Ball of Confusion
My son is 16 and has plenty of girlfriends, although he doesn't seem to be interested in any of them. He grew up wanting to play with Barbie dolls and hating sports for no apparent reason. I've been prepared for a very long time for him to come to me one day and tell me that he's gay. I've done my best to let him be who he is and not encourage or discourage him one way or the other. I think I've made it clear to him that this family's love is 100 percent unconditional.
I know (because he's told me) that I couldn't possibly understand the social intricacies of high school. But things do seem to have changed since I was a teen. I know he gets picked on a little, but he also seems to be generally well-liked and has plenty of friends. Frankly, I don't understand why he won't just come out and talk to me about all of this. I want him to feel normal and healthy and unashamed. But I suspect that isn't how he feels at all.
Now Valentine's Day is ready to rear her ugly head and present kids with all kinds of unnecessary pressures—as if raging hormones weren't already enough! My son becomes very curt and shut off when the subject of dating and girls comes up. I know that all kinds of peers and teachers and parents are going to be asking him which of those girls he hangs out with is his special valentine. It's painful to watch when someone asks him that sort of question; he becomes so awkward and almost angry.
If my son is gay, the realization needs to be something he comes to on his own. In the meantime, I don't know what else I can do to make him feel supported and safe. I want him to be able to come to me, but I fear I haven't countered the culture of shame strongly enough. I'm terrified he won't be able to come to terms with it and will start down a destructive path—you know, like the worst gay stereotypes of our generation. I can only do so much. Sometimes I feel like it's just me and him against a flock of cupids slinging their arrows at football players and cheerleaders. How can I convince him that there is room for him to be who he is in high school when I'm not even convinced of that myself?