“Can you accept it if one of our daughters is a lesbian?” I asked. “OMG! That would mean we failed as parents!” my husband bellowed. Our eldest was only seven years old then. That hypothetical ‘gay child’ marked the start of a series of challenging discussions I’ve since had with my husband.
The reality is that our world today is less straightforward than it once was. Not talking about such issues is like an ostrich hiding its head in the sand — a false sense of security. By discussing these tough topics ahead of time, we can reach a consensus about our stance as parents. That way, we are better able to respond to our kids clearly, if and when they broach the subjects later.
Education Minster Lawrence Wong says schools can be flexible for students with gender dysphoria, a term used to describe psychological distress due to an incongruence between one’s assigned gender at birth and one’s gender identity. While this topic is strongly debated as people bitterly contest over deep-seated beliefs, the question remains.
What Would You Do if Your Child is LGBTQ?
- threaten to cut ties because you are not ready to accept their ‘deviance’,
- brainwash or guilt them into being straight for your sake, or
- completely love and accept them despite their sexuality?
My husband chose the second option. “We’ll brainwash her at a young age, so she’ll never be gay!”
I allowed the hypothetical question to sink in as I slowly processed the concept. What are the boundaries of my ‘unconditional’ love for her? Would I still love her if she were gay?
Could I accept a person but not her identity? This is tricky because how do I draw the line? Is it possible to isolate and ignore someone’s sexuality? It is not a simple one-off act of theft or cheating. It is something that forms a huge part of one’s personality and pervades one’s entire life and lifestyle.
(See also: Sex Education for Kids: An Age-by-Stage Guide)
It Boils down to Three Choices
1. Refuse to Accept
I have a close friend from school who always had to head straight home after CCAs. Her father was strict and kept a tight rein over his daughters. With high hopes she would become a doctor, he supported her post-grad studies in Ireland for six years. She was always the obedient daughter who never went against her father’s wishes. Then she met a Muslim man she wanted to marry.
Her strict Catholic father was absolute about his stand and threatened to disown her. Still, she chose to convert to be with her love. Today, they are happily married and are raising three beautiful daughters in Australia. So she did become the doctor her father wanted, but he lost a daughter regardless. What matters more? Having a relationship or being ‘right’?
2. Selectively Accept
In the study of sociology, I learnt that one’s environment conditions one’s choices in life. And yet the question remains: What if, even after instilling all the ethos of right and wrong, good and bad, our child says she is gay and chooses to walk that path? Self-righteously, my husband declared, “I will force her to break off with the other person and send her for counselling.”
“Because her decision does not align with what you’re ready to accept as right or wrong?” I challenged further: “Isn’t it double standards and hypocritical that we engaged in premarital sex, something our parents would consider sin, while our child cannot be gay? Whose standards do we live by? Aren’t our kids autonomous individuals, free to decide what they want?”
Yes, as parents and stewards, we can influence them as they grow. Yet, the truth is we cannot control them. Our children are individuals, beings with a mind, body, will, and destiny of their own. If you expect them to obey you their whole life, you are setting yourself up for certain disappointment.
3. Unconditionally Accept
What if we operate under the principle of complete acceptance? It doesn’t mean being blind to everything the child does or making them the centre of our universe. Rather, it is about internalising one of the greatest universal human needs. Just as we do not question why plants need water and sunlight for growth, accepting that our children need love and acceptance means that we give it to them generously and without condition.
Unconditional acceptance does not mean that I condone everything my child does. It means not loving them more for good grades or loving them less for bad behaviour. But most importantly, it means that in times of crises, when she is faced with tough challenges, she finds in me a safe haven to process her raw thoughts and emotions.
(See also: Letting Go of Your Baby; Welcoming Your Tween)
Everyone who feels unaccepted goes through emotional struggles, and the gay community perhaps more than most. Many feel they’ve let their parents down, and even wish it’s a disease to be cured. Instead of being quick to judge someone’s differences, why not adapt your own mindset and expand your boundaries of love?
And the Greatest of Them All is Love
I want my children to know this: I love you not because you are gay or straight. I love you as you are.
Rather than insisting on your way or the highway, or holding my love for ransom, my goal is to reach a point where I fully embrace my children for who they are. Who is to judge what unique purposes each of us have in life? Even if in the moment, our paths seem to be taking a detour, I believe that creating a space of unconditional love and acceptance will always serve.
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