To honor National Coming Out Day, first a quote from Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy: Wounded Spirits and Healing Paths by David A. Crenshaw (dictated exactly as written, grammatical and punctuation errors intact; these are unfortunately pervasive throughout the book, but otherwise I recommend it):
“Gay, lesbian and transgender youth are often silenced in damaging ways by the dominant culture. Both overt and covert forms of homophobia is pervasive in schools, churches and other community places, not to mention families and exerts a powerful silencing force that has a profound deleterious psychological impact on these youth.”
By coincidence, a recent personal essay in the NY Times provides a heartbreaking example of the “silencing” Crenshaw refers to. Written by Puerto Rican author Luis Negrón and titled The Pain of Reading, the essay is poetic and nuanced and offers a child’s-eye glimpse into what it feels like to keep one’s self hidden while at the same time suffering devastating rejection by a parent.
Finally, another article from the NY Times about helping children come out of the closet. It is a delicate proposition, and the consensus is that even if parents suspect their child is gay – even from a young age – they should not force them to come out before they are ready. Rather, the most important thing is for parents to establish a general atmosphere in which it is known that they love the child unconditionally and are there to support them no matter what. One interesting piece of advice (given to a parent by a gay friend) is to “work references to gay life into our daily conversation instead of treating it as a touchy subject best left alone.” This makes a lot of sense. It is so much easier for a child to open up about something they perceive actually exists in their parents’ frame of reference, rather than bear the burden of having to educate their parents about something perceived as mysterious and unknown.