REGARDLESS of our religious or moral beliefs, the fact remains that it is estimated that between three to 10 per cent of the world's population is homosexual. That means that, on the low end, three per cent of Jamaican parents have a child who is gay. So what is the parent of a gay child supposed to do?
You have three choices -- you can bury your head in the sand and pray he grows out of it; you can enrol him in some type of reparative therapy; or you can accept the situation as it is and do what you can to protect your child (and your sanity).
If you choose to bury your head in the sand, or enrol your child in reparative therapy, then this article is not for you. I am talking to those parents who want to help their child as they navigate this painful and lonely journey. So:
1. Take the time to grieve. Yes, grieve. Grief is what we experience when we have a loss, and this would definitely qualify! We have hopes and dreams for our children, and all of a sudden when we learn of our child's gayness many of those dreams are dashed. So go ahead, take the time to grieve.
2. Enlist the support of a few trusted family members or friends. Even if they don't understand totally, having people who do not pass judgement and who will keep your confidence will give you the fortitude to deal with the situation.
3. Educate yourself on the subject. Most of us know little about the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) population until it comes to our door. Learn about the stages that gay people often go through until they come to accept who they are (if they ever do).
4. Let your child know that you love them regardless of their sexual identity. The truth is that they are still the same person; the only difference is that now you know they are sexually attracted to the same gender.
5. Educate them on the legal and societal ramifications of coming out in Jamaica. It is against the law to engage in homosexual acts, and the possibility of being beaten up because of their sexuality is very high in this culture. Alternatives may include remaining celibate or moving to a country where their life is not in danger because of who they are. Help them to weigh their options.
6. Be a safe person for your gay child to share their thoughts and feelings. Remember that this is not just about you, the parent. It is about your child who feels "different", maybe even "cursed". Help them to see that they need not be relegated to a life of unhappiness.
7. Remind your gay child that their sexuality is just one facet of who they are. They should not allow this one dimension to jeopardise their growth in other areas.
8. Be an advocate for the LGBT population. You may not choose to enter the political arena and attempt to impact legislation, but when you hear bigotry and prejudice, speak up (for your child's sake).
9. Ask for help. If you are a Christian, ask the Lord to show you how to love your child and those who would do him harm.
D Maxine Jordan, MA, is the mother of a gay son, and is a clinical mental health counsellor in private practice in Mandeville. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.