COMING OUT TO CHILDREN:
GUIDELINES FOR FATHERS

The following is reprinted with the permission of Lexington Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, from Gay Fathers by Robert L. Barret and Bryan E. Robinson. Copyright © 1990 by Lexington Books.

(My thanks to the gaydads who contributed funds to defray the copyright fee associated with this reprint. You know who you are! -- rpj)


Bigner and Bozett (1990) draw from the work of Miller (1979) and Shulenberg (1985) in their presentation of some Principles for Disclosure of Homosexuality to Children. These very practical suggestions will be helpful to gay fathers, their children, and mental health professionals.

  1. Come to terms with your own gayness before disclosing to children. This is crucial. The father who feels negatively about his homosexuality or is ashamed of it is much more likely to have children who also react negatively. The father must create a setting of acceptance by first accepting himself. If he tells his children when he is ready and comfortable, it is likely to be a positive experience for everyone.

  2. Children are never too young to be told. They will absorb only as much as they are capable of understanding. Use words appropriate to the age of the child. Details may be added as they grow older.

  3. Discuss it with children before they know or suspect. When children discover their father's sexual orientation from someone other than the father, they often are upset that their father did not trust them sufficiently to share the information with them. It is exceedingly difficult for children to initiate the subject, and they will not bring it up even though they want to.

  4. Disclosure should be planned. Children should not find out about their father's homosexuality by default or discover it accidentally or during an argument between their parents.

  5. Disclose in a quiet setting where interruptions are unlikely to occur.

  6. Inform, don't confess. The disclosure should not be heavy or maudlin but positive and sincere. Informing in a simple, natural, or matter-of-fact manner when the father is ready is more likely to foster acceptance by the child. If possible, discuss or rehearse what will be said to children with someone who has already experienced a similar disclosure.

  7. Inform the children that relationships with them will not change as a result of disclosure. Disclosure will, however, allow the father to be more honest. Children may need reassurance that the father is the same person he was before. Younger children may need reassurance that the father will still be their father.

  8. Be prepared for questions: Some questions and possible answers are:


Created: October 27, 1996

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Questions? Comments? Send e-mail to richard@rpjasper.org