My son is 16 years old and has always liked girls, but recently a new kid came to town and they became friends. He is older than my son (18) and he is almost certainly gay. I don't mind my son having a gay friend, but i recently discovered text messages back and forth from them that say "I love you" and "I love you too" he has started telling lies and hiding things from me. Pictures on his phone of him and his friend look like girlfriend/boyfriend pictures (heads together with the silly googly eye look) I confronted him about it and he tells me that the pictures are just pictures of them together, no big deal and the texts were when the other boy was having family issues and he was consoling him, he said he tells all his friends he loves them. Right now he is not allowed to be around this boy at all, but as the school year approaches they will be in classes together and school groups together. He is very mad at me for taking his friend away from him, but I just think that my son is at a very impressionable age and that this older boy is leading him down the gay road a little at a time. Then I of course have to consider that my son is gay and that he just finally met someone that is like him. My son has always been a bit of a sissy/Momma's boy, but he always been interested in girls. I am so confused right now. I believe the gay lifestyle is a sin and I do not want this for my child. He tells me he is not gay, he tells me his friend is not gay, but I don't believe that. I have ask other parents if they think he is and they all agree that he is. I guess my real question is can a kid at 16 know whether they are gay or straight or bi or is it just the crazy hormones of a teenager that makes them experiment with different things and wonder about their own sexuality. Even though he tells me he is not, I feel like he is struggling with his sexuality. Is that normal?
Hi there Kim,
Thank you for taking the time to write to me and I hope that I can help.
Sexuality is a very personal and individual thing and it is something that we, as individuals discover when we are coming through our teens and attempting to find out who we are and what makes us tick. With hormones all over the place, moods swinging from exaggerated happiness to completely down and depressed, it is an incredibly confusing time for any teenager but more so, for one who does not feel (or appear to feel) like he is fitting in with convention. Our sexuality is a big part of our identity and something that determines things like the people we hang out with, the places that we go, the family we can have and the relationships that we want; so it is not just about who we choose to sleep with, but a lot more. Because it is so important, the burden that comes with uncertainty around it is huge and when there is nobody that you feel that you can talk to, it must be like having the weight of the World on your shoulders but you cannot tell anyone about it because nobody is seemingly like you so wouldn't understand. Perhaps this is why your son and this guy have become close, because if this guy is older and apparently open about his sexuality, it could be that your son feels open enough with him to discuss his own issues around his sexuality and he gets the support he needs from this guy.
Whether they are in a relationship or not or just good friends, it is a positive thing that he has someone that he feels close to and can talk to. What is not good though is the lies and the secrecy that this appears to bring. You care for your son and want him to be happy but in order for you to attempt to help him find his way and get to where he wants to be in life; he has to be able to trust you and confide in you. If he feels that either you would judge him (or his decisions# or put pressure on him, then chances are he will end up getting closer to this guy and putting more distance between him and the family, which is not what you want.
It sounds like your son is going through a turbulent time at the minute and he is probably battling with a lot of conflicting emotions bought about puberty but made worse by the fact that he may be gay when he either doesn't want to or cannot accept this. A lot of teenagers, male and female, go through a phase where they are sexually curious and want to explore their sexuality. For most, this is just an unspoken and private explanation that confirms to us what we already know and that is that they are straight. Nothing more is said about and the individual just lives their life confident in the knowledge that they are 'straight' and that there is no reason to question that. But, if a teenage is battling all of their emotions, struggling to fit in 'normally' and far than be just a curious crush on a guy becomes something more serious, then it is not surprising that they are concerned. For most guys discovering their sexuality is a phase that they go through and as hormones settle down, so do they. Your son could just be coming through a phase and in this guy, he has found someone that at least appears to understand him and what he is going through because he has been through it himself. There is the possibility that this may not be a phase and that actually, your son's sexuality is already set its course. If that is the case then you are going to end up facing a tough choice between your faith and your acceptance of your son #you don't need to accept his lifestyle, just his choices#.
To answer your question more directly, is this normal teenage behavior? I would say it is but that if things do not change by the time your son is about eighteen then this is not a phase but a lifestyle choice that he will make knowing about the implications of his decision.
To answer the next part of your question, can you know if you are gay when you are a teenager? Speaking to a lot of gay people they will always say that they knew that they were gay from early on in their lives and for a lot of people, they believe that this decision was found and accepted at about ten years old.
Do I believe that you know that you are gay at ten? I believe that we always have an idea about the direction we want our lives to take but sometimes we are hesitant to make any decisions because we do not have enough of a conviction to commit to that decision because, especially when we are younger, you do not really understand the implications of your decisions. I always advise young people not to worry about their sexuality but to embrace it and take it as it is, which is an emotional rollercoaster with ups and downs but a journey none the less. Coming out and saying 'I'm Gay' at 10 years old, 16 years or even at 18, unless you really understand and have an over-riding belief in what you are saying because you do feel that you know what you want, I would say that people are too quick to come out and need to have a long hard discussion with themselves, their friends and family about whether or not this is confusion or a lifestyle issue.
In terms of being a parent, what can you do? This depends upon how much you want to know and get involved in your son's life given that some of the things you hear may cause your own personal conflict. If you feel uncomfortable tacking the issue of his sexuality head on because of the minefield that it may create, you can still appear to be approachable and to listen but due so out of attempting to stop the lies. What I mean by this is, remind your son that you are his mom and that you will not tolerate any lies or secrecy in your house. Explain to him that although you love him and want him to be happy, you will not have him lying to you in your own home about what he is getting up to. Explain that he is still a teenager and may be going through a tough time but that you are there for him to talk to and you should be the first person that he speaks to about anything because you may be able to help. Saying things like this to him means that you are giving him a platform to speak to you without it necessarily having to be about his sexuality but this open dialogue would mean that he is more likely to talk to you about it.
One other bit of advice I would give you is to be very careful about saying anything negative about this older guy to your son or whilst he is there. The more negative you #or the family are#, the more you will push them closer together and the more likely it is that your son will attempt to leave home sooner to be with him. Even if you do think this guy is leading your son down the wrong path, having a mutual reaction to it #at least in front of your son# will mean that if he is doing this for some kind of reaction then he may stop if he doesn't get one from you. Similarly, inviting this older guy around to your house for something to eat or meeting him away from the house with your son, will give you an opportunity to meet him and see what he and your son are like together so you can work out whether or not this is just friendship or something more.
It could just be that your son is quite camp but not gay; but because everyone else things he is, his only friend is someone that happens to be camp but also gay. Nobody can force your son down a path that he would not want to travel alone, so although you think that this guy is a bad influence, have faith in the fact that you have bought your son up to make his own decisions and to stand his ground, which means that he will only ever do what he is comfortable with.
The best thing to do is to remain calm, take things as they come and maintain an open dialogue. It may also be a good idea for you to get in touch with a parenting charity where the parents are in a similar situation to you so that you can talk to other parents and realize that you are not on your own.
I hope that helps.