Photo: Altug Karakoc
I think my son or daughter might be gay. What do I do?
It's really common for young people to feel confused or unsure about their sexuality at different times in their lives. Lots of girls have feelings for other girls and lots of boys have feelings for other boys and that makes them wonder if they might be gay or bisexual. These feelings can be very intense and sometimes young people can be upset by them. It can be very difficult for someone to open up and talk honestly about their sexuality, whatever their age.
It is usually the case that by the time young gay people speak to their parents about their sexuality, they have thought long and hard about it. The instinct to say 'are you sure?' is extremely powerful. While it's not a terrible thing to say, it's not very helpful either. Parents are often the last to know and even nowadays, not many young people come out unless they have given it a lot of thought.
That said, our understanding of sexuality nowadays is more fluid than it used to be. This is probably a good thing for young people, who often use their teenage years to explore their sexuality. Sometimes these experiments might lead them to conclude they're gay, some may decided they just want to have relationships with members of the opposite sex, and others may feel they're bisexual (attracted to both men and women) and go on to have relationships with both sexes.
It can sometimes be difficult to understand the level of pressure that young people can come under to 'decide' what they are or label themselves in one way of another. You can help by outlining your own feelings, but also saying that you won't judge them.
It's really important that you are as supportive as you possibly can be, irrespective of what you hear or how you feel about discussing their sexuality. They are still your child.
If they would like to speak with someone in confidence about their feelings, they can contact the London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard on 0300 330 0630. Parents, family members and friends are also welcome to call, and they can signpost to local services too, if this would be helpful.