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Stages of “Coming Out”

(Richard Cohen, M.A. © Gay Children Straight Parents 2007; IVP)

Because I have wrestled with same-sex atraction desires and same-sex attraction myself, I can relate to the process of your love one has probably gone through. It may be helpful for you to read and think about the seven stages of development that usually precede the “coming out” declaration.

Stage 1: Caues of same-sex attraction. There are many contributing factors that can result in same-sex atraction desires. Some of the causes of same-sex attraction may be disrupted attachment between father and son or mother and daughter (this may strictly be the child’s perception, not the parents failure), overattachment to the opposite-sex parent, hypersensitivity lack of bonding with same-sex peers, sibling wounds, cultural wounds, name-calling, sexual abuse and body image wounds. There is never one thing alone that causes same-sex attraction. A combination of several variables leads to homosexual desires in men or women.

Stage 2:Same-sex attractions begin. Same-sex attraction emerges at a different age for each person, depending on several factors: the child’s temperament, physiology and perceptions; family history at particular times; and social or cultural events. You will have to check with your child to find out when she began to experience same-sex attraction. Be careful to distinguish between her envy of a person of the same gender and the sexualization of that envy.

Stage 3: Conflict over same-sex attraction. The young struggler may ask himself, “Why do I have these feelings? What would other think of me if they knew I had same-sex atraction desires?” A girl may wonder, “Is it a sin to feel this way? Does God still love me?” Most often, these boys and girls experience tremendous feelings of pain, confusion, guilt, shame, denial, loneliness and despair. These emotions are exacerbated when the young person is unable or unwilling to walk freely with family and friends. Instead today’s kids easily find “answers” outside their immediate circle of loved ones. They can access pro-homosexual information on the web or attend a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) meeting in high school or a Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender (GLBT) meeting in college. The new addition to the GLBT nomenclature is “Questioning Youth,” so that people who have a fleeting attraction for someone of the same gender may be led to believe that they too are “gay.”

Stage 4: Need for belonging. The struggle continues: “I don’t fit in. I don’t belong. I’m not like the other kids.” During puberty, what were once emotional desires for same-sex bonding now become sexually inflamed yearnings. The emotional need for nonsexual intimacy with the same-sex parent and/or same-sex peers suddenly becomes eroticized. However intense the desire may feel, it is important to remember that the basis for all same-sex attraction is conflicted emotional need, not sexual attraction.

Same sex attraction represent the following:

An unconscious drive for bonding with the same-sex parent and/or same-sex peers because of homo-emotional and homo-social wounding.

The need for gender identification. Since there was insufficient bonding with their same-sex parent and/or same-sex peers, they seek to join with members of the same gender in order to internalize their missing sense of masculinity or femininity.

Fear of intimacy with members of the opposite sex. There may be overattachment between mother and son or father and daughter or an abusive relationship with a member of the opposite sex. Either will preclude healthy heterosexual desire.

Stage 5: Indoctrination As we’ve seen, anyone who experiences the least amount of same-sex attraction is told, “you were born gay. You can not change. Efforts to change are harmful.” These youngsters have to work very hard to accept themselves as “gay” or lesbian.” The process generates conflicting thoughts and feelings. I believe that hose who experience same-sex attraction initially know, in their heart of hearts, that same-sex attraction behavior is out of sync with natural law. Nonetheless, they are inundated with the idea that it is a genetically determined condition, which amounts to a “mythology of homosexuality.” The “born gay” myth is much like the old tale The Emperor’s New Clothes. In this folk tale, the emperor is fooled into thinking skilled craftsmen are creating beautiful clothes for him. In fact, two charlatans create nothing at all. Going along with the hoax, the Emperor parades through the city streets wearing nothing. Not wanting to appear foolish, all his subjects exclaim, “What a wonderful set of new clothes!” Then a child stands up and says, “The Emperor is naked!” At that moment the emperor realizes he has been duped. “We should all be like this child and speak the truth,” he proclaims. And so it is today. Innumerable people have been deceived, even though everyone know that humans are heterosexually designed. In short, a man and a woman fit together perfectly and naturally. Two men or two women do not.

Stage 6: Identity acceptance as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. At this juncture, strugglers come to terms with their SSA and adopt a “gay”, “lesbian”, “bisexual”, or “transgender” identity. They have anesthetized their conscience through self-acceptance and social indoctrination. Hearing the homosexuality myth repeated often enough, with little or no debate, establishes it as fact. At this stage, you and the rest of the “homophobic” society may be perceived as the enemy. “You don’t understand. You don’t know what it’s like to be gay and be on the outside looking in.” The us versus them complex is reinforced.

Stage 7: “Coming out” process. Often parents are the last to know about a child’s same-sex attraction. Gender-confused young people are especially sensitive and fearful of rejection, so they first “com out” to their friends or siblings. When they finally talk to you, their parents, they may say something like, “Please accept me for who I am. I’m your gay child. God made me this way!” Or they may angrily exclaim, “If you refuse to accept me just the way I am, you’re incredibly homophobic and unloving.” Above all else, they are afraid to lose your love after working through years of emotional, mental, physical and spiritual angst to come to terms with their same-sex attraction. But what if you don’t wish to accept or applaud your child’s chosen way of life? What if you refuse to internalize the current socio-political definition of same-sex attraction? How do you and your child live with two conflicting paradigms? Here’s the big question: Can you still love your child and yet completely disagree with his choice to adopt a “gay” identity?

The short answer is, Yes, you can. In the pages that follow you will discover how to unconditionally love your child. You will gain understanding about the dynamics that led her into same-sex attraction and beyond, and perhaps into same-sex attraction behaviour. And you will find ways to create a strategic plan for bringing gifts of healing and loving attachment with your child.

Probably the most important thing to remember as you begin to reach out to your same-sex attraction child is that your love must be unconditional. If you give the impression either directly or indirectly that you hope, by loving your child more, that he will "change,” leaving homosexuality behind, your best efforts will almost certainly be rejected. If you indicate that bringing about change is your intention, your efforts will look like cynical manipulation to your child. Please keep in mind that love must be offered unconditionally. “Freely you have received, freely give."

Love cannot have a price tag attached that says, “I’ll love you freely for now, but to keep my love forever, you’ll have to give me something. You’ll have to stop being the way you are.” Not only is this a misguided approach, but you can be sure your child has already been warned against the concept of “change” by pro-gay ideologues. Before you even think about discussing the possibility of transitioning from a homosexual to a heterosexual orientation, be aware of the messages she has learned :

  • This type of therapy leads to suicide and depression.It does not work and creates more harm than good.
  • The possibility of change is rejected by the popular scientific and medial organizations.
  • Those who practice and promote this type of therapy (pejoratively called “conversion therapy”) are homophobic and anti-gay.
  • Anyone believing in the change of sexual orientation is part of the “religious right” or is a hateful, anti-gay therapist.
  • These messages are scientifically unfounded and simply untrue.

It may have taken your child years to accept his same-sex attraction as innate and immutable. If you were to say, “But you can change,” his gut response would be, “No way. I have worked too hard to accept myself as gay. I don’t want to go back and see if what you say is true.” Put yourself in your child’s shoes. Would you, after wrestling to accept your SSA, want to deconstruct the whole situation? It is not an appealing proposition. And that is where you come in.

Our strategy is to love these children as God loves us - flaws and confusion and mistaken identities and all. As we love them, we reawaken the lost, hurt child within. Then, with great care and gentleness, we seek to reattach that hurt child to the same-sex parent and same-sex peers. As you think about reaching out to your child, remember that a web of lies has been spun around him. Now, with love and truth, you must try to reverse the damage and restore your child.