Dad wants to come out to his 11-year-old son. Mom doesn’t think he should.

Q:

My son is 11 years old. His father and I are divorced. My ex-husband has a life partner and is pretty stable in his relationship. Father and son are close as well.

My son does not know his father is gay. I have been talking to my son about acceptance of gays, but he still thinks it is “gross.” I have tried to put a positive slant on same-sex relationships with no success. My son wants to see what it is like to live with dad, which means we need to have “the talk” with him about dad. His dad thinks our son needs to be told, but I don’t. Please help.

A:

Questions from LGBT parents about coming out to children are some of the most frequently asked questions to my website. And when parents writes back to me after coming out, they often tell me that their child responded by saying, I already knew that but I didn’t know if I was allowed to ask you about it.

If your son is close to his father like you say he is, he most likely already knows. He could be dropping his “gross” comments as a way to test you and his father to see if he can force a discussion. Or his peers may be recruiting him as a homophobe-in-training. Either way, it’s time for the truth.

So your son thinks it’s gross. What exactly does he think is gross? Most eleven year olds only think of homosexuality in the context of sex. For many eleven year olds, anything to do with any kind of sex is gross. Have you been able to have a mature discussion with him about hetersexual sex? My bet is he thinks that’s pretty gross, too.

From hearing the stories of countless adult children from closeted families, I don’t think it’s fair to hide this secret from your son. Implying that his father’s sexuality a taboo subject — even when his partner is obviously in his life — is emotionally toxic.

It’s great that you’ve been trying to speak positively about same-sex relationships with your son. Now, the most positive thing you and your husband can do is to be honest with your son — before he absorbs any more of the homophobic messages that say being gay is wrong. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be for your son to un-learn his homophobia.

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