Dear Hypothetically Gay Child

tim chan —  August 21, 2012 — 6 Comments

Yesterday I read two letters from fathers to gay sons that have been going viral.

The first letter (posted on Reddit) is from a father who disowning his son for being gay. “Don’t expect any further conversations from me. No communication at all. I will not come visit, nor do I want you in my house,” the father writes.

Dear Hypothetically Gay ChildThe second letter is written by John Kinnear to his hypothetically gay son, as a response to reading the first letter on Reddit. His wife is pregnant with their second child, who is a boy. John writes, “Let me be perfectly clear. I love you. I will always love you. Since being gay is part of who you are, I love that you’re gay.”

Reading these letters caused me to think about how my wife and I would respond to our daughter (now 8 months old) or any of our children (we hope to have more) if they told us that they were gay. I admire John’s response of unconditional love and support to his son, a stark contrast from the father who withheld love to his son by disowning him. But I feel something missing from John’s letter.

After a few conversations with my wife about the topic, I wrote this letter. Here is what I hope that our response would be:

Dear hypothetically gay child,

Your mom and I are writing you this letter in response to the news you shared with us yesterday evening that you are gay. Thank you for patiently allowing us some time to process your news before responding.

1) First of all, thank you for sharing this with us. You are courageous and brave to share such an intimate discovery of who you are with your parents, especially not knowing how we would respond. We are grateful that you would trust us enough to tell us.

We hope you felt heard yesterday and that we understood what you were trying to tell us. If there is anything else you would like to add or clarify, or if there is some way in which we misunderstood you, you can tell us anytime.

2) We want to reaffirm to you that we love you and support you, no matter how you feel in life. We will love you whether we agree or disagree with your decisions in the past, present, or future and whether we believe that those decisions are the best for you or not. The fact that you are gay does not make us love you any less. You are a gift to us from God and our biggest commitment to you is our love.

3) We are here to journey with you in understanding who you truly are and what God is calling you to do and be in life.

This may be a confusing time for you as you make sense of feeling and being gay. If you invite us to, we will work with you to discover what those feelings are and what being gay means for you. We would do the same thing if you told us that you are attracted to the opposite sex, or for any new discovery you have about yourself.

We will walk with you to make sense of the apparent tension between this discovery about yourself and the Christian faith we have brought you up to understand. This will be a tension for us as well, so we ask that you be patient with us and yourself as we all try to figure it out. We might not fully make sense of this for a long time, and that is okay. Sometimes we have to learn to live with uncertainty and mystery.

We will journey with you to understand what others think about you being gay and how they think you should live – what society and culture are saying, what your friends and peers believe, how your faith community responds (these might be the most difficult people to tell, as it may be a topic that many of them are unfamiliar with and they will not know how to respond), and most importantly, how God views you. We will walk with you to discover and decide for yourself what is true and untrue, what is helpful and not helpful. If you want to share this news with your friends or anyone else but don’t know how, we’re here to help you think about how to best tell the news. And we’ll be here to support you no matter how they respond.

It is our honour and delight to journey with you through life, in guiding you to discover who you are and how you can live the most meaningful and significant life possible.

We love you,
Dad and Mom

This is my first attempt in seriously thinking about our response to a child (or anyone else important in my life) sharing with us that they are gay. I do not have much experience with this and am open to learning from others. If you have any constructive feedback, I would love to hear what you have to say.

What would you write in a letter to your hypothetically gay child?  


photo credit: _StaR_DusT_ via photo pin cc
  • Hannah

    Tim – I love this. You’re both wonderful parents. I agree whole heartedly with your letter. Unconditional love, understanding, positivity, an open mind and a willingness to be uncomfortable and wade into the unknown are things I hope we can all carry with us everyday – for our children and for ourselves! Thanks for sharing :)

  • Dilys

    tim, i appreciate the tone of humility and gentleness in your letter. as you know, my sister’s gay, so i can relate to the experience of being a family member and a straight person. here are some thoughts: the best thing you can do is not to look to your potentially gay child (present or future) to “educate” you on all things gay. take ownership of your own education (e.g. through friendships, reading, support groups, etc.). similarly, you might also want to acknowledge that your son/daughter will need to find a sense of community in their coming out process, because you really can’t help them with that process. lastly, while this letter is beautifully written and communicates your support to your potentially gay child, how you respond in the day-to-day to gay people and talk about them will probably mean a lot more. it requires a lot of work to acknowledge and be aware of our heterosexual privilege.

    • ‎Dilys, I really appreciate your insightful comments. As a parent, I hope that I would be able to journey with my child through all his/her challenges and help – but you make a great point that this may not always be the best for the child.

  • Timothy

    I doubt your child would appreciate you saying that being gay equates to being confused. I doubt if she came to you claiming to be attracted to the opposite sex that you would say she was confused, you’d likely say she was acting… “normal”.

    • Hi Tim (great name by the way), thanks for your comment. I agree with what you’re saying, that any child wouldn’t appreciate being called confused. It’s not what I meant to convey, though I see how the letter reads that way. If I do need to write a letter like this, I’ll be sure to edit that part.

      I think what I was hoping to communicate to my child is that this new discovery of being gay for him/her may likely be a confusing time – having to sort through new feelings and what they mean. I imagine it would be very similar to a child discovering that they were attracted to the opposite sex for the first time – also a confusing time. And that as parents, we’re here to help them figure things out.

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