Pride Month – Parents reflect and share their story

To support Pride Month, the parents of one of our pupils have shared their story and reflected on their experience. We wanted to share this with you, and if it prompts any questions, or issues that you would like to discuss, please do not hesitate to get in touch with mark.hindley@abingdon.org.uk

Four years ago our eldest son came out to us as gay. Never for a second did it change the way we loved our son but our heads filled with questions and concerns. How will the rest of our family and friends react? Will this affect his life chances in work and in relationships? Will we ever have grandkids? Questions that we couldn’t answer on our own.

That’s when my wife found FFLAG (Friends & Families of Lesbians and Gays) – a small charity with local groups of parents, all of whom had gay, lesbian or trans kids, all of whom had been on their own journey through this process of being a parent of an LGBTQ+ child. That was just over 3 ½ years ago and since then we have learned so much about ourselves, about our son, and how to navigate some of the complexities that him being gay brings. These insights have helped us and so we wanted to share a few of our biggest learnings in case they might help you too.

Your child coming out makes you realise just how many false and unfounded assumptions you make about your kids and the life they will lead. We assumed he was straight. We assumed he would have girlfriends who would become a wife and then Mother to our grandkids. Some of that may still happen but just with a same-sex partner. Because of those assumptions, part of the process for parents can be grieving for the life you imagined they were going to have but that is now gone. Of course it was never reality, always just your imagination, but you have to let go and imagine a different future now. But the huge upside that one of the other parent’s said to us is that “now you know who he really is”. And it’s true – the trust and transparency between us has grown and we are so thankful that our son felt able to come out to us when he did rather than having to keep hiding his true self.

The other common misunderstanding for parents can be that you start to question whether your child being LGBTQ+ is because of something you did, or did not do. The simple truth is that your child has always been gay, or trans, or bi … you just didn’t know it. There’s no point trying to look for reasons or causes – accept it as your child’s reality that you are now aware of, and put your focus into supporting and loving them because they sadly will face challenges and prejudice along the way. They need you “in their corner”, not questioning why they are who they are.

Our final reflection is that ironically, as our son came out of his “closet”, we actually created one of our own as his parents. We still have too many friends that we haven’t “come out” to as parents of a gay kid. Partly it’s because we fear that they will react badly and we won’t know how to react to them in return, and partly it’s because we realise that sometimes it really isn’t a big deal. We never went round proactively telling people we thought our son was straight so why start broadcasting the fact he’s gay? But we are proud, deeply proud, of our son and the young man he is becoming, and slowly but surely we are now coming out of our self-imposed closet and sharing with friends and family who he really is.

We know that we aren’t the only parents to an LGBTQ+ kid at Abingdon School, and we’re probably not the only ones that have struggled a bit along the way, so if this sounds like you, or might be you in the future, the people that helped us might help you. You can find out more about FFLAG and their support resources and guides at www.fflag.org.uk. Happy Pride Month 2021!

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