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Wednesday, 1 October 2008

How do you tell your Catholic dad you're gay?

Not a million miles in subject matter from our post yesterday about the lovely actor Miriam Margolyes comes a plea for help from someone who himself is in a dilemma over whether to come out to a parent.

In this lad’s case, though, it’s not a question of whether it will upset the parent – a father in this case – but how he might react towards the son. The father is from a traditional Catholic background and thinks gay people are perverts, and the 21-year-old who has written to a Scottish agony aunt in the Daily Record is understandably worried.

What exacerbates this young man’s problem is that he’s just lost his mother, and as well as missing her he’s also cut up about the fact that he had just about worked out how he was going to tell her about his sexuality, but didn’t get the chance.

“Everything was made much worse by my dad saying he didn't care mum had died,” the young man tells agony aunt Joan Burnie. “They got divorced when I was in high school.” He goes on:

I feel I need to tell my dad I'm gay. But he comes from a very traditional Irish Catholic background and thinks all gay people are more or less perverts.

How do you change a man like that and how do I tell him about me? I'm taller, broader and fitter than him but I don't want to threaten him into accepting me for who I am so what do I do?

The response from Burnie is a measured one. And she does make a convincing case for not telling the dad – just yet. The lad needs to deal with his grief first.

So this is one case when it’s not quite time to do it, not because she thinks he shouldn’t, “but because right now you're emotionally very raw and still mourning the loss of your mum. You need to deal with the grief first and your sexuality second. You've still got a lot of other issues to sort out such as the effect your parents' divorce had on you.”

But what any young readers of this blog might find useful if they’re living in Scotland is what looks like a super support group aimed mainly, but not exclusively, at young men who have emotional problems of one sort or another and just need to talk and get support. It’s called Breathing Space, and Burnie suggests our gay friend ensure he has the support of this and the gay and lesbian helpline. Then think about finding a place of his own.

Then might be the time to approach Dad.

As for your dad, there's no point in denying some people are homophobic. He might accept it as many parents do but then again he might not.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't tell him. I just think you have to pick your moment as well as making sure you've got support in place if it all goes wrong.

Sounds like good advice to me.

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