COMING OUT TO CHILDREN:
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.
GUIDELINES FOR FATHERS
(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
- Come to terms with your own gayness before disclosing to
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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- Disclose in a quiet setting where interruptions are unlikely to
- 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.
- Inform the children that relationships with them will not change as
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.
- Be prepared for questions: Some questions and possible answers
- Why are you telling me this? Because my personal life is
important and I want to share it with you. I am not ashamed of being
homosexual, and you shouldn't be ashamed of me either.
- What does being gay mean? It means being attracted to other men
so that you might fall in love with a man and express your love physically
- What makes a person gay? No one knows, although there are a lot
of theories. (This question may be a childs a way of asking if he she will
also be gay.)
- Will I be gay, too? You wont be gay just because Im gay. Its
not contagious, and it doesn't appear to be hereditary. you will be
whatever you are going to be.
- Don't you like women? (The child might be asking, "Don't you
like Mom?" or "Do you hate Mom?" If this question is asked by a daughter
it may also mean, "Don't you like me?" or "Do you hate me?") I do like women
but I'm not physically (or sexually) and romantically attracted to them as I
am to men.
- What should I tell my friends about it? A lot of people just
understand so it might be best to keep it in the family. You can discuss
it with me any time you want. If you want to tell a close friend, go
ahead and try it out. But the friend might not be accepting, and she or
he might tell others. You should be prepared for those possibilities. If
you do tell somebody, let me know how it turns out.
Created: October 27, 1996
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