New Friends, New Identity?


New Friends, New Identity?

by Suzanne Brockmann

My child has recently started hanging out with a different group of friends, and now says he’s bisexual. This identity-shift seems much more like a product of being influenced by these new friends, and not actually who he is—how do we communicate this with him?
— Anonymous

Suzanne Says:

Coupla things of which to be aware:

Your kid’s sexual orientation is not a choice or a phase or something that can change due to any outside influence -- including yours.  He is who he is.  His sole choice is about whether (or not) to talk openly about who he is.  And that choice is influenced about how safe (or not) he feels.

While our world is becoming more open and welcoming to LGBTQ kids, coming out remains fraught with peril.  Even those LGBTQ kids who grow up in progressive and welcoming homes must find incredible courage to be honest about who they are -- because they face potential rejection.

And I’m talking awful rejection -- total rejection -- by everyone and anyone they ever have loved.

Every kid knows someone or has heard a real-life story of someone who has been kicked out of their home by their allegedly loving parents, simply because they are gay.  Everyone knows someone who has been abandoned by their friends, simply because they were honest about who they are.

Sit with that and think about that for a moment.  Imagine losing everything that is dear to you.  Imagine the incredible courage that it takes to put your entire life at risk.

Now imagine being a gay kid.  Often, children recognize that they’re gay when they’re quite young.  They very clearly see the abuse society heaps upon kids who are “different,” and they must decide whether to hide themselves from the world, or be true to themselves.  Oftentimes, they keep this part of themselves secret, even from their closest friends.

Imagine being a gay kid, and having friends who don’t really know you, because you’ve kept that part of yourself secret from them.  Imagine if those friends mock gay people or use gay slurs in front of you.  Imagine how that would feel.

Now imagine if, as you grow older and see the world more clearly, you discover a group of kids who are accepting and welcoming -- maybe they’re even openly LGBTQ themselves.  Imagine feeling so safe among these amazing new friends that you can be yourself -- you can finally be honest.  And then, since you know that your new friends won’t desert you, you can finally open up and be honest with your parents, too.

Imagine now, the disappointment of having your parents see your new-found (and oh so courageous) honesty as being purely a result of some kind of outside (aka bad) influence.

Imagine instead, what it would be like to be embraced by your parents and lauded for your courage.  Imagine what it would be like to see that your parents recognize that friends can be a good influence -- that true friends provide a place of safety and security.

I hope you can imagine all of this and recognize that your main communication with your precious, courageous child should be:  “Gay, straight, bi, trans, queer -- you’re my child and I love you.  I will always love and support you, and my biggest wish for you is that you find happiness and love.  P.S.  Safe sex, always.”

And then invite his new friends over to your house so you can get to know them.  It’s entirely possible that they will have a wonderful influence on you, too.

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Suzanne Brockmann is a proud PFLAG mom and the New York Times bestselling author of fifty-five novels. Her favorite is the one where her most popular character, gay FBI agent Jules Cassidy, wins his happily-ever-after and marries the man of his dreams. Called All Through the Night, this was the first mainstream romance novel with a hero and a hero ever to hit the New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list, and in 2007, Suz donated all of her earnings from this book, in perpetuity, to MassEquality, to help win and preserve equal marriage rights in Massachusetts. Known for her hunky Navy SEAL heroes, Suz is also the author of When Tony met Adam, a romantic e-novella published in celebration of the repeal of DADT. Suz is also the co-writer/producer of The Perfect Wedding, a sweet gay romantic comedy movie, currently available on DVD or via streaming from Netflix.