Should a gay uncle come out?

Q:

I have a friend who is married with four kids. He is planning to tell his gay brother that he doesn’t want his kids knowing that their uncle is gay. Isn’t it better to tell them instead of hiding it from them? Kids are very accepting of this these days, aren’t they? Does it confuse the kids? I love both of these guys like my own brothers and I want to intelligently help them.

A:

It takes a lot of emotional energy to sensor oneself to not be “found out.” If this uncle were to agree to “hide” his sexual orientation as a condition of having a relationship with his nieces and nephews, he would not fully be himself, and therefore not fully the loving uncle he could be for these kids.

The uncle should come out to the kids when he is ready and then recognize that coming out is an ongoing process. After he comes out to them, he should let them know that the door is always open for additional questions. They may react negatively, or maybe they won’t, but he won’t know until he comes out to them.

Factors that shape a child’s attitude about homosexuality include: peers’ attitudes about gay people, parents’ attitudes about gay people, and the kind of relationship they have with the person coming out. Coming out can be confusing to children only if adults behave in ways that send them the message that the children are supposed to be confused. If it is handled in a respectful manner, it will not be confusing to them. What will be confusing to them is if the uncle doesn’t come out to them and then years later the kids figure it out on their own and realize their dad made their uncle hide this information from them.

One thing that parents in this situation rarely want to think about is that they could have one or more children who will end up identifying as gay or lesbian themselves. Knowing their uncle is gay could literally save their lives, because when kids who come out have family members who have come out before them, the chances of depression and suicide are significantly decreased.

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