Maybe you have a kid, and you suspect that they might be gay. Or maybe your kid just came out, and you responded in fear, or anger, or disbelief. Maybe they came out years ago, and things have never been quite right between you since then. Regardless, you still have time to handle this situation in a loving, mature way.
It might feel awkward or confusing or overwhelming, but I’m going to help with some examples from television. You can read the quotes here, or Netflix/DVR/etc these episodes to see how it all plays out. Either way will hopefully give you some sample scripts to reference for your own conversation.
The parents from these shows didn’t all have perfect reactions to their kids coming out of the closet. Some of them reacted quite poorly, but made efforts to mend the relationship later. So it really isn’t too late – your child will appreciate that you’re trying to connect with them, even if it’s been a long time coming.
Glee – season 1, episode 4 “Preggers”
This is probably the very best coming out scene that I’ve ever viewed on TV. I put it first because Kurt’s dad isn’t 100% comfortable with the idea just yet, but he’s doing everything he can to let Kurt know that he loves him. I think some parents are worried that they’re expected to immediately become card-carrying members of PFLAG, marching in parades and putting up rainbow stickers. Your kid isn’t expecting all that, and especially not right away. They just want to know that you still love them and accept them, even if you don’t understand.
Kurt: Dad…I have something that I want to say. I’m glad that you’re proud of me, but I don’t want to lie anymore. Being a part of the Glee Club and football has really showed me that I can be anything. And what I am…is….I’m gay.
Burt: I know.
Burt: I’ve known since you were 3. All you wanted for your birthday was a pair of sensible heels. I guess I’m not totally in love with the idea, but, if that’s who you are, there’s nothing I can do about it. And I love you just as much – ok?
Happy Endings – season 1, episode 4 “Mein Coming Out”
This shows an adult coming out to his parents, after years of pretending to date his female friends. I love how accepting Max’s parents are, and how their immediate next step is trying to set him up with their friend’s gay sons.
Max: Uh..dudes. I’m into guys.
Pauline & Howard: What did he say?
Max: I’m gay.
Pauline: You’re gay?
Max: Yeah, I wanted to tell you sooner, I just didn’t know how you were gonna react, and…I was scared.
Howard: So…you’re not dating any of these women?
Max: I’m not, no.
Pauline: Thank God!
Howard: What a relief!
Max: What? You’re not upset?
Pauline: Sweetheart, you never need to be scared to tell us anything. What matters to us is that you’re happy, and that you’re surrounded by people who love you.
United States of Tara – season 2, episode 4 “You Becoming You”
Some people don’t like how this show handled the coming out scene, but I loved it. There’s no need for a big reaction to this news – you can just say cool, alright, and move on. By not making a big deal, you’re telling your kid that everything – including how much you love them – is just the same.
Max: Hey I know I’ve been kinda busy, I’ve been preoccupied but, hows things going with you and Courtney?
Marshall: You know uh…we’re…it’s…
Max: Hey I’m not prying, ok it’s none of my business. I’m gonna run to Grandstand and get us some burgers, you want anything?
Marshall: I’m gay.
Max: Good….so you want anything?
Marshall: Yeah um maybe I’ll just come with you to Grandstand.
South of Nowhere – season 2, episode 8 “That’s The Way The World Crumbles”
The mother in this series reacts in a horrible, horrible way when she walks in on her daughter making out with another girl. Like, dragging her daughter’s girlfriend out of her bedroom by the hair horrible. Without letting her put her shirt back on, no less, and kicking her out into the cold with only her bra on. The next day the mom makes Spencer stay home from school, and arranges for a priest to come help pray the gay away. Thankfully the dad handled things much better.
Spencer: I wanted to tell you, I was going to, it just wasn’t supposed to happen like this. You don’t hate me right?
Arthur: No, of course I don’t hate you. I love you. And I’ll never stop, ever. I love you.
Spencer: Mom already stopped.
Arthur: No, she hasn’t. Your mom is just afraid. We’ll get through this, I promise.
Spencer: What if we don’t?
Arthur: That’s not an option, ok?
Grey’s Anatomy – season 5, episode 20 “Sweet Surrender”
Here we have another instance of a parent trying to help their gay kid by praying away the gay, using the power of Christ to heal their evil nature, blah blah blah. Callie fires back though, with multiple quotes from Jesus about not judging, having compassion, etc. Callie’s dad is a strict Catholic, so he has a rough time with the idea of her being a lesbian, and understandably so.
It’s ok to be worried about your child’s eternal soul – but first, worry about their heart and soul right now. Trust that God doesn’t mistakes, and that he intended for your son or daughter to be exactly as they are – gay, straight, bi, whatever. Callie finally brushes off her dad and tells him that she will just see him in hell, but he stops her and makes amends.
Carlos: I have to catch you.
Carlos: Your whole life, you’ve always been on a bridge, Calliope, ever since you were a little girl. And you don’t just walk on it either, no, you climb on the railing, you’re ready to leap. And when you do, when that happens, I have to be there, I have to catch you.
Callie: You don’t have to catch me, dad.
Carlos: Yes I do, it’s my job. Listen; if this works out between you and Arizona, is there a chance that maybe you’d uh give your mother a wedding?
Callie: If Arizona wanted to spend the rest of her life with me? Yeah, I’ll put on a big white dress and dance down the aisle.
Carlos: How bout grandkids?
Callie: Yes, I would imagine, when the time came, there would be kids.
Carlos: Does she make you happy?
Callie: Yes dad, she makes me very happy!
Pretty Little Liars – season 1, episode 11 “Moments Later”
This show broke the storyline over a few episodes, so the recap is a bit longer. First, Emily comes out to her dad, then her parents have a conversation in the living room (which of course poor Emily overhears):
Pam: How are we going to fix this?
Wayne: Fix it? This is not like buying her braces – this is who she is.
Pam: That’s not who she is, this is what someone else is making her into!
Wayne: Maybe she’s just experimenting?
Pam: This is wrong, this is completely wrong and you know it!
Wayne: Do you think I like this? I don’t! But when I went there I didn’t know what she was going to tell me. I thought, Sweet God what is this – drugs? Did this Toby kid get her pregnant? Let’s just keep this in perspective.
Pam: What is your perspective on right or wrong?
Wayne: She is struggling with this. I can see it.
Pam: Oh, and I can’t?
Wayne: No, that’s not what I’m saying.
Pam: Well then what are you saying? Are you willing to just turn away from everything we ever wanted for her? Let her ruin her life so she can experiment? What happened to you? What happened to your values? Did you just leave them out in the desert somewhere?
Wayne: I told you I don’t like this, but she is alive and healthy. And after everything I’ve seen, alive and healthy counts for a lot, believe me!
Pretty Little Liars, season 1, episode 17 “The New Normal”
The father of Emily’s rival has accused the school swim team of giving Emily preferential treatment because she’s gay. Emily doesn’t tell her mom, because her mom has been pretty clear about how disgusted she is by Emily’s sexuality. Pam comes around, though, and they end with a hug:
Pam: Why didn’t you tell me?
Emily: You really don’t know why I wouldn’t tell you? It’s because I know what you think of me, I know what you say. It doesn’t matter who I am, I better get used to people looking at me only one way.
Pam: Emily, I still don’t understand. But I love you, you’re my child, and nobody hurts my child. I’m so sorry if I…
Queer as Folk, season 1, episode 4
(What’s with everyone coming out in season 1, episode 4? I don’t get it!)
I’ve made no secret of my love for Queer as Folk, so I thought it was a fitting example to end this article. One of the main characters, Justin, is 17 and just entering the world of being an adult gay male. His mother is especially concerned, so she consults with Debbie, the mother of an adult gay man. First up is Debbie’s awesome advice when she first meets Justin’s mom, Jennifer:
Debbie: Heck, I always knew about Michael. In fact I told him, right? To spare him the pain of having to tell me. Don’t ask ‘are you’? Because it’s never a question. Just say, ‘I know.’
Later, Jennifer asks Justin point blank if he has a boyfriend. Justin denies it, but Jennifer asks who Brian is. She has seen Justin’s sketchbook full of naughty naked men and Justin + Brian = True Love 4Eva (ok it didn’t really say that, but that’s the idea) so she skips the “are you gay” part, per Debbie’s advice. Justin responds by jumping out of the car and running away.
Next is the convo where Jennifer seeks out Debbie for further advice:
Debbie: Listen. They talk big and they act tough… But the truth is, the things he’s the most afraid of, even more than his dad finding out and beating the shit out of him…, is that you’ll stop loving him.
Jennifer: I could never do that.
Debbie: Then you be sure he knows he hasn’t lost you.
Finally, Jennifer makes some progress with Justin in the car. He starts to jump and run again – and she yells after him:
Jennifer: You stop right there! Stop running from me because I’m not running from you! I’m still your mother and you’re still my son, and I still love you!
So there you go – some TV examples to reference if you need help figuring out how to talk to your gay kid. I really hope it helps! I would also appreciate feedback from anyone that has dealt with this matter, or has suggestions for other shows to include. I hope that we see more and more examples like these in the future, and they in turn help to change some attitudes for the better.