Coming out can be fraught with difficulty for both parents and child—but Wesley Cullen Davidson, a popular blogger on gay rights issues, and Dr. Jonathan L. Tobkes, a New York City-based psychiatrist provide a road map in their new book, When Your Child is Gay: What You Need To Know, (Sterling,14.95 ISBN 13:978-145919360, June 7, 2016) so that families can better navigate this rocky emotional terrain.
The combination of real-life stories of relationships of gay children and their parents told by a popular blogger (Davidson) with the insights of a professional psychiatrist knowledgeable about these issues (Tobkes) makes When Your Child is Gay: What You Need to Know stand out from other books on the gay experience. “In each chapter, I provide tips to help parents and gay children avoid difficult relationships and heart ache that I see so often in my practice,” Dr. Tobkes says.
Co-author Davidson is a mother who accidentally discovered her son was gay. While cleaning her thirteen year-old son’s room, a love note fell out of her son’s composition book. This was the first sign that her son might be gay. She describes how she handled the situation and still maintained a loving relationship with her son. Davidson says, “I wrote this book to help parents and kids through similar difficult situations.”
The many parents interviewed by Davidson related their reactions when they realized their children were gay, the resulting emotional upheaval, and the process they went through leading to eventual acceptance. She also interviewed gay children of straight parents about their experiences of coming out.
Dr. Tobkes, who is gay, has worked with many gay adolescents and their families over the last ten years. He has identified consistent patterns in the ways parents react to their gay children, including denial, guilt, fear, anger, shame, loss and finally acceptance.
In When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need to Know, Dr. Tobkes offers advice on how to accept your gay child and handle your emotions when your child comes out, including:
• Give your child a strong sense of unconditional love and acceptance
• Make it clear that you are always available, ready to listen, support, and advise (as desired by your child)
• Don’t let your child feel judged or feel the need to convince you that this is not a “phase.”
• Use the 3 R’s: love, listen, and learn.
There is also advice for the gay child on coming out:
• First, find someone you trust and can confide in: a close friend, family member, teacher, or mentor.
• Telling just one person will lift a tremendous weight off your shoulders
• Take comfort in the fact that you are still the same person you have always been and know that most close friends or family will not think differently of you.
‘When Your Child Is Gay’ is filled with case studies and interviews, along with useful action plans and conversation starters. Both authors agree “this is a positive, progressive guide to raising healthy, well-adjusted adults.”
Some cases featured in the book are:
Jacob Thomas, 25, gay son, grew up in the Pentecostal Church in North Georgia. it took Jacob a move to Minnesota, a divorce, and 22 years to come to terms with being gay. He came out on YouTube, an ever-increasing vehicle for stating sexual identity. (Chapter 5, From Shame to Pride)
Richard Ogawa, 34, gay son, had traditional parents who were born in Japan, but settled in Seattle. At first, they had fear, and a sense of loss about their son’s sexual orientation. But their unconditional love for Richard eventually dissipated their uncomfortable feelings. (Chapter 6, From Loss to Gain)
Briana Popour, 19, lesbian from South Carolina, challenged her traditional high school for her right to wear a tee shirt declaring she’s a lesbian. She won. Her case is typical of the confidence that gay persons gain when they are supported by family and civil rights laws. (Chapter 7, From Acceptance to Celebration)