents of a wonderful gay man, we were very glad to find a support group like PFLAG Perth. It helped us understand the process we were going through and to know we were not alone. I would encourage any parent or family member to access PFLAG Perth. They have a great network of very caring and supportive people…”