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Wanting to be the Dad his gay son needs.

Jafar the Barmecide
Community Member

I have drafted this post so many times I can’t remember, please forgive me if I inadvertently say the wrong thing. I admit I need educating.

I want to ask permission from the members who post here to ask questions about LGBT+ perspectives. I have a 17-year-old son who is gay. He has come out to his mother, and he asked her not to tell me because he is afraid that I will reject him or even physically hurt him. This makes me feel enormously guilty and tremendously sad. But he has good reasons.

The 21st century is like another world from the time I grew up in, and it has been slow progress I admit, but beliefs can be changed. I am changing my attitude about gay people as part of challenging the societal conditioning I have learned and lived all my life.

I love my son unconditionally; I want him to know that. I worry about him so much and I want to protect him. I have had no experience of LGBT+ life, I don’t know anybody who is gay that I can ask, I don’t have any friends to confide in who would understand. I don’t want to lose him, and I want to be part of his life and understand him as he is, not who he is when he is trying to hide his real self from me. The boy is afraid of me and it is my fault. I am to blame. I want to make it right.

I am afraid that he won’t ever come out to me unless I tell him that I know. If I do that then I could damage the sacred trust he has in his mother who has, with all good intentions, nevertheless breached that trust by telling me. I don’t want to do that.

What is the best way to handle this? How did you come out to your dad? If it went badly then how do wish it would have happened? Should I just ask him, ‘Are you gay?’ and pretend it just crossed my mind for some reason? I have so many questions so I am here to respectfully ask for your help. I am in new territory, and I don’t want to lose him I want to support him and be an ally.

Thanks for any advice, corrections or knowledge you might offer

15 Replies 15

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion


A difficult situation but fixable.

I would invite him on a trip, camping overnight somewhere maybe where there is only the two of you. A camp fire perhaps.

You could ask him to listen to you for a few minutes and refrain from comment until you've finished,

"Before my life's end I need to tell you how unconditional my love is. .." and so on. At the end invite him to -"so I don't mind if you wish to ever break news to me about anything... even if you're guy I would accept you for who you are "

It's at this point you go silent. Hopefully he tells you. Then you can explain the era of homophobia you grew up in.


Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello Jafar, and thanks Tony, because this situation might be more common than you realise, and it has definitely changed over the years.

It's good you love him unconditionally because trust is a priority and you could mention it's your belief that he might be gay and that he is allowed to bring his b/friend home at any time without any fear because you're my son and I love you and no one has said anything to me.

Sometimes people wait until they feel comfortable before opening up, but this must be a worry for them, just mention without any conviction.

Best wishes.


Jafar the Barmecide
Community Member
Thanks both Geoff and White Night, there’s good ideas and things to think about however I am questioning the original post. If I try and look at it from a gay perspective, who am I to come along and ask for advice on this forum of people who are depressed and traumatised because of people just like myself?
I think the best course of action is to ask my son’s mother to try and persuade him that I have changed my attitude to LGBT+ people and that I will not respond aggressively or reject him. Even if we have to have a family get together and contrive a conversation where I can explain my changed beliefs so he can feel safe enough to tell me.
I have 5 sons and 2 daughters over three marriages and for too long I have been a tyrant, I see my family flinch when I raise my voice and that is damage and trauma due to my violent nature. I have to take responsibility and I can’t blame anybody but myself for that.
I am not that man but it will take time to prove that.

Hi Jafar the Barmecide,

How important is privacy to a 17yr old? How much o 17yr olds enjoy parents talking about their private & personal lives?

& yes, you have a few relationships to repair. That'll take much evidence that you really are making substantial efforts to change.

My own opinion is that your son's sexuality is your son's own business, so it is his to declare if to whomever he chooses. Perhaps, if mum talks with him, he might permit her to tell you on his behalf.

You don't have to let on that she already has told you. I know, a little contrived solution, but better than risk his feeling his mum has betrayed him.

I hope you bear in mind, this knowledge about his sexuality didn't change who he is the day you heard about it. He was your son before, is today & will be tomorrow.

I wish you & your family much happiness & healing,


Community Member

I appreciate the change you’re trying to make, it’s nice to hear a parent recognising their behaviour and I hope this extends beyond guilt and into action (the most important step in my opinion).

A 17 year old will see right through a contrived conversation in a family setting. I think it’s important not to implicate his mother if she’s someone he feels he can confide in as it will likely affect how he sees his relationship with her in some way, but this depends of many factors I can’t possibly know.

If it were me, I think approaching him calmly and expressing your unconditional love for him as your child is very important, and maybe express the thoughts you have here about your regrets about your past behaviour. Even if you don’t bring up his sexuality, it sets a precedent that you are looking to heal your relationship with him. That being said, it won’t mean anything unless you can commit to this and he can be witness to this.

Ideally he will feel safe to come to you with this, but the sad truth is this may not happen. Personally, my mother wasn’t expressly homophobic but I still wouldn’t have come out to her if I hadn’t felt pressured by her to at 18 which is something I regret and has definitely impacted me.

So my advice is to heal your relationship first - hopefully he will feel comfortable enough to tell you one day, or it will arise organically. Make sure he has a safe space still, with his mother for example.

Like you said, you want to be the father your son needs, but his sexuality really is secondary. If you foster a loving and reliable relationship he hopefully will one day come out to you himself. He is also 17, which is a far cry from maturity, but also very far away from childhood - he is finding his identity as a person (who will soon be viewed as an adult) and at this point he does not want to be infantilised or feel like his privacy is being breeched. You need to prove that you have love and respect for him and that you are capable of change. And while you may feel that you need to get this off your chest, it isn’t really your place to do this, particularly after he has expressed in confidence that he didn’t want to involve you yet. I really don’t know him and he may be forgiving of his mother if he finds out she told you, but he also may not and this could be very damaging for him, particularly if he carries the weight of an unreliable caregiver. Maybe consider family counselling or advice from a Dr if it worries you. Best of luck.

Community Champion
Community Champion

hi there,

i dont think asking or forcing him to tell you is the best approach. i think you can show him support but small acts. like if watching TV and seeing a gay couple maybe comment on how nice it is (like you would a hetero couple). you can focus on building a relationship with him again, approaching the situation head-on may cause more stress for him and also resentment to his mother for telling you.

i think you need to wait for him to come to you and focus on repairing your relationship and showing that unconditional love in the meantime.

all the best,

jaz xx

Jafar the Barmecide
Community Member

G’day folks, I gotta admit I only became aware of this stuff when I took active steps to better myself. That’s like throwing down a challenge and leaving the brotherhood, it doesn’t have to be a club, you’re leaving the people who are still doing the thing that you’re not, and you’re challenged for that. I was even asked if I had “found Jesus” because It’s either that or you’re a f**.

I took a lot away from that exchange. There’s a lot to unpack there. It’s a bully tactic and I’ve used it many times myself. Turns out if you’re not a hard man who doesn’t give a f*** about anybody, you’re gay, even with 7 children. The power that masculinity gives you is intoxicating, and any challenge to that is hard to take. If you go “soft” without religion, it’s at the cost of your manhood. So many blokes find themselves asserting their masculinity by belittling femininity because we strictly police each other as boys by shaming each other brutally in comparison with girls. It’s a disrespect for femininity we learned from a young age, what makes that toxic is we’re not respecting the feminine qualities that attract us sexually but are viewed as weak.

I don’t have answers and it’s been a long day and I got too much sun on my bare scalp and my brain hurt writing that last paragraph. It made me think long and hard about the 17 years my son grew up with three older brothers that never thought twice about calling each other ‘gay’ at any hint of cowardice with me laughing along and joining in. It must have felt like a punch in the guts every time. Then I think of the times he joined in describing the things he didn’t like as ‘gay’. That can’t be healthy. It makes me sad.

I think I should leave well enough alone and wait for him to see evidence of me modifying my behaviour enough to be approachable, about anything, and expressing love for him. He already thinks I’ve been weird since I got out so let’s see what happens.

Hello Jafar, isn't it strange how people view the world these days, because it has certainly changed so much from 40 years ago.

I'm not religious whereas my two sons went to a Christian school which didn't bother me at all, so they know where I stand as I do with them, although they both don't go to church and certainly not referred to as being weak, as I've been through so much and respected by them as well as their mates.

Boys and girls both talk about the opposite gender and probably have for many years, but as you say, 'wait for him to see evidence of me modifying my behaviour enough to be approachable', is your best solution.

Best wishes.


G’day tmas, thanks for your insight, I keep reading it and I will take your advice on board. I am sorry that you were compelled to come out before you felt comfortable, the fact that this was not how you wanted it to go persuaded me not to contrive any sort of undue pressure on my son before he is ready. As you said, he’s going to see right through any effort on my part to coax anything about his sexuality because, after all this time, sexuality has never been a topic of conversation between my boys and myself beyond discussions of their girlfriend issues.

While he’s always been the quiet, artistic boy I can honestly say I don’t see him any differently now I know he’s gay and I don’t see him as any less of a man either. This is partly because I am redefining my ideas about what it is to be a man and partly because he’s risen to every challenge I laid down as a gatekeeping exercise to manhood. He can take care of himself when challenged by bullies and his older brothers, he has challenged himself physically in sport and recreation and I am confident he could follow his brothers into the ADF and excel in any area he chose.

He has not chosen the armed forces path, he chose Environmental Science with the goal of becoming a Ranger, he told me he wants to get out there in the outback, he doesn’t want to be an urban council ranger, who he calls glorified dogcatchers. We are a hunting family and have spent a great deal of time in the bush targeting feral pigs and he is an accomplished bushman, confident on a trailbike and a reasonable marksman.

All of this makes him who he is now, and it’s been achieved growing up in an environment that was casually and sometimes vehemently hostile to LGBT+. I am selfishly itching to talk to him about all this stuff because I don’t know the effect that I have had on him psychologically. Has it made him emotionally resilient or is there a part of him that hates himself? How much have I damaged my son?

These are rhetorical questions because only my son can answer them, and I’ll just have to be patient on that front.