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How to Deal with Having a Gay Child

I am writing this piece as an ordinary woman. I am sharing my views as an ordinary mother. I am no ‘noted psychologist’ neither am I a celebrity mother with endorsements left and right. But I believe that everyone is entitled to his/ her opinion; I want mine to be heard. I cannot guarantee that the succeeding statements will be fair and objective. I don’t do objective well, my friends often say. But here’s a shot at it. Here we go. 

Last week, Christine Bersola Babao drew flak when she wrote an article on “Being Gay” – a sensitive topic that she previously tackled on her morning show. Her article featured questions and answers on how parents should address signs of ‘gayness’ in kids.  She had for a resource person, Dr. Camille Garcia, a TV psychologist for the talk show “Face to Face” on TV5.

Of the numerous questions she asked, one stood out for me:  Should parents be alarmed and arrest the situation? Or encourage it? Garcia’s answer caught the ire of concerned LGBTs and heterosexuals. She said, “Arrest the situation, ’yun ang tama. But most parents encourage the situation. Tatanggapin agad. Let’s be moral in making the child understand the situation, Di ba ‘yun ang dapat. We tell our child, ‘Anak, mali ito.’”

As a mother, the prospect of having a gay child is daunting. As parents, we all want the best for our children. We never want our kids to be at a disadvantage. That said, just thinking about the possible discrimination a gay child would face stir a liquefying dread in me. I’ve heard too many stories of young lives ended because of unbearable discrimination. Of how gay children were bullied and beaten just because they are perceived ‘different’.

Let’s face it, the world has not evolved; homosexuality remains highly discriminated in a multitude of places. Just look at the ‘noted’ psychologist’s statement above and you will get my point.

So if my Sadie suddenly shows signs of gayness in her, would I arrest the situation? Would I encourage it?

The answer is no for both.

My very pious parents-in-law would cringe at my answer. I need not cite any scientific basis for what I believe in. I believe that homosexuality is inherent. It is not something you develop or get afflicted with. It is NOT a disease. It is not an abnormality. Neither it is just a behavior nor a phase.

I’ve known and lived with gays all my life. My high school best friend is a gay. Most of the buddies I had in school are gay. When I had a fleeting stint as an intern for AM radio, most reporters I met are gay. During my tenure as a writer for a TV program, I’ve met the most creative gay media practitioners. I’ve had gays for mentors, relatives, colleagues. I have the highest respect for these people – and not ONLY because they are gay, but because they are decent, fun-loving, inspiring, and worth emulating in their respective fields.

So, going back to Bersola’s question above, no, I wouldn’t arrest my daughter’s blossoming gayness if ever. Because being gay is not a condition that must be corrected. Would I encourage it? No, I would just let her be. I would accept it and hopefully, I would know how to handle it correctly. Being a parent means loving your spawn unconditionally; accepting your child wholeheartedly despite and in spite of who they are and what they are, beyond gender, beyond sexual orientation.

Of boy toys and girl stuff – pun intended

I remember an incident not too long ago when a relative barged into the house one day, seething. He caught his son’s nanny adorning his son’s hair with a pretty headband. He was furious. I remember him saying, “Naiintindihan mo naman Mel, di ba? Lalake yung anak ko! Ang pagiging bakla hindi ‘yan pinapanganak na ganyan, natututunan yan! (You understand where I’m coming from, Mel, right? My son is male. Gayness is not inherent, it is learned)” I was dumbfounded. All I managed to say was “Calm down.” I didn’t argue because I knew it would be pointless. Another time, he and his wife threw a pail full of pink legos gifted to their son. Their kid cannot even play with stuffed toys, too girly. And they gave Sadie a book for Christmas: Nursery Rhymes for Girls.

I get it. We are entitled to our own opinions. When it comes to parenting, it is best not to judge and just let parents parent their own kids. It is their stand and I respect it, but I have my own.

Sadie plays with whatever she fancies. There was a time she was into cars, so we indulged her. Her dad bought her toy cars. For a time she was curious about guns, so we let her play “bang-bang” with her hands. She has a deceased military man for a lolo (grandpa). I was raised well by that man so we see no problem with her getting acquainted with guns. She plays basketball. She horses around with her dad. And we let her. She enjoys toys ‘for boys’ as much as she finds delight with toys ‘for girls’.

Bersola’s statement made me cringe, “As a mom who has a three-year-old son named Nio, my personal take on the matter is this: Nio, when curious, plays with his big sister’s toys. But we always point it out to him that those are toys for girls, and these are toys for boys. We compare boys so that he will understand.”

I hate the idea of “categorizing” things as ‘for boys’ and ‘for girls’ only, most specifically toys. Toys, besides being a great source of entertainment for kids, are awesome tools for learning and fueling creativity.   In a world where we are obsessed with furthering equal opportunities and rights, stopping children from playing toys that are not meant for their gender is spot on hypocrisy.

Again, I couldn’t stress it enough – I believe homosexuality is intrinsic. Even if you bombard a little boy with guy toys – balls, sporty thingamajigs, power tools – if he’s born gay, he’ll be toting a doll and a make-up brush someday, even if that kills you.

Acceptance is key

My best gay friend is an only son. His father was a cop. Stereotypical. It was a struggle for him not to out himself in his father’s presence. Everyone in school knew my friend is gay. I discovered her pink secret when I caught him peeing in the girls’ restroom in second grade. In school, he was accepted. Sure, people did poke fun at him, snide remarks were thrown his way, but he was free to be himself. Such wasn’t the case at home.

The tricky part about having a gay child is that, no matter how liberal you may think you are, at some point, you would feel at a loss as to how to deal with it. You can’t take it half-heartedly. You can’t be okay with it only when it’s convenient – meaning, you’re okay with it but can’t live with the perceived ‘stigma’ that goes with having a gay son or daughter. You have to accept it, period.

But how can you accept something that you do not fully understand – especially when your religious beliefs go against it?

Being gay is not a sin. If it is, I don’t know what isn’t. Being gay is not immoral. The Catholic church, notorious for its stand against homosexuality has hundreds of gay priests in its ranks.

I abhor people who label homosexuals as immoral. It is beyond condescending. I know of someone who works in a TV station, surrounded with gays and has a gay boss, who despise homosexuality to the bone. I can’t remember how many times I’ve told him to resign. If you hate gays that much, what the hell are you doing there?

From acceptance stems support. Wholehearted support. There’s nothing more a gay child needs but love, support, and acceptance. A gay kid whose parents couldn’t accept him and think there’s something wrong with him will struggle with that sense of rejection all his life. A rejected kid is a miserable kid.

But I can’t blame parents like Bersola who think being gay could and should be ‘corrected’. As parents, the need to shield our kids from discrimination and rejection outside our homes is intuitive. It is as inherent as homosexuality. So naturally, a confused parent would want to protect his child from being discriminated against – and sadly, the most convenient way to do is to nip the ‘situation’ in the bud. That fear drives misinformed parents to try their best to ‘arrest the blossoming gayness’ of their children.

Why risk having your gay kid discriminated against when you can ‘mold’ him into straightness? But in the process of doing so, they fail to recognize the fact that right in their homes is where their kids’ first brush with discrimination and rejection happens.

They will be okay

Besides discrimination, the worst fear of parents of gay children is that their kids will end up unhappy. But their fear is unfounded. Many gay people I know are perfectly happy and content with their lives.

“He will end up lonely. He can’t marry and have children,” a mom of one of my gay friends often tells us. Well, here in the country, her son sure wouldn’t be able to marry. But marriage and having children isn’t exactly the yardstick to gauge happiness.

Here’s another aspect we fail miserably at – norms and labels. Married people are happy. People with kids are content. Those with a career are exultant. Having all three is ecstasy.   What about those who are single and successful? What about those who aren’t married but have partners? What are those who are happy just the way they are?

If we can only educate our children, gay and straight alike, about differences and diversity and the reality that society isn’t just home to the typical ‘perfectly normal’ people, then we are on the right track.

It all boils down to one thing really. Respect.

Now, if you’ll excuse me. My lipstick-wearing, kikay toddler has just tossed me a basketball. It’s game time. I’ll teach her my mean dribbling skills.