What Should a Parent Say To a Son Who Tells Them He’s Gay?

I have been engaged in a debate on another blog with a young man who asserts that any parent whose son tells them he’s gay, if the parent loves him, must show him the empathy that is at the heart of the Gospel of Jesus and support him in living a gay lifestyle. Obviously I disagree. But the question still remains: what should a parent say to a son who tells them he is gay? Here is my answer to the question:

“Empathy” is not at the core of Jesus’ teachings; love of God is. What did Jesus say was the greatest commandment? “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Therefore, loving obedience to God is the first rule of Christian life. If I were a parent and this were my son who just told me he was gay, I wouldn’t love him any less! He is still my son and I would still die for him. But at the same time, any parent who loves his child can never counsel the child that in his situation it’s okay to disobey God. The loving thing for a Christian parent to do is to promise to help his son in any way possible to carry the cross that has been laid on his shoulders and be faithful to what God has clearly taught. Let’s imagine it this way: suppose the son was not gay but instead was a homely young man that no woman has ever found good enough to love. He knows his appearance is so horrible that the chances of anyone loving him for whom he is are slim. The son did nothing to cause or deserve his homeliness, but there it is nonetheless. Does his father, in an attempt to show empathy, tell him that there really is nothing homely about his appearance, that he’s just as good looking as the most attractive of Hollywood heartthrobs, and that therefore he should go out and demand everyone admit that he’s good looking? Of course not. Or does he say, “well, since no girl will have you and you have the right to sex, go find a prostitute- here’s the money!” Absurd! No, if he truly loves him, he tells him the truth and helps him deal with it. Perhaps he might tell him not to despair, that there may yet come a girl who will love him for the person he is, but he doesn’t give him a false hope by telling him she will eventually show up. Instead, he would prepare him for the life outside of marriage that he will end up living and show him how happiness can be found there just as much as in marriage. We as a society are so caught up in the concept that sex is the key to happiness and that everyone needs good sex to be happy and has a right to it. That does a tremendous disservice to scores of people, including those who are perfectly straight but simply have no desire to marry or never met the right person. Marriage does not possess the monopoly on happiness. I am celibate and chaste and am enormously happy with my life. Ultimately, we can never find true happiness until we are living a life that reflects the image and likeness of God, in whom we are created. If my son were gay, I would counsel him not to continue to try to convince God and the Church that they have erred in saying that homosexual activity is sinful (which is never going to happen and is a lie), for that would only set him up for a lifetime of struggle against God in a battle he will never win. Instead, I would tell him to prayerfully ask God how He wishes him to serve Him and how to use his condition to do His will. Only that would bring my son happiness.

11 thoughts on “What Should a Parent Say To a Son Who Tells Them He’s Gay?

  1. Elizabeta says:

    Father Andrew, I respect you and your opinions, but a few things here just…hit me.

    For one thing, you refer to the son’s homosexuality as a ‘condition’ while the American Medical Association, The American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of Social Workers have all stated that homosexuality is not and should not be treated as a mental condition or disorder. So…it’s not a ‘condition.’

    Now we’ll move on to a question I have; what if this young man identified not as homosexual, but as asexual. Asexuality – in case you aren’t aware – is when an individual has no sexual desire whatsoever, and they have no desire for a sexual relationship. But if he is asexual, what if he has a romantic orientation directed toward men? So basically he has no desire for a sexual relationship with a man, but does desire a romantic and meaningful relationship with one. Is that considered wrong as well? Or just a truly sexual relationship?

    And finally I get to this – and please know that I do respect you, but this is where I feel different. People always say that God frowns upon homosexual relationships, and that he doesn’t want them to be in a relationship with another homosexual person, and be happy. If I had a son and he was gay, and he fell in love, personally I’d much rather let him be happy with the man he loves, you know? If I knew my child was happy with himself and proud of who he was, no matter what, I’d let him love who he loved, and love them both the same.

    I know you believe something different from me, but the God I know loves you, me, my gay friends, my cousin and his husband, and everyone. I look forward to the day when everyone is embraced as being good, normal, and loved, rather than how the world is now, when some people would rather die than be who they are. Like Macklemore said in his song Same Love, “Whatever God you believe in, we come from the same one. Strip away the fear, underneath it’s all the same love. It’s about time we raised up the same.” And it is, Father. It is.

    • Thank you for your comment. I think the best way for me to respond is to reiterate that the sexual act is a beautiful gift from God that he cherishes so much that he made it the means of bringing a couple into total union with him as the seal of the sacrament of marriage. Thus, every sexual act must be an expression of love between a man and woman in the covenant of marriage with at least the option left open for procreation should God wish to do so. Anything contrary to that is a serious violation of something tremendously sacred. To redefine marriage would be to redefine the very nature of God himself and we cannot do that. God does not just want us to be happy: God wants us to be holy. He is calling us to purity of heart and action and we find that by being faithful to what he tells us will lead us to holiness and not what the world around us tells us is right. That’s Original Sin all over again: deciding we don’t have to listen to God but can decide for ourselves what is right and wrong. Yes, he loves us unconditionally, but he loves us enough not to leave us in the sinful state we are in and instead calls us to be holy, to be the best we can be. The sexual act is the seal of the covenant of marriage that God has ordained to bring a man and woman into unity with him. We cannot on our own authority decide that what God has called sinful we are now going to ordain as holy simply because we want it to be that way. That is why I disagree with all the psychological groups you mentioned that decided under political pressure to remove homosexuality as a listed disorder, because it is in fact a disorder: Something ordered by God towards the procreation of human life and to be a union between a man and a woman is disordered to be a love between two people of the same sex. That is why it is a disorder. That’s not to say the person is sinful because they possess it but to act on it, yes that is sinful. As regards an asexual person: if he all of a sudden has a feeling for a man, that’s no longer asexual – that is sexual. Christ always encouraged us but challenged us big time and he gave very strong challenges to people in order to follow this path to holiness. He said the road is rough and not many can follow it. It is only following that road that leads to holiness and telling people to do whatever they want because they feel that way is not helping anyone, and that is neither compassion nor love. The only response that is truly loving is to tell somebody to be the best they can be by doing what God wants them to do. Someone who is homosexually oriented can live a fulfilled life without sexual activity. Unfortunately our world refuses to accept that there are ways to be happy without being sexually active. It’s the world’s big sexual hangup that is the problem, not God’s decree. A person who is homosexually oriented is loved by God and is called to a deep and intimate union with him, but he will not find that union in a sexual manner. Any truly loving parent does not counsel a child to fight God and tell him he’s wrong, but encourages their child to find true holiness in God by conforming his heart to God’s will. That is what parents promise to do for their children when they bring them to be baptized, and that is the only truly loving decision a parent can make.

  2. Marek says:

    Seriously? You would condemn your son to a life without chance of loving another? This sounds absolutely awful and I am grateful you are celebrant and will never have a gay child.

    • You see, that’s the problem: We think that we need love and sex with another to find happiness and meaning. But happiness and meaning come from being united with God. Marriage, friendship, all our relationships with others of any sort are healthy when they help us grow closer to God. Anything that leads us away from unity with God cannot bring true happiness. So my point stands: if I had a son who was gay, I would still love him unconditionally, but I would lead him to find happiness by building a life with positive relationships that lead him to holiness in God. You don’t need sex and romance to find that. Trust me! I’ve been living that very life for 22 1/2 years as a chaste priest. I have numerous wonderful relationships in my life that bring me such unfathomable joy, many with the people I serve every day. There is not a hint of sex or romance in any of them, but I wouldn’t trade any of them for anything. I thank God for them every day! Homosexually oriented individuals do themselves such a terrible injustice by convincing themselves they need sex and romance to be happy, and so does anyone who leads them to believe so. Yes, proper sexual relationships according to God’s will bring tremendous joy and grace to those who experience them in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, but they do not hold the monopoly on happiness. There are other paths to happiness in addition to sex and romance.

      • Marek says:

        Believing in a Christian God is a choice. Being gay is not.

      • Well, that’s exactly the point I am making: make the choice to follow Christ and you’ll find a way to deal positively with the scourge of same sex attraction. Without him, we end up only in a constant internal struggle. We can only find peace by knowing God and what He wills for us. Choose Christ and you choose peace; it’s as simple as that!

        No, being gay is not a choice. But how we respond to being gay is. We can decide that “God doesn’t understand my feelings” and reject him, or we can say, “God loves me and calls me to be the best I can be, and that God knows best what will bring me to holiness (which means “whole-ness”) and that following his teaching will make me far more happiness than anything worldly can ever do. I live without sex and am perfectly happy; in fact, I wouldn’t trade my life for anything.

  3. Andrew says:

    Father, I’m left rather hollow and more than a bit concerned on this position: “prepare him for the life outside of marriage that he will end up living and show him how happiness can be found there just as much as in marriage.”

    I’m not as much concerned about marriage as the message sent by the parent to the son on matters of self-esteem. Isn’t this effectively suggesting that the parent take a stance of, “yes, my son, you are indeed a very homely kid and you’ll never attract a woman, so deal with it and resign yourself to loneliness and a poor self-image forever”? As the son of parents who didn’t exactly set an example that promoted a positive self-image, self-esteem or confidence (in addition to being an “ugly duckling” and a molestation survivor), I can’t see this as a loving, supportive parental message to be instilling in a child, especially knowing that kids can be both awkward and cruel. It takes years and lots of undoing to rewrite that negative image engraved on a child’s psyche, so I’m very concerned with any parent who would completely dash and discourage hope, however remote, because we never know the epitaph that He has for our lives.

    I certainly hope that we have a loving God that understands and loves each of us despite the views of mankind toward each other.

    • Hi Andy! I guess I took for granted in my example that any parental support would be loving, affirming, and charitable . Sadly, there are always going to be parents and others who will not act appropriately. I’m speaking in a “normal” environment.

  4. Tracy says:

    Father, this was Excellent!!

  5. Tracy says:

    Father, this was Excellent!!!!

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