Uncomfortable with PDA


Uncomfortable with PDA

by Renee Zalles

My son came home from college and, for the first time, I saw him kiss his boyfriend. He has been out to me for a couple of years, but this is the first time he has been in a relationship and publicly displayed affection. I’ve come to find that it makes me uncomfortable when he kisses his boyfriend. I am supportive of him, and want to be supportive of his relationship, but this is so foreign to me. Should I talk to him about this?
— Anonymous

Renee Says:

Before we really get into this, let’s take a moment to clarify that there are definitely rules about PDA that apply to any couple in public—gay, straight, bi, married, dating, whatever. If your son was sticking his tongue down his boyfriend’s throat, then yes, I think you should definitely talk to him about it. That’s just uncomfortable for everyone, even other LGBTQ folk! Tell him to get a room, or at least take it to the club! 

But I think this is more complicated. I think parents who have minor struggles with their kids’ sexuality get a bad rap. There are valid reasons to feel trepidation over your child telling you that elements of who they are may endanger their physical and mental safety. After all, we’ve come a really long way, but there are still gay bashings all the time. Secondly, like anything unfamiliar or “foreign,” there’s a little bit of a learning curve for parents on things like this. So I feel it’s natural to feel some discomfort when dealing with these new situations. 

I’m not a parent, but I imagine upon witnessing this for the first time, there were a lot of things going on for you: 

1. You were scared because you know your son will do this a million times when you are not there, and one of those times could be in front of somebody who is made far more uncomfortable by it than you; that person could lash out at him and his boyfriend, and you won’t be there to protect your son.

2. Perhaps you were also a bit worried that people you know in your hometown witnessed the kiss and might judge you and your family. 

I think your initial feelings are actually quite natural. However, how you choose to deal with them is key. I understand your initial desire to talk to your son—he is the source of your discomfort. However, I highly urge you to keep him out of it. Chances are, the discomfort lies somewhere within your own self, rather than within the actual action itself. Bringing it up directly with him may only create a wall between the two of you. And he may feel less compelled to express himself or speak his mind around you in general. 

Think it through. Ask yourself what the real reasons for your discomfort are and how you might overcome them. If things still aren’t sitting right, call a friend or family member and get some perspective. Maybe even seek resources that can connect you with other parents with gay children. I'm guessing that you felt some level of similar discomfort when he first came out; but now, it seems like you’re generally accepting of his sexuality. Is there a chance the same could happen in this situation? 

Renee Zalles has a BA in English Lit, a MFA in Advertising, and a PhD in being gay.