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My teen is gay and doesn't want his dad to know

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The question

My teen boy confided in me that he's gay, but he'd like for me to not tell his dad. I'm conflicted - he's my husband, and I tell him everything. I know he'd be okay with it, but should I keep my son's secret?

The answer

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You are caught between two people you really care about. There is a potential for conflict and a loss of trust. One way of looking at this issue is that, ultimately, your husband will find out about your son's situation.

Honesty may be the best policy, but it is also an issue of finding the right time for all involved.

If your husband finds out that you knew all along, he may wonder why you did not tell him. Your husband may have questions as to why his son felt it necessary to keep this secret from him.

I would go back to your son and find out more about why he doesn't want his dad to know. He may have a good reason or perhaps he has a friend who is gay and whose parents were very upset when they first found that out.

Tell him why you think your husband will not be upset, and see if your son agrees with your perspective. If not, I would keep your son's trust and not tell your husband.

Gay teens may experience rejection: they feel ostracized, judged and often fear that they may be physically harmed. They are therefore fearful and they may only confide to those they feel they can trust. Not all gay teens experience their parents support and understanding . Some have had a parent who became very emotional upon finding out their child is gay.

These parents may experience shock, disbelief, disappointment, sorrow, guilt, confusion, embarrassment - especially when the news comes as a complete surprise.

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If your son ever decides it is okay to tell his dad, and your husband is not as okay as you anticipated, then the whole family should see a psychologist for support. The new dynamic takes time - and sometimes seeing a professional will help with the adjustment.

In my opinion, a useful resource for parents of gay teens is this guide from the University of Toronto.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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