Be and let be

Honest and wise communication is the first key to unlock the uncharted domain of your child’s sexuality

Be and let be

I am the father of a 19-year-old son, and a bit confused about how to approach a sensitive topic with him? How do I talk to him about his sexual preference? I think he may be gay, but he hasn't come out to me ever. I do wish he does. Are there any guidelines I should follow to speak with him heart to heart?

Before anything else, I am going to thank you, celebrate you and even applaud you for being an open-minded parent. As a new-age parent, you should be proud of yourself for wanting to understand more about this sensitive topic.

It is also great that you didn't go ahead and point-blank ask him about this since the obvious reply would have been an awkward silence, avoiding you or a full-blown screaming match. The reason your son hasn't spoken to you about it is not that he doesn't trust you, but because he may be uncomfortable, not knowing what is on your mind, how you will react, or even because he may still be figuring it out for himself. It is one of those things that once you talk about, you can't take it back and pretend like a conversation hadn't happened.

Since you are willing to be equipped with the right terms and knowledge, let us start with the basics.

Let's start with the don'ts since it's better to know the territories to refrain from:

Don't predict their sexual orientation: Your son may identify as anything ranging from gay, bisexual, trans, asexual or he may even be questioning and figuring out his sexuality. That is what the various letters in LGBTQIA+ stand for. While speaking to him, don't say "I know you are …." because it becomes a predictive label.

Don't push or coerce him to come out to you: Good things take time. This too shall happen all at a good time and at its own pace.

Don't expect much response the first time you try. It may make for an awkward conversation initially.

Refrain from using derogatory phrases like "teenage is just a phase", "it is weird", "I read somewhere" or citing religion when they bring their viewpoints forward.

Here are some Do's that can help:

Educate yourself about the LGBTQIA community in India.

Talk about pronouns. This is a good way to discuss and open the topic of identity, sexuality, and inclusivity

Ask open-ended questions rather than ones with yes and no answers.

Tell them you love and respect them no matter what

Watch some TV shows or movies that portray the LGBTQIA community beautifully. "Modern Family" makes for an interesting watch portraying a beautiful relationship between a gay couple and is quite relatable

Be patient and wait for him to respond. Rome wasn't built in a day, nor would this relationship about opening up.

I wish that the parents of each child thought along the same lines as you. Because the question you have mentioned is about how to let your child know that they will be loved, cared for, and accepted regardless of their sexual identity and choices.

Final words of advice — there is no "perfect" way; just go with the flow. More than the words, it's the love and emotions that you will communicate to your child. All the best.

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