Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other staff.


When I came out to my parents, they were not pleased. They didn't throw me out, but they're not at all happy that I'm gay. They don't want me to tell anyone in my hometown. What's more, they said I was always welcome to visit, but they weren't ready to let me bring my partner with me. Whenever I bring up having the two of us come for a visit, they say they need more time. I live in a city several hundred miles away, so it's an overnight visit when I go to see them.I was willing to give them time to adjust, but this has been going on for over three years. I'm tired of their denial about my life, tired of pretending I don't have a partner, tired of dealing with their silent disapproval every time I go to visit. What do you recommend?


This is a very difficult situation, for you can't make them change if they're not ready. However, there are ways to approach the situation that will make it easier for you. If you haven't already done so, I recommend you get in touch with the nearest PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) chapter. PFLAG meetings are a place for you to get support from other parents and from other lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Also, PFLAG publishes lots of good materials for parents, everything from brochures to books. You may find some of those materials helpful to you, and you may want to send some materials to your parents. You'll find a link to the PFLAG web site on our links page.

You can't force your parents to change in the ways you want, but you can decide how you want to respond to the limits they have set. For instance, you could decide not to visit them unless they are willing to have your partner come along. You could decide to visit but not stay with them. You could decide to visit but not stay as long as you used to. You could decide not to visit unless they are willing to talk with you about your sexual orientation. There are undoubtedly many other ways to respond to them. My point is that just because their behavior hasn't changed doesn't mean that you have to keep responding in the same old way. Decide what will work for you. You can't guarantee what they will do, but you can take care of yourself.


Author and psychologist Gail S. Bernstein, Ph.D. has a psychotherapy practice in Denver, Colorado. Dr. Bernstein speaks and writes about gay, lesbian and bisexual people for both general and professional audiences, and is the author of the new audiotape, NOT HETEROSEXUAL: An Educational Program About Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual People.


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