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A phenomenological investigation of how parents come to terms with a gay son or lesbian daughter MacKenzie, Edith Agnes 1986

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A PHENOMENOLOGICAL INVESTIGATION OF HOW PARENTS COME TO TERMS WITH A GAY SON OR LESBIAN DAUGHTER by E d i t h Agnes MacKenzie B . A . , S t . F r a n c i s X a v i e r U n i v e r s i t y , 1973 B . E d . , ' S t . F r a n c i s X a v i e r U n i v e r s i t y , 1974 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS i n THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES Department of C o u n s e l l i n g Psycho logy We accept t h i s t h e s i s as conforming tQ the^-rNequire 1d s t a n d a r d THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA J a n u a r y , 1986 © E d i t h Agnes M a c K e n z i e , 1986 In presenting t h i s thesis i n p a r t i a l f u l f i l m e n t of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of B r i t i s h Columbia, I agree that the Library s h a l l make i t f r e e l y available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of t h i s thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It i s understood that copying or publication of t h i s thesis for f i n a n c i a l gain s h a l l not be allowed without my written permission. Department of ^ L ^ ^ ^ L ^ - ^ The University of B r i t i s h Columbia 1956 Main Mall Vancouver, Canada V 6 T 1Y3 Date K^^J^iA^y^f $ 2. , /fg£ ABSTRACT T h i s study i n v e s t i g a t e d the phenomenolog ica l na ture of coming to terms wi th a gay son or l e s b i a n d a u g h t e r . Seven c o - r e s e a r c h e r s were i n t e r v i e w e d . They were s e l e c t e d from a network of f r i e n d s , a c q u a i n t e n c e s and the o r g a n i z a t i o n P a r e n t s and F r i e n d s of Gays and L e s b i a n s . Each person was asked to d e s c r i b e t h e i r p e r s o n a l e x p e r i e n c e of "coming to terms" and to v a l i d a t e the a n a l y s i s w i t h i n the contex t of t h r e e i n t e r v i e w s . The i n t e r v i e w s were t a p e d , t r a n s c r i b e d and used as the da ta for t h i s s t u d y . The meaning of "coming to terms" was s t u d i e d by u s i n g the e x i s t e n t i a l - p h e n o m e n o l o g i c a l a p p r o a c h . The a n a l y s i s f o l l o w e d the d e s c r i p t i v e r e s e a r c h method o u t l i n e d by C o l a i z z i (1978) in E x i s t e n t i a l - P h e n o m e n o l o g i c a l  A l t e r n a t i v e s For P s y c h o l o g y . The r e s u l t s d i r e c t l y a d d r e s s the meaning of coming to terms w i t h a gay son or l e s b i a n d a u g h t e r . The major themes ( c o n s t i t u e n t s ) were d e s c r i b e d and i n t e g r a t e d i n t o an e x h a u s t i v e phenomenolog ica l d e s c r i p t i o n . A condensed d e s c r i p t i o n ( e s s t e n t i a l s t r u c t u r e ) was d e r i v e d from the phenomenolog ica l d e s c r i p t i o n and was p r e s e n t e d i n an u n e q u i v o c a l statement of meaning. i i i T a b l e of C o n t e n t s ABSTRACT i i CHAPTER ONE 1 INTRODUCTION , 1 RATIONALE .1 APPROACH 2 DEFINITION OF TERMS 3 CHAPTER TWO 4 LITERATURE REVIEW 4 CONTEXT OF HOMOSEXUALITY 4 PARENTAL REACTIONS 11 EXISTENTIAL-PHENOMENOLOGY 15 CHAPTER THREE 20 METHODOLOGY 20 CO-RESEARCHERS 20 PHENOMENOLOGICAL INTERVIEW 21 ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION 22 CHAPTER FOUR 25 RESULTS 25 RESEARCHER'S EXPERIENCE 25 THEMES 27 PHENOMENOLOGICAL DESCRIPTION 35 ESSENTIAL STRUCTURE 43 CHAPTER FIVE 46 DISCUSSION 46 LIMITATIONS 46 i v CONCEPTUAL IMPLICATIONS 48 COUNSELLING IMPLICATIONS 52 IMPLICATIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH . . 5 5 * CONCLUSIONS 56 REFERENCES 58 APPENDIX A 63 APPENDIX B 64 1 CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION RATIONALE T h i s s tudy addresses the q u e s t i o n "How do p a r e n t s come to terms wi th a gay son or l e s b i a n daughter?" i n an attempt to unders tand the meaning and nature of t h i s e x p e r i e n c e . A c c o r d i n g to S i l v e r s t e i n (1977) at l e a s t twenty m i l l i o n people i n the U n i t e d S t a t e s are homosexual . With the i n c r e a s i n g openess many more g a y s / l e s b i a n s are d i s c l o s i n g t h e i r s e x u a l i t y to t h e i r p a r e n t s . Assuming a number do t e l l t h e i r p a r e n t s , t h i s t r a n s l a t e s to a s i g n i f i c a n t number of people who must d e a l w i t h an unexpected l i f e event and whose r e l a t i o n s h i p s w i t h t h e i r c h i l d r e n undergo changes . These numbers suggest the importance of t h i s s tudy in terms of d i s c o v e r i n g a l a r g e s c a l e phenomenon h a v i n g an i n f l u e n t i a l f o r c e on a p a r e n t ' s l i f e . The same phenomenon can a l s o be observed between a parent and c h i l d i n o ther areas such as unexpected c a r e e r c h o i c e s , i n t e r - c u l t u r a l m a r r i a g e s , the onset of a d i s a b i l i t y , marr iage d i s s o l u t i o n and c r i m i n a l i t y . F u r t h e r reasons to focus on t h i s area a l s o became a p p a r e n t . S i n c e the p e r c e i v e d s o c i a l v a l u e s u r r o u n d i n g the s t igma of homosexua l i ty can evoke a v a r i e t y of p a r e n t a l r e a c t i o n s , p a r e n t s can become s e n s i t i v e about t h e i r c h i l d ' s h o m o s e x u a l i t y , thereby r e l i n q u i s h i n g the p o s s i b i l i t y of 2 c r e a t i n g a support system t h a t c o u l d l e a d to a g r e a t e r u n d e r s t a n d i n g and acceptance of t h e i r c h i l d ' s d i f f e r e n t n e s s ( F a i r c h i l d and Hayward, 1979). By i n c r e a s i n g awareness of the p a r e n t a l p e r s p e c t i v e , t h i s s tudy c o u l d p r o v i d e needed i n f o r m a t i o n for p a r e n t s of g a y s / l e s b i a n s and i n a d d i t i o n knowledge for p a r e n t s coming to terms w i t h a number of o ther l i f e e v e n t s . T h i s work would a l s o p r o v i d e a forum f o r f u r t h e r e x p l o r a t i o n and d i s c u s s i o n and would c r e a t e a f o u n d a t i o n of support f o r p a r e n t s to a s s i s t them i n r e s o l v i n g t h e i r c o n f l i c t s . The c o n v e r s a t i o n s w i t h p a r e n t s d i r e c t l y encouraged me to pursue t h i s t o p i c , as p a r e n t s in t e l l i n g t h e i r s t o r y of 'coming to terms' r e v e a l e d a phenomenon h a v i n g p s y c h o l o g i c a l , s o c i a l and p o l i t i c a l r a m i f i c a t i o n s . The c o s t s i n terms of human s u f f e r i n g , c o n f u s i o n and s t r u g g l e were s i g n i f i c a n t . For some p a r e n t s , these d i s c u s s i o n s o f f e r e d the f i r s t o p p o r t u n i t y to t a l k openly about t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e . For a l l , p a r t i c i p a t i o n in t h i s s tudy p r o v i d e d v a l i d a t i o n for f e e l i n g s , thoughts and e x p e r i e n c e s . APPROACH The i n t e n t i o n of t h i s paper was to e x p l o r e the meaning and e x p e r i e n c e of p a r e n t s coming to an u n d e r s t a n d i n g and acceptance of t h e i r gay son or l e s b i a n d a u g h t e r . The phenomenolog ica l methodology based on C o l a i z z i ' s (1978) s tudy was used . The phenomenolog ica l approach i s based on the b e l i e f tha t p e r s o n a l e x p e r i e n c e i s v a l i d content for 3 p s y c h o l o g i c a l r e s e a r c h . As w e l l , phenomenology demands c a r e f u l f i d e l i t y to the e x p e r i e n c e be ing s t u d i e d . Through i n t e n s i v e i n t e r v i e w s w i t h people ( c o - r e s e a r c h e r s ) , one seeks to d e s c r i b e e x p l i c i t l y the p e r s o n a l e x p e r i e n c e of p a r e n t s coming to terms w i t h t h e i r c h i l d ' s h o m o s e x u a l i t y . T h i s d e s c r i p t i o n r e v e a l s , i n as much d e t a i l as p o s s i b l e , the e x p e r i e n c e of 'coming to terms' which i s common to everyone . DEFINITION OF TERMS The terms homosexual / s are used i n t h i s s tudy to r e p r e s e n t both l e s b i a n women and gay men o n l y when r e f e r r e d to as such by o ther r e s e a r c h e r s . Out of r e s p e c t for the h i s t o r i c a l and p o l i t i c a l e v o l u t i o n of these i d e n t i t i e s the terms " l e s b i a n / s " and "gay/s" have been used i n o t h e r i n s t a n c e s . P a r e n t s i d e n t i f i e d in t h i s s tudy were those of f i n a n c i a l l y independent c h i l d r e n , l i v i n g on t h e i r own. T h i s d i v i s i o n was made for the purpose of t h i s s tudy o n l y , because some i s s u e s a r i s i n g from dependent v . s . independent c h i l d r e n may have p r e s e n t e d d i f f e r e n t p a r e n t a l r e s p o n s e s . In c o n c l u s i o n , the f o c a l p o i n t of t h i s s tudy was the p r o c e s s f o l l o w i n g the knowledge t h a t a c h i l d was g a y / l e s b i a n . T h i s encompassed u n d e r s t a n d i n g the meaning of the e x p e r i e n c e of coming to terms w i t h t h i s i n f o r m a t i o n . 4 CHAPTER TWO LITERATURE REVIEW CONTEXT OF HOMOSEXUALITY C u r r e n t l y t h e r e i s l i m i t e d r e s e a r c h a v a i l a b l e s p e c i f i c a l l y on the na ture of coming to terms w i t h a gay son or l e s b i a n d a u g h t e r . The p s y c h i a t r i s t s Myers (1981/82) and Zuger (1980) , however, have opened the way w i t h r e l a t e d r e s e a r c h c o n c e r n i n g p a r e n t a l i s s u e s s u r r o u n d i n g the d i s c o v e r y of a g a y / l e s b i a n c h i l d . As a r e s u l t of t h i s l i m i t e d r e s e a r c h base , l i t e r a t u r e has been examined p r e s e n t i n g the v a r i o u s c o n t e x t s o t h e r s have o u t l i n e d i n terms of the t h e o r y and treatment of h o m o s e x u a l i t y . T h i s c h a p t e r , t h e n , w i l l p r e s e n t the m e d i c a l , s o c i a l / l e g a l , r e l i g i o u s , and a f f i r m a t i v e a t t i t u d i n a l assumptions r e g a r d i n g h o m o s e x u a l i t y . The i l l u s t r a t i o n of these c o n t e x t u a l v i e w p o i n t s w i l l p r o v i d e the background from which p a r e n t s most l i k e l y base t h e i r r e a c t i o n s to a gay son or l e s b i a n d a u g h t e r . The c h a p t e r c o n c l u d e s w i t h a review of r e l e v a n t l i t e r a t u r e d e s c r i b i n g p a r e n t a l r e a c t i o n s to a g a y / l e s b i a n c h i l d . In keeping w i t h the phenomenolog ica l method, t h i s review w i l l e x p l i c a t e the assumptions i n h e r e n t i n these c o n t e x t u a l views i n o r d e r . t o b e t t e r unders tand o t h e r s ' ideas about h o m o s e x u a l i t y . The knowledge of these assumptions w i l l !5 a l s o serve to reduce the p o s s i b i l i t y of b i a s i n t h i s s t u d y . Most of the t r a d i t i o n a l p s y c h i a t r i c t h e o r i e s and t rea tments of homosexua l i ty ( B e r g l e r , 1956; B i e b e r e t . a l . , 1962; H a t t e r e r , 1970; S o c a r i d e s , 1978) b e l i e v e d i t to be a d i s e a s e d c o n d i t i o n . B e r g l e r (1956) d e f i n e s homosexua l i ty a s : A n e u r o t i c d i s t o r t i o n of the whole p e r s o n a l i t y . . . . There are no h e a l t h y homosexuals . The e n t i r e p e r s o n a l i t y s t r u c t u r e of the homosexual i s pervaded by the unconsc ious wish to s u f f e r . T h i s wish i s g r a t i f i e d by s e l f - c r e a t e d t r o u b l e - m a k i n g ( p s y c h i c m a s o c h i s m ) . . . he i s an e m o t i o n a l l y s i c k person (pp. 1-10) . The proponents of t h i s d i s e a s e model t r e a t e d homosexua l i ty as an u n d e s i r a b l e mental d i s o r d e r " i n d i c a t i v e of s i g n i f i c a n t i n f e r i o r i t y of temperament, moral sense or s o c i a l competence" (West, 1983). Treatment for homosexuals i n v o l v e d the r e - o r i e n t a t i o n of s e x u a l p r e f e r e n c e u s i n g such methods as s u r g i c a l t e c h n i q u e s , a v e r s i o n t h e r a p y , drugs or psychotherapy ( S i l v e r s t e i n , 1977). The u n d e r l y i n g assumption of t h i s p o s i t i o n i s that homosexua l i ty i s a p a t h o l o g i c a l c o n d i t i o n tha t r e s u l t s from p s y c h o l o g i c a l d i s t u r b a n c e ( T r i p p , 1975). The treatment g o a l i s to make the homosexual conform to s o c i a l r u l e s r e g a r d i n g s exua l b e h a v i o r ( S i l v e r s t e i n , 1977). Inherent to t h i s d i s e a s e model i s p a r e n t a l blame. Adherent s of t h i s s c h o o l of thought m a i n t a i n t h a t p a r e n t s are r e s p o n s i b l e for t h e i r c h i l d ' s s e x u a l i t y . They a t t r i b u t e the c o n f l i c t s and problems of c h i l d r e n to the n e u r o t i c 6 problems of p a r e n t s . B i e b e r e t . a l . (1962) d e s c r i b e the common m a r i t a l c o n s t e l l a t i o n of a male homosexual as c o n s i s t i n g of a c l o s e b i n d i n g i n t i m a t e mother and a h o s t i l e , d e t a c h e d , b r u t a l f a t h e r . S o c a r i d e s (1978) blames an overwhelming s e d u c t i v e mother and an i n e f f e c t u a l absent f a t h e r as the cause of h o m o s e x u a l i t y . H a t t e r e r (1970), a p s y c h i a t r i s t who s p e c i a l i z e s i n the treatment of homosexual men, l i s t s f i f t e e n materna l b e h a v i o r s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h homosexua l i ty i n a son . A t t i t u d e s towards homosexua l i ty have been a f f e c t e d by s o c i e t a l and l e g a l v i e w p o i n t s . T h e i r assumptions have been prompted by the m e d i c a l mode l ' s s t a n c e , as the d i a g n o s t i c l a b e l s j u s t d i s c u s s e d , i n f l u e n c e d the c r e a t i o n and e x e c u t i o n of laws a g a i n s t h o m o s e x u a l i t y . S i l v e r s t e i n (1977) p o i n t s out tha t throughout h i s t o r y g a y s / l e s b i a n s were l e g a l l y d e f i n e d as p e r v e r t s , psychopaths and s e x u a l d e v i a n t s . C o n s e q u e n t l y , they were seen as c r i m i n a l s , who hav ing broken the r u l e s of conduct of the m a j o r i t y , c o u l d be puni shed a c c o r d i n g l y . In the seventeenth c e n t u r y , they p u n i s h e d s e x u a l non-conformism w i t h d e a t h ; in the e i g h t e e n t h w i t h c a s t r a t i o n ; in the n i n e t e e n t h wi th asy lums; and now i n the t w e n t i e t h we use psychotherapy or a v e r s i o n therapy (p. 177) . Such l a b e l l i n g has a l s o c o n t r i b u t e d to the s t i g m a t i z a t i o n and p e r p e t u a t i o n of n e g a t i v e a t t i t u d e s towards homosexua l i ty and g a y s / l e s b i a n s in g e n e r a l . T h i s s t i g m a t i z a t i o n has a tendency to spread from the s t i g m a t i z e d 7 i n d i v i d u a l t o h i s / h e r c l o s e c o n n e c t i o n s (Goffman, 1963; B u s c a g l i a , 1975). These n e g a t i v e a t t i t u d e s a l l o w g a y s / l e s b i a n s to be p e r c e i v e d as damaged and f lawed i n d i v i d u a l s who v i o l a t e the s o c i a l l y approved ways of b e h a v i n g . Consequent ly s o c i e t y views them as f a i l u r e s and n e g a t i v e r o l e models ( S i l v e r s t e i n , 1977). The C h u r c h ' s p o s i t i o n on homosexua l i ty has a l s o a f f e c t e d how s o c i e t y views i t . T r a d i t i o n a l l y the Church has spoken of homosexua l i ty as an u n n a t u r a l a c t , one that i s c o n t r a r y to the w i l l of God. I t was d e s c r i b e d i n terms such as "the abominable and d e t e s t a b l e cr ime a g a i n s t na ture" ( O b e r h o l t z e r , 1971, p . 65 ) . The t r a d i t i o n a l t h e o l o g i a n s saw homosexual l o v e as m o r a l l y s i n f u l , thereby p l a c i n g the homosexual i n danger of e t e r n a l damnat ion . T h i s p o s i t i o n was based on s a c r e d S c r i p t u r e , a document condemning homosexual a c t i v i t y as c o r r u p t , wicked and an o u t r i g h t r e j e c t i o n of God. In the O l d Testament the law condemns sodomists (and p o s s i b l y o ther homosexual o f f e n d e r s ) to death as p e r p e t r a t o r s of an a b o m i n i t i o n a g a i n s t the L o r d , wh i l e i n the New Testament they are denounced as t r a n s g r e s s o r s of the n a t u r a l o r d e r and are d i s i n h e r i t e d from the kingdom of God as f o l l o w e r s of the v i l e p r a c t i c e s of the heathens ( M c N e i l l , 1976, p . 79) . A s s o c i a t e d w i t h these assumpt ions i s the b e l i e f tha t homosexuals are a menace to the community and a t h r e a t to f a m i l y v a l u e s . They c o n c l u d e d tha t every e f f o r t s h o u l d be made to " i s o l a t e " or "cure" the i n d i v i d u a l homosexual .8 ( M c N e i l l , 1976) and u t i l i z e d t h e i r t h e o l o g i c a l i n f l u e n c e on the l e g a l t r a d i t i o n to enact laws that p e r s e c u t e d them ( W i l l i a m s , 1971). There are a number of p s y c h i a t r i s t s and p s y c h o l o g i s t s who i n r e f u t i n g the t r a d i t i o n a l t h e o r i e s and treatments p r e s e n t homosexua l i ty i n a normal l i g h t . These i n c l u d e S a g h i r & Robins (1973), B e l l & Weinberg (1978) , S i l v e r s t e i n (1977) and C l a r k (1977). S a g h i r and Robins (1973) i n t h e i r i n v e s t i g a t i o n of male and female homosexual i ty c o n c l u d e d t h a t : I t i s q u i t e i n a p p r o p r i a t e and s c i e n t i f i c a l l y untenab le to l a b e l an i n d i v i d u a l p s y c h i a t r i c a l l y i l l because he happens to be a homosexual , f o r , to do so would o n l y t end to p e r p e t u a t e the s o c i a l and l e g a l d i s c r i m i n a t o r y p r a c t i c e s a g a i n s t men and women who are p r i m a r i l y d i f f e r e n t i n t h e i r s e x u a l p r e f e r e n c e but who o therwise show l i t t l e o ther d i f f e r e n c e s from t h e i r f e l l o w non-homosexual men and women (p. 317) . B e l l and Weinberg (1978) r e p o r t e d s i m i l a r f i n d i n g s showing homosexua l i ty as a normal v a r i a t i o n of s e x u a l b e h a v i o r . They a l s o found homosexual f u n c t i o n i n g ( p s y c h o l o g i c a l , e m o t i o n a l and s e x u a l ) t o be no d i f f e r e n t from h e t e r o s e x u a l f u n c t i o n i n g . S i l v e r s t e i n (1977) has w r i t t e n a book s p e c i f i c a l l y f o r p a r e n t s of g a y s / l e s b i a n s t h a t p r o v i d e s i n f o r m a t i o n to a s s i s t them i n u n d e r s t a n d i n g and a c c e p t i n g t h e i r c h i l d . In h i s book C l a r k (1977) d e s c r i b e s what i t i s l i k e to be gay and i n d i s c u s s i n g the e f f e c t s of d i s c l o s u r e on p a r e n t s , s i b l i n g s , 9 spouses , r e l a t i v e s and f r i e n d s p r e s e n t s homosexua l i ty i n a p o s i t i v e l i g h t . The t h e o l o g i a n M c N e i l l (1976) p r e s e n t s a l i s t of r e s p e c t e d p s y c h i a t r i s t s compi l ed by L o u i s Crompton (1963) who take a middle p o s i t i o n on h o m o s e x u a l i t y . They suggest that homosexua l i ty per se does not n e c e s s a r i l y imply mental i l l n e s s . When to such names as F r e u d and K r a f f t - E b i n g , one adds those of Frank Beach, H a r r y Benjamin , E v e l y n Hooker , W a r d e l l Pomeroy, A l f r e d K i n s e y , Robert L i n d n e r , Judd Marmor, M i c h a e l S h o f i e l d , Thomas Szasz and E r n e s t Van Den Haag, as w e l l as the Wolfenden committee , the most d i s t i n g u i s h e d government group ever to undertake a s tudy of the s u b j e c t , i t i s o b v i o u s , to say the l e a s t , tha t the s i c k n e s s theory does not command the u n i v e r s a l acceptance i n s c i e n t i f i c w o r l d which many assume i t does (p . 115). The r e s u l t s of such s t u d i e s and a t t i t u d e s have l e d to changes i n the treatment and u n d e r s t a n d i n g of g a y s / l e s b i a n s , as w e l l as the development of treatment models based on a f f i r m a t i v e c o u n s e l l i n g t e c h n i q u e s . Woodman & Lenna (1982) have w r i t t e n a t e x t d e a l i n g w i t h the c o u n s e l l i n g of gay men and l e s b i a n women u s i n g the a f f i r m a t i v e a p p r o a c h . Components of these a f f i r m a t i v e models view a f f e c t i o n a l and s e x u a l p r e f e r e n c e as the main d i f f e r e n c e between gays , l e s b i a n s and h e t e r o s e x u a l s and implement the acceptance of one ' s s exua l o r i e n t a t i o n as t h e i r treatment g o a l . T h i s t h e r a p e u t i c approach "emphasizes the va lue of gay l i f e and the means of a t t a i n i n g p e r s o n a l growth r e g a r d l e s s of the p r e d j u d i c e s of 10 the o u t s i d e world" ( S i l v e r s t e i n , 1976 p . 192) . The f o r e g o i n g p r e s e n t e d the m e d i c a l , s o c i e t a l / l e g a l , r e l i g i o u s and a f f i r m a t i v e c o n t e x t s for v i e w i n g the theory and treatment of h o m o s e x u a l i t y . The t r a d i t i o n a l m e d i c a l p o s i t i o n regarded homosexua l i ty as a c o n d i t i o n marked by mental i l l n e s s . They c o n s i d e r e d homosexual b e h a v i o r as abnormal thereby f o c u s i n g on s exua l r e - o r i e n t a t i o n as the treatment g o a l . Inherent to t h i s d i s e a s e model i s the b e l i e f tha t p a r e n t s are r e s p o n s i b l e f o r a c h i l d ' s h o m o s e x u a l i t y . The s o c i e t a l / l e g a l views of homosexua l i ty assumed g a y s / l e s b i a n s to be s e x u a l d e v i a t e s , who, i n b r e a k i n g the b e h a v i o r code of the m a j o r i t y , are c o n s i d e r e d c r i m i n a l s p u n i s h a b l e under the laws of the l e g a l sys tem. The s t i g m a t i z a t i o n of homosexua l i ty a l l o w e d g a y s / l e s b i a n s to be viewed as f lawed or damaged i n d i v i d u a l s who were f a i l u r e s in s o c i e t y . The t r a d i t i o n a l p o s i t i o n of the Church condemned homosexua l i ty as m o r a l l y s i n f u l . These t h e o l o g i a n s b e l i e v e d homosexua l i ty to be a cr ime a g a i n s t na ture and a t h r e a t to f a m i l y v a l u e s t h e r e f o r e r e q u i r i n g punishment by law or treatment by m e d i c a l means. T h i s s e c t i o n c o n c l u d e d w i t h the assumpt ions of the components who r e f u t e the t r a d i t i o n a l p s y c h i a t r i c d i s e a s e mode l . These p s y c h i a t r i s t s , p s y c h o l o g i s t s and t h e o l o g i a n s c h a l l e n g e the d i s e a s e model and p r e s e n t homosexua l i ty in a p o s i t i v e l i g h t . A f f i r m a t i v e treatment models deve loped from these assumpt ions w i t h the a c c e p t a c e of one ' s s exua l o r i e n t a t i o n becoming the treatment g o a l . 11 PARENTAL REACTIONS In r e v i e w i n g the l i t e r a t u r e d e a l i n g w i t h the t h e o r i e s and t rea tments of h o m o s e x u a l i t y , assumpt ions that p a r e n t s are l i k e l y to be u s i n g when they are c o n f r o n t e d w i t h the knowledge tha t t h e i r son or daughter i s g a y / l e s b i a n were p r e s e n t e d . The f o l l o w i n g w i l l p r e s e n t i n f o r m a t i o n c o n c e r n i n g what p s y c h i a t r i s t s , p s y c h o l o g i s t s and informed o t h e r s have s a i d c o n c e r n i n g p a r e n t a l r e a c t i o n s to a c h i l d ' s h o m o s e x u a l i t y . S i l v e r s t e i n (1977) in h i s book w r i t t e n for p a r e n t s of g a y s / l e s b i a n s d e s c r i b e s v a r i o u s forms of p a r e n t a l r e a c t i o n s f o l l o w i n g the d i s c o v e r y of a c h i l d ' s h o m o s e x u a l i t y . Some p a r e n t s ac t as i f they weren ' t t o l d and c o n s e q u e n t l y never b r i n g i t up a g a i n . Others f e e l g u i l t y and blame themselves f o r t h e i r c h i l d ' s s exua l i d e n t i t y . He d e s c r i b e s one p a r e n t ' s r e a c t i o n as f o l l o w s : Her r e l i g i o u s u p b r i n g i n g wi th i t s condemnation of homosexual b e h a v i o r , was one of the f i r s t t h i n g s she thought o f . The g u i l t f o s t e r e d by the Church and the l i t t l e b i t she had heard about homosexua l i ty made her f e e l at f a u l t (p. 58) . P a r e n t s o f t e n t h i n k t h a t i f o n l y they had done something d i f f e r e n t l y t h e i r c h i l d may not have become g a y / l e s b i a n . T h i s can l e a d to a review of the pas t i n terms of t h e i r own m a r i t a l r e l a t i o n s h i p , p a r e n t i n g s k i l l s and s e x u a l a t t i t u d e s ( S i l v e r s t e i n , 1977). 12 G u i l t may a l s o be d i r e c t e d at the g a y / l e s b i a n c h i l d . Here a p a r e n t uses g u i l t and shame to t r a n s f e r the burden of the d i s c l o s u r e back to the c h i l d . Statements l i k e , "How c o u l d you do t h i s to us?" and "We'Id r a t h e r you were d e a d . " are common p a r e n t a l responses when g u i l t and shame are used in t h i s way ( F a i r c h i l d & Hayward, 1979). I n i t i a l p a r e n t a l r e a c t i o n s may i n c l u d e anger and shock . T h i s anger can mani fe s t i n t o a p a r e n t a l demand for t h e i r g a y / l e s b i a n c h i l d to seek p s y c h i a t r i c a s s i s t a n c e . Shock has been d e s c r i b e d i n terms l i k e f e e l i n g stunned or not r e a l l y h e a r i n g what the words s a i d . F a i r c h i l d and Hayward (1979) d e s c r i b e a p a r e n t ' s e x p e r i e n c e of shock . I f e l t a b s o l u t e l y n o t h i n g . She c o u l d j u s t have s imply have been s a y i n g t h a t the sun r i s e s each m o r n i n g . Her words had no impact on me (p. 59 -60 ) . F e e l i n g s of i s o l a t i o n have a l s o been r e p o r t e d as p a r e n t s , i n d i s c o v e r i n g t h e i r c h i l d i s g a y / l e s b i a n , can withdraw from s o c i a l and f a m i l y r e l a t i o n s h i p s . In t h e i r i n t e r v i e w s w i t h F a i r c h i l d and Hayward (1979), p a r e n t s e x p e r i e n c i n g i s o l a t i o n d e s c r i b e d i t a s , "The w a l l went up between u s . . . " (p . 60) and "I kept h i s homosexua l i ty i n my own p r i v a t e c l o s e t " (p . 65) . The r e l a t e d work of Simpson (1976) a l s o r e p o r t e d a breakdown i n communicat ion between parent and c h i l d add ing a n x i e t y , f e a r and t e n s i o n as p o s s i b l e p a r e n t a l r e a c t i o n s . 1 3 When the impact of the d i s c l o s u r e s u r f a c e s , p a r e n t s can e x p e r i e n c e p h y s i c a l and e m o t i o n a l p a i n . Not u n t i l l a t e r tha t even ing d i d those words, ' I ' m g a y , ' c r u s h me u t t e r l y . I f e l t l i k e I had been run over by a b o u l d e r . . . . I made myse l f f e e l n a u s e a t e d . . . I had f e e l i n g s of Wendy be ing t a u n t e d , o s t r a c i z e d and s toned by monstrous c r o w d s . . . I , t o o , condemned her s e x u a l i t y as s i c k , abnormal , v i l e and the s e n s a t i o n was a l l - c o n s u m i n g and p o w e r f u l l y d e s t r u c t i v e ( F a i r c h i l d & Hayward, 1979, p . 60 ) . Both S i l v e r s t e i n (1977) and F a i r c h i l d and Hayward (1979) r e p o r t e d a need f o r p a r e n t s to g a i n i n f o r m a t i o n about homosexua l i ty i t s e l f . T h i s l e a d s to the s e e k i n g out of sources tha t p r o v i d e them w i t h the knowledge and n o r m a l i z i n g proo f they need to u n d e r s t a n d t h e i r c h i l d more f u l l y . These sources i n c l u d e p s y c h i a t r i s t s , p s y c h o l o g i s t s , p h y s i c i a n s , p r i e s t s , m i n i s t e r s , f r i e n d s , gays and l e s b i a n s . The p s y c h i a t r i s t Myers (1981/82) has o f f e r e d remarkably s i m i l a r r e s e a r c h in h i s p r a c t i c e of i n t e r v i e w i n g p a r e n t s of young gay men i n t h e r a p y . S i m i l a r to S i l v e r s t e i n (1977) , he r e p o r t e d tha t many p a r e n t s r e a c t w i t h d e n i a l which sometimes l a s t s f o r e v e r . O t h e r s , i n t h e i r anger , may r e j e c t t h e i r c h i l d and t h e i r l i f e s t y l e . P a r e n t s , t o o , i n e x p e r i e n c i n g g u i l t , may blame themse lves . T h i s o f t e n l e a d s to t h e i r p r e o c c u p a t i o n wi th the pas t i n an e f f o r t to f i n d out where they f a i l e d . Myers (1981/82) s t a t e d : S t i l l o t h e r s are g u i l t - r i d d e n , blame themselves t o t a l l y , and have embarked upon an o b s e s s i v e p r o c e s s of s e l f - s c r u t i n y to d i s c o v e r where they 14 'went wrong' (p . 139). Some p a r e n t s , in t h e i r i n i t i a l r e a c t i o n s to d i s c l o s u r e , are i n a s t a t e of mourning . Myers (1981/82) d e s c r i b e s t h i s r e a c t i o n as an attempt to "work through a l o s s , u s u a l l y of a dream of s e e i n g t h e i r son meet the ' r i g h t g i r l ' , f a l l in l o v e , get m a r r i e d , and have c h i l d r e n " (p. 138). He adds t h a t the i s s u e of g e n e r a t i o n f r e q u e n t l y l eads p a r e n t s to express d i s i l l u s i o n m e n t . P a r e n t s may become "deeply upset" over never h a v i n g g r a n d - c h i l d r e n (p . 139). The S a g h i r and R o b i n ' s (1973) s tudy of homosexual men and t h e i r f a m i l i e s a l s o r e p o r t e d a v a r i e t y of p a r e n t a l r e a c t i o n s as s t a t e d by Myers (1981 /82) . S u r p r i s i n g l y , over o n e - h a l f of the p a r e n t s who became aware of t h e i r son ' s homosexua l i ty (52%) r e a c t e d wi th compass ion , u n d e r s t a n d i n g and acceptance wh i l e 48% r e a c t e d i n a v a r i e t y of o ther ways. These ' o t h e r ways' were a n g e r , condemnat ion , s e l f - b l a m e , d i s b e l i e f , a l i e n a t i o n and i g n o r i n g the i s s u e (p . 135). The knowledge of a c h i l d ' s homosexua l i ty evokes a v a r i e t y of p a r e n t a l r e a c t i o n s ( i . e . shock, g u i l t , blame, i s o l a t i o n ) . T h i s s e c t i o n p r e s e n t e d these r e a c t i o n s through the r e l a t e d works of S i l v e r s t e i n (1977), F a i r c h i l d & Hayward (1979) , Simpson (1976), Myers (1981/82) and S a g h i r & Robins (1973) i n an e f f o r t to l e a r n how p a r e n t s d e a l w i th the s t igma of a c h i l d ' s h o m o s e x u a l i t y . 15 EXISTENTIAL-PHENOMENOLOGY E x i s t e n t i a l - p h e n o m e n o l o g y (EP) combines the p h i l o s o p h i c a l b e l i e f s of e x i s t e n t i a l i s m which "seeks to unders tand the human c o n d i t i o n as i t m a n i f e s t s i t s e l f i n our c o n c r e t e l i v e d s i t u a t i o n s " ( V a l l e and K i n g 1978, p .6 ) and phenomenology, a "method which a l l o w s us to c o n t a c t phenomena as we a c t u a l l y l i v e them out and e x p e r i e n c e them" ( V a l l e and K i n g , 1978, p . 7 ) . Together they seek to " e x p l i c a t e the e s sense , s t r u c t u r e or form of both human e x p e r i e n c e and human b e h a v i o r as r e v e a l e d through e s s e n t i a l l y d e s c r i p t i v e t e c h n i q u e s i n c l u d i n g d i s c i p l i n e d r e f l e c t i o n " ( V a l l e and K i n g , 1978, p . 7 ) . U s i n g the work of V a l l e and K i n g (1978) , t h i s rev iew of e x i s t e n t i a l - p h e n o m e n o l o g y w i l l b r i e f l y presen t the p h i l o s o p h i c a l b e l i e f s of E P . A more comprehensive review of the d e s c r i p t i v e r e s e a r c h method as suggested by C o l a i z z i ( V a l l e and K i n g , 1978) w i l l f o l l o w , as t h i s i s the i n t e r v i e w approach used i n t h i s s tudy of u n d e r s t a n d i n g the meaning of the phenomenon of coming to terms w i t h a gay son or l e s b i a n d a u g h t e r . E x i s t e n t i a l - p h e n o m e n o l o g i c a l p s y c h o l o g y i s n e i t h e r a p u r e l y o b j e c t i v e or p u r e l y s u b j e c t i v e p s y c h o l o g i c a l a p p r o a c h . V a l l e and K i n g (1978) s t a t e d : By t r e a t i n g p e r c e p t i o n as i n t e n t i o n a l i n n a t u r e , the o b j e c t i v e and s u b j e c t i v e are seen as i n s e p a r a b l e , one unable to e x i s t wi thout the o t h e r . Any approach which i s 1:6 s o l e l y s u b j e c t i v e i s v i ewed , t h e r e f o r e , as n e c e s s a r i l y l i m i t e d in scope and as d o i n g , in f a c t , an i n j u s t i c e to the e s s e n t i a l na ture of the i n d i s s o l u b l e s u b j e c t - o b j e c t u n i t y . In o ther words, an approach which i s t o t a l l y o b j e c t i v e or t o t a l l y s u b j e c t i v e confuses and d i s t o r t s the very phenomena i t s i n c e r e l y seeks to e x p l a i n a n d / o r d e s c r i b e ( p . 1 4 ) . The second assumption u n d e r l y i n g the EP approach concerns the phenomenolog ica l n o t i o n of " i n t e n t i o n a l i t y " . T h i s means t h a t people are not o b j e c t s i n n a t u r e but r a t h e r i n d i v i d u a l s who c o - e x i s t or c o - c o n s t i t u t e w i t h t h e i r w o r l d . T h i s in terdependency between i n d i v i d u a l s and t h e i r wor ld c a l l s f o r an approach i n v o l v i n g the p r o c e s s of making e x p l i c i t one ' s p r e s u p p o s i t i o n s . E x i s t e n t i a l phenomenolog i s t s t h e r e f o r e , b e l i e v e t h a t these p r e c o n v i e v e d meanings or approaches a f f e c t a l l r e s e a r c h as "what we i m p l i c i t l y view as the f i n a l meaning or v a l u e of our r e s e a r c h w i l l i n f l u e n c e how we approach an i n v e s t i g a t e d t o p i c " ( V a l l e and K i n g , 1978, p . 5 5 ) . U n c o v e r i n g the p r e s u p p o s i t i o n s of one ' s approach a l l o w s the r e s e a r c h e r to s u b j e c t these assumpt ions to v i g o r o u s a n a l y s i s and e x a m i n a t i o n . T h i s i n t u r n l e a d s to the d i s c o v e r y tha t u n d e r s t a n d i n g the i n v e s t i g a t e d phenomena q u a l i f i e s as a unique and meaningfu l c r i t e r i o n f o r r e s e a r c h knowledge and that "the agent of phenomenolog ica l u n d e r s t a n d i n g i s not a supramundane mind but a man as b o d i l y - e n g a g e d , p a r t i c i p a t i n g b e i n g - i n - t h e - w o r l d - w i t h - o t h e r s " ( V a l l e and K i n g , 1978). 17 The p r e s e n t a t i o n of these p r e s u p p o s i t i o n s p r o v i d e s the phenomenologis t the o p p o r t u n i t y to adopt an u n d e r s t a n d i n g - d e s c r i p t i v e method t h a t w i l l a l l o w c o n t a c t w i t h the phenomenon and i t ' s subsequent i n v e s t i g a t i o n i n m e a n i n g f u l ways. T h i s s tudy of p s y c h o l o g i c a l phenomena r e q u i r e s r e s e a r c h e r s to d e s c r i p t i v e l y i n d e n t i f y what each phenomenon i s . I t i s " t h i s p r o c e s s t h a t marks the f i r s t s t ep i n p s y c h o l o g i c a l r e s e a r c h . C o l a i z z i (1978) s t a t e d t h a t the i n v e s t i g a t i o n of a p a r t i c u l a r p s y c h o l o g i c a l phenomena beg ins "by c o n t a c t i n g the phenomenon as people e x p e r i e n c e i t " ( p . 5 7 ) . T h i s i n v o l v e s g a t h e r i n g d e s c r i p t i o n s from c o - r e s e a r c h e r s as to what t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e i s l i k e . In t h i s s t u d y , the e x p e r i e n c e of coming to terms w i t h a gay son or l e s b i a n daughter i s the e x p e r i e n c e d e s c r i b e d . T h i s d e s c r i p t i v e data i s c o l l e c t e d through p o s i n g q u e s t i o n s based on the i n t e g r a t i o n of p r e s u p p o s i t i o n a l a s p e c t s of both the r e s e a r c h e r and o t h e r s . The succes s of these phenomenolog ica l r e s e a r c h q u e s t i o n s depends on t h e i r a b i l i t y to e l i c i t the c o - r e s e a r c h e r ' s e x p e r i e n c e of the phenomenon r a t h e r than t h e i r t h e o r e t i c a l knowledge. In e x i s t e n t i a l - p h e n o m e n o l o g i c a l r e s e a r c h , s u b j e c t s are viewed as f u l l p a r t i c i p a n t s or " c o - r e s e a r c h e r s " . Through a r t i c u l a t i n g t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e w i t h an i n v e s t i g a t o r , there i s a c o l l a b o r a t i v e e f f o r t to e s t a b l i s h the meaning of a phenomenon. A f t e r c o - r e s e a r c h e r s d e s c r i p t i v e responses are 18 c o l l e c t e d , and t r a n s c r i b e d , they are a n a l y s e d p h e n o m e n o l o g i c a l l y u s i n g the r e s e a r c h p r o c e d u r e s as suggested by C o l a i z z i (1978) . F i r s t l y , a l l c o - r e s e a r c h e r s d e s c r i p t i o n s ( p r o t o c o l s ) are read i n order to a c q u i r e a sense or f e e l i n g for them. S i g n i f i c a n t s tatements (phrases or sentences tha t r e l a t e d i r e c t l y to the i n v e s t i g a t e d phenomenon) are then e x t r a c t e d from each p r o t o c o l . R e p e t i t i o u s s tatements w i t h i n the p r o t o c o l s can be e l i m i n a t e d , i n t h i s s t e p . T h i r d l y the r e s e a r c h e r f o r m u l a t e s meanings f o r each s i g n i f i c a n t s ta tement . Here the phenomenolog ica l r e s e a r c h e r engages i n c r e a t i v e i n s i g h t where he / she must l e a p from what c o - r e s e a r c h e r s say to what they mean. A l l the above s teps are repea ted for each p r o t o c o l and the meanings o r g a n i z e d i n t o themes. These themes are then v a l i d a t e d by r e f e r r i n g them back to the o r i g i n a l p r o t o c o l s . T h i s i s done to make sure that the e x p e r i e n c e s in the themes r e p r e s e n t those in the p r o t o c o l s and to a s s u r e tha t the themes themselves d o n ' t propose something not i m p l i e d i n the o r i g i n a l p r o t o c o l s . The r e s u l t s of e v e r y t h i n g thus f a r are then c o m p i l e d i n t o an e x h a u s t i v e d e s c r i p t i o n (phenomenolog ica l d e s c r i p t i o n ) . T h i s d e t a i l e d n a r r a t i v e d e s c r i b e s p h e n o m e n o l o g i c a l l y the meaning of the i n v e s t i g a t e d phenomenon. F o l l o w i n g the e x h a u s t i v e d e s c r i p t i o n the r e s e a r c h e r must f o r m u l a t e the fundamental s t r u c t u r e which c o n s t i t u t e s a 19 condensed d e s c r i p t i o n of the key e lements i n the e x h a u s t i v e d e s c r i p t i o n in as u n e q u i v o c a l a statement of i d e n t i f i c a t i o n as p o s s i b l e . The f i n a l v a l i d a t i n g s t ep i s a c h i e v e d by r e t u r n i n g to each c o - r e s e a r c h e r to compare the d e s c r i p t i v e r e s u l t s w i th t h e i r a c t u a l e x p e r i e n c e . Any r e l e v a n t new da ta tha t stems from these i n t e r v i e w s must be worked i n t o the f i n a l r e s e a r c h p r o d u c t . 20 CHAPTER THREE METHODOLOGY C o - r e s e a r c h e r s Seven p a r e n t s were i n t e r v i e w e d in t h i s s t u d y . They were s e l e c t e d from a network of f r i e n d s , a q u a i n t a n c e s and the o r g a n i z a t i o n "Parents and F r i e n d s of Gays and L e s b i a n s " , on the b a s i s they had e x p e r i e n c e d coming to terms w i t h a gay son or l e s b i a n d a u g h t e r . A f u r t h e r c r i t e r i o n was for t h e i r c h i l d r e n to be f i n a n c i a l l y independent or l i v i n g on t h e i r own. F u r t h e r i n f o r m a t i o n c o n c e r n i n g the r o l e of the c o - r e s e a r c h e r can be found i n the review of E x i s t e n t i a l - P h e n o m e n o l o g y p r e s e n t e d in Chapter Two. As each c o - r e s e a r c h e r was r e q u i r e d to d e s c r i b e and communicate t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e i n d e t a i l , i t was important tha t each i n d i v i d u a l c o u l d a r t i c u l a t e an u n d e r s t a n d i n g of t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e . S i n c e i t was assumed tha t acceptance would be a s s o c i a t e d w i t h c o n d i t i o n s , the degree of acceptance was not e s t a b l i s h e d as a c r i t e r i o n for the s e l e c t i o n of c o - r e s e a r c h e r s . I n s t e a d , the e x p e r i e n c e of how p a r e n t s come to terms to the degree they have , becomes the f o c u s . I t i s assumed t h a t the phenomenon of "coming to terms w i t h a gay son or l e s b i a n daughter" w i l l be r e f l e c t e d through the r e c o n s t r u c t i o n of t h i s e x p e r i e n c e . .21 A d e t a i l e d i n t e r v i e w f o c u s i n g on the e x p e r i e n c e i s e s s e n t i a l i n making sense of the phenomenon be ing s t u d i e d . Three i n t e r v i e w s were exc luded because they veered away from the t o p i c t h e r e f o r e d i d not meet t h i s c r i t e r i o n . The remain ing c o - r e s e a r c h e r s p r o v i d e d a comprehensive r e f l e c t i o n of t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e , thereby making them a c c e p t a b l e to t h i s s t u d y . PHENOMENOLOGICAL INTERVIEW Each c o - r e s e a r c h e r was a s k e d , in c o n f i d e n t i a l i t y , to t e l l t h e i r s t o r y of coming to terms w i t h t h e i r c h i l d ' s s e x u a l i d e n t i t y . T h i s was i n i t i a t e d through the f o l l o w i n g i n t r o d u c t i o n : I am do ing a s tudy to unders tand the meaning of the p a r e n t a l e x p e r i e n c e of coming to terms w i t h a c h i l d ' s h o m o s e x u a l i t y . I would l i k e you to beg in by t h i n k i n g back to the t ime when you l e a r n e d your son /daughter was g a y / l e s b i a n . In as much d e t a i l as p o s s i b l e d e s c r i b e t h i s e x p e r i e n c e e s p e c i a l l y w i th regards to your f e e l i n g s , thoughts and a c t i o n s . I t may h e l p you to t h i n k of your e x p e r i e n c e as a s t o r y w i t h a b e g i n n i n g , midd le and e n d . Do you have any q u e s t i o n s ? A d d i t i o n a l q u e s t i o n s r e l a t i n g to the i n d i v i d u a l and h i s or her e x p e r i e n c e were asked i f they had not been addres sed i n the n a r r a t i v e (see Appendix A ) . T h i s i n i t i a l i n t e r v i e w l a s t e d f o r 45 minutes to 1 1/4 hours and was t a p e - r e c o r d e d so the c o - r e s e a r c h e r s ' 22 d e s c r i p t i o n s ( p r o t o c o l s ) c o u l d be t r a n s c r i b e d and a n a l y s e d . A n a l y s i n g r e s u l t e d in the e x t r a c t i o n of phrases or sentences t h a t d i r e c t l y r e l a t e d to t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e of "coming to terms". From these e x t r a c t i o n s ( s i g n i f i c a n t s tatements ) the meaning of the e x p e r i e n c e was f o r m u l a t e d . Upon e x t r a c t i n g the s i g n i f i c a n t s tatements and f o r m u l a t i n g meaning u n i t s (themes) the c o - r e s e a r c h e r s were i n t e r v i e w e d f o r a second t i m e . In t h i s i n t e r v i e w the focus was on c l a r i f y i n g , expanding and v a l i d a t i n g our exchange up to that p o i n t . Each c o - r e s e a r c h e r , hav ing had t ime to study the p r o t o c o l from the f i r s t i n t e r v i e w would v e r i f y whether what had been w r i t t e n was i n f a c t a "true" account of t h e i r exper i e n c e . T h i s procedure was used w i t h each c o - r e s e a r c h e r and upon c o m p l e t i o n the next c o - r e s e a r c h e r would be i n t e r v i e w e d f o l l o w i n g the same format . A f t e r a l l c o - r e s e a r c h e r s engaged in t h i s p r o c e s s , a t h i r d i n t e r v i e w was a r r a n g e d whereby the e s s e n t i a l s t r u c t u r e of the e x p e r i e n c e of "coming to terms" was p r e s e n t e d and v a l i d a t e d . I f n e c e s s a r y , adjustments ( a d d i t i o n s or d e l e t i o n s ) were made to ensure t h i s d e s c r i p t i o n c o i n c i d e d wi th h i s / h e r e x p e r i e n c e . ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION The data was i n t e r p r e t e d p h e n o m e n o l o g i c a l l y u s i n g the method o u t l i n e d by C o l a i z z i (1978) . The a n a l y s i s began by r e - r e a d i n g and r e f l e c t i n g upon the p r o t o c o l s i n order to 23 o b t a i n a sense and f e e l i n g of the e x p e r i e n c e . T h i s was f o l l o w e d by the e x t r a c t i o n of phrases or sentences t h a t r e l a t e d d i r e c t l y to the e x p e r i e n c e of "coming to terms". From these s i g n i f i c a n t s ta tements , meaning u n i t s were f o r m u l a t e d and then i d e n t i f i e d as themes or c o n s t i t u e n t s Examples of t h i s p r o c e s s f o l l o w s : SIGNIFICANT STATEMENT THEME "Maybe i f we brought him up d i f f e r e n t l y he wouldn ' t be gay ." "I c o u l d n ' t t a l k to anyone about i t . " "I was s o r t of s t u n n e d . " "I became s i c k e r and s i c k e r . . . I was m i s e r a b l e . " SELF-BLAME ISOLATION - GUILT SHOCK PHYSICAL/EMOTIONAL PAIN I t i s e s s e n t i a l tha t the themes r e p r e s e n t the meaning beh ind what each c o - r e s e a r c h e r s a y s . In t h i s s tudy t h i s was a s s i s t e d by r e t u r n i n g to the o r i g i n a l p r o t o c o l s to ensure a l l s i g n i f i c a n t s tatements were found w i t h i n the themes. V a l i d a t i o n of the themes o c c u r s through a second i n t e r v i e w where, g i v e n time to s tudy the p r o t o c o l , each c o - r e s e a r c h e r v e r i f i e s the themes as t h e i r t r u e e x p e r i e n c e or m o d i f i e s them i n such a way t h a t more f u l l y and a c c u r a t e l y d e s c r i b e s t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e . T h i s procedure was c a r r i e d out for each p r o t o c o l and upon c o m p l e t i o n the r e s u l t i n g themes were ,24 compared to the set of themes from the next c o - r e s e a r c h e r . The i n t e r w e a v i n g of these themes p r o v i d e d the b a s i s from which to form an e x h a u s t i v e n a r r a t i v e known as the phenomenolog ica l d e s c r i p t i o n . T h i s d e s c r i p t i o n i n t e g r a t e d a l l the p r e c e d i n g i n f o r m a t i o n i n t o a c l e a r e r more u n i v e r s a l u n d e r s t a n d i n g of the phenomenon. The e x h a u s t i v e d e s c r i p t i o n was then condensed i n t o the e s s e n t i a l s t r u c t u r e which summed up the key e lements of the phenomenolog ica l d e s c r i p t i o n as c l e a r l y and t r u l y as p o s s i b l e . I t i s the e s s e n t i a l s t r u c t u r e t h a t d i r e c t l y r e c o u n t s the e x p e r i e n c e of coming to terms w i t h a gay son or l e s b i a n d a u g h t e r . V a l i d a t i o n of these r e s u l t s o c c u r e d through a t h i r d i n t e r v i e w i n which c o - r e s e a r c h e r s v e r i f i e d the d e s c r i p t i o n and the e s s e n t i a l s t r u c t u r e as t r u e to t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e . 2 5 CHAPTER FOUR RESULTS RESEARCHER'S EXPERIENCE I would l i k e to take t h i s o p p o r t u n i t y to p r e s e n t my t h o u g h t s , f e e l i n g s and o b s e r v a t i o n s about t h i s s t u d y . I t i s my hope tha t t h i s i n f o r m a t i o n w i l l extend or expand upon what i s a l r e a d y g i v e n w i t h i n the p r o t o c o l s and as w e l l p r o v i d e the reader w i t h an i n s i g h t i n t o what i t was l i k e to do t h i s s t u d y . Be fore commencing the f i r s t i n t e r v i e w s s e v e r a l assumpt ions went through my m i n d . For the most p a r t , my i n s i g h t s i n t o the p a r e n t a l e x p e r i e n c e of "coming to terms" e v o l v e d from c o n v e r s a t i o n s w i t h gays and l e s b i a n s who d i s c l o s e d to t h e i r p a r e n t s . T h i s second-hand i n f o r m a t i o n f i l t e r e d throughout my assumpt ions and I wondered how c l o s e l y the c h i l d r e n s ' s t o r i e s would resemble those of the p a r e n t s ' . There were no e x p e c t a t i o n s r e g a r d i n g how the i n t e r v i e w s would go. I was aware tha t f o r each parent t h i s marked the f i r s t t ime in which they c o u l d t a l k f r e e l y about t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e , t h e r e f o r e , t ime was a l l o t t e d f o l l o w i n g the i n t e r v i e w f o r c l a r i f i c a t i o n , support and d i s c u s s i o n of t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e d u r i n g the i n t e r v i e w . 26 Once the i n t e r v i e w s began i t was s u r p r i s i n g to f i n d c o - r e s e a r c h e r s r e v e a l i n g t h e i r s t o r i e s w i t h l i t t l e a s s i s t a n c e . For the most p a r t , my r o l e became an o b s e r v e r to the r e l i v i n g of an important l i f e e v e n t . I w i tnes sed a g r e a t d e a l of e m o t i o n a l content and was moved by t h e i r i n s i g h t s and d i s c o v e r i e s tha t e v o l v e d from the r e l i v i n g of the e x p e r i e n c e . I was touched by t h e i r reasons for t e l l i n g t h e i r s t o r i e s ; a d e s i r e to more f u l l y unders tand t h e i r gay son or l e s b i a n d a u g h t e r . The encouragement r e c e i v e d a l o n g the way f u e l e d my p e r s o n a l m o t i v a t i o n s for i n v e s t i g a t i n g t h i s phenomenon. The genuine a p p r e c i a t i v e responses of p a r e n t s were a c o n s t a n t reminder tha t t h i s s tudy was not on ly important but e s s e n t i a l . V a l i d a t i o n was a concern throughout the e n t i r e s t u d y . To ensure the in tended meaning was g i v e n , the c o - r e s e a r c h e r ' s exact words were used in the meaning u n i t s whenever p o s s i b l e . These meaning u n i t s were then checked a g a i n s t the o r i g i n a l p r o t o c o l s to ensure t h a t what was w r i t t e n was i n f a c t t r u e to the e x p e r i e n c e . D u r i n g the second i n t e r v i e w v a l i d a t i o n took p l a c e by o b t a i n i n g each c o - r e s e a r c h e r ' s i m p r e s s i o n s of the p r o t o c o l and meaning u n i t s . The second i n t e r v i e w was a l s o used to expand upon or c l a r i f y a s p e c t s of the e x p e r i e n c e tha t needed more d e p t h . The c o n t e n t s of t h i s second i n t e r v i e w were i n t e g r a t e d w i t h the i n i t i a l meaning u n i t s to formula te a 27 f i n a l s e t of meaning u n i t s f o r each c o - r e s e a r c h e r . In t h i s s tudy the meaning u n i t s were a c c e p t e d by a l l c o - r e s e a r c h e r s . The o b j e c t i v e of the t h i r d and f i n a l i n t e r v i e w was to share the themes, phenomenolog ica l d e s c r i p t i o n and e s s e n t i a l s t r u c t u r e w i t h the c o - r e s e a r c h e r . Here each c o - r e s e a r c h e r c o n f i r m e d the e s s e n t i a l s t r u c t u r e as be ing t r u e to h i s / h e r e x p e r i e n c e of coming to terms wi th a gay son or l e s b i a n d a u g h t e r . S i n c e there were no a l t e r a t i o n s , t h i s remained as the f i n a l p r o d u c t . A l l the themes agreed w i t h each c o - r e s e a r c h e r ' s e x p e r i e n c e except the theme of s t r e n g t h e n i n g the p a r e n t - c h i l d r e l a t i o n s h i p , as two c o - r e s e a r c h e r s d i d not e x p e r i e n c e t h i s . S i n c e the m a t e r i a l p r e s e n t e d i n t h i s c h a p t e r was s y s t e m a t i c a l l y v a l i d a t e d , I f e e l a s s u r e d that the r e s u l t s r e v e a l e d through the a n a l y s i s are mean ingfu l and r e l i a b l e . Each c o - r e s e a r c h e r spoke of the p e r s o n a l v a l u e o b t a i n e d from c o l l a b o r a t i n g in t h i s s t u d y . I a l s o share t h i s sent iment as my p e r s o n a l and p r o f e s s i o n a l development have been e n r i c h e d through the meaning t h i s s tudy r e v e a l e d . THEMES T h i s s e c t i o n p r e s e n t s the themes which r e f l e c t both the i m p l i c i t and e x p l i c i t e x p e r i e n c e of p a r e n t s . These themes w i l l c o n s i s t of a s h o r t t i t l e , f o l l o w e d by a d e s c r i p t i o n which e x p l a i n s each theme i n g r e a t e r d e t a i l . A phenomenolog ica l d e s c r i p t i o n deve lops through the 28 i n t e r w e a v i n g of these themes and p r o v i d e s t h e means f o r r e v e a l i n g the e s s e n t i a l s t r u c t u r e of coming to terms w i t h a c h i l d ' s h o m o s e x u a l i t y . The c h a p t e r ends wi th a d e s c r i p t i o n of t h i s e s s e n t i a l s t r u c t u r e . 1 . Shock: When p a r e n t s l e a r n t h e i r c h i l d i s gay or l e s b i a n they e x p e r i e n c e shock . T h i s i s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h a s e n s a t i o n of numbness as p a r e n t s are in d i s b e l i e f . Q d e s c r i b e d t h i s as f e e l i n g "s tunned ." P remembered her shock as " f e e l i n g l i k e your h e a r t a lmost s t o p s . " R and M j u s t " c o u l d n ' t b e l i e v e i t . " A l t h o u g h shock p r e s e n t s a b lank or dazed appearance , the e x p e r i e n c e i s not a p a s s i v e one as i t i s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h f e e l i n g s of h u r t , anger , p a n i c , f e a r and c o n f u s i o n . Coping w i t h these f e e l i n g s , p a r t i c u l a r l y when they are accompanied by shock , c o n t r i b u t e to marking t h i s p e r i o d as a t ime when p a r e n t s are " l i k e l y to s t r i k e o u t . " 2. H u r t / A n g e r : As the shock subs ides the h u r t and anger a s s o c i a t e d w i t h i t are expres sed i n v a r i o u s ways. F o r Q her anger took the form of s e l f and o ther p r o t e c t i v e n e s s . She d i d n ' t want her husband or son to know so they both would be p r o t e c t e d from the hur t and d i sappo in tment she was e x p e r i e n c i n g . R m a n i f e s t e d h i s h u r t and anger by b laming anyone or a n y t h i n g . P r e a c t e d by vowing not to l e t i t r u i n her l i f e . 3. L i f e Review: Each parent engages i n a l i f e review of t h e i r c h i l d ' s development and r e l a t i o n s h i p s , s e a r c h i n g the pas t i n an e f f o r t to make sense of h i s / h e r s e x u a l 29 o r i e n t a t i o n and presen t i t i n a mean ingfu l c o n t e x t . The l i f e review a l s o i n v o l v e s the a n a l y s i s of t h e i r own p e r s o n a l h i s t o r y and development . T h i s " d i g g i n g deep w i t h i n y o u r s e l f " can t r i g g e r i n t e r n a l c o n f l i c t s based on d e e p - r o o t e d f e e l i n g s c o n c e r n i n g u p b r i n g i n g , s exua l a t t i t u d e s and p a r e n t i n g a b i l i t i e s . 4 . I n a b i l i t y To U n d e r s t a n d : P a r t of the l i f e review i s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h the p a r e n t a l i n a b i l i t y to unders tand h o m o s e x u a l i t y , as i t l i e s o u t s i d e t h e i r p e r s o n a l e x p e r i e n c e . T h i s l a c k of i n f o r m a t i o n and exposure a f f e c t s the a b i l i t y to unde r s tan d a c h i l d i n t h e i r g a y / l e s b i a n r o l e . U n d e r s t a n d i n g and acceptance i s f u r t h e r h i n d e r e d through exposure to s t e r e o t y p i c a l images which tend to f o s t e r a l i e n a t i o n , thereby making i t more d i f f i c u l t f or p a r e n t s to a c c e p t . 5. G u i l t : P a r e n t s , f e e l i n g r e s p o n s i b l e for t h e i r c h i l d ' s f u t u r e assume blame for t h e i r h o m o s e x u a l i t y . R blamed h i m s e l f because he was not around i n h i s son ' s f o r m a t i v e y e a r s . Q responded w i t h , "It must by my f a u l t " and thought i f she had been more dominant i n her m a t e r n a l r o l e her daughter would not have become a l e s b i a n . M blamed her f r i e n d s h i p s w i th gays as the cause of her son ' s s e x u a l o r i e n t a t i o n . P thought i f she "brought him up d i f f e r e n t l y he wou ldn ' t be gay ." 6. P h y s i c a l / E m o t i o n a l P a i n : The g u i l t , sadness , hur t and d i s a p p o i n t m e n t m a n i f e s t s i t s e l f through p h y s i c a l and e m o t i o n a l p a i n . Q was "miserab le" and her h e a l t h s t e a d i l y SO-d e t e r i o r a t e d . R f e l t "devastated" and P remembered " f e e l i n g p r e t t y s i c k about i t . " The p a i n e x p e r i e n c e d by M was such tha t i t l e d to e m o t i o n a l breakdowns and d e p r e s s i o n . 7. A m b i v a l a n c e : With l i m i t e d knowledge and u n d e r s t a n d i n g of homosexua l i ty comes ambiva lence and c o n f u s i o n which i s e x p e r i e n c e d as "going back and f o r t h between a c c e p t i n g and not a c c e p t i n g " the c h i l d i n t h e i r g a y / l e s b i a n r o l e . I t ' s as i f , w i th the r e v e l a t i o n of h o m o s e x u a l i t y , p a r e n t s see t h e i r c h i l d as b e i n g d i f f e r e n t from the c h i l d they knew b e f o r e . M went between l o v i n g , h a t i n g , b o t h e r i n g and not b o t h e r i n g wi th her son . She d i d n ' t know "how to ac t" around h i m . R r e j e c t e d h i s son and f u r t h e r d i s t a n c e d h i m s e l f from t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p . At t imes P thought i t would be e a s i e r on her i f she d i d n ' t have a n y t h i n g to do w i t h R. 8. Hope For Change: Coming to terms i s a f f e c t e d by p a r e n t a l r e a c t i o n s a s s o c i a t e d wi th the i n a b i l i t y to accept t h e i r c h i l d i n a s t i g m a t i z e d r o l e . I n i t i a l l y , a l l one sees or a s s o c i a t e s wi th t h e i r c h i l d are the s t e r e o t y p i c a l images of g a y s / l e s b i a n s . V i e w i n g t h e i r c h i l d i n t h i s c o n t e x t s t i m u l a t e s a hope for change back to the h e t e r o s e x u a l l i f e s t y l e . P hoped f o r a change by p l e a d i n g w i t h R to " t r y to be h e t e r o s e x u a l . " Q thought her d a u g h t e r ' s l e s b i a n i s m would "go away" i f she kept i t a s e c r e t . R and M c o u l d n ' t b e l i e v e i t , hoping i t was a stage i n P ' s development t h a t would e v e n t u a l l y l e a d him back to the h e t e r o s e x u a l or normal 31 l i f e s t y l e . 9. P r e o c c u p a t i o n ; Coming to terms i s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h p r e o c c u p a t i o n . T h i s c o n s t a n t a t t e n t i o n a f f e c t s d a i l y r o u t i n e s as p a r e n t s t h o u g h t s , f e e l i n g s and a c t i o n s are focused on t h e i r c h i l d and the i s s u e s tha t the d i s c l o s u r e of t h e i r s e x u a l i d e n t i t y b r i n g s a b o u t . I t was always on M's mind , t o . t h e p o i n t that i t p r e v e n t e d her from s l e e p i n g and e a t i n g . 10. C o p i n g ; The s t r a i n of t h i s p r e o c c u p a t i o n i s a s s i s t e d through the use of c o p i n g d e v i c e s t h a t h e l p d e t e r t h i n k i n g about i t . M went f o r long walks and t u r n e d to a l c o h o l as i t h e l p e d her to f o r g e t her p a i n . Q went out more o f t e n as she f e l t be ing wi th peop le kept her from c r y i n g and f e e l i n g g lum. 11. I s o l a t i o n ; A sense of i s l o a t i o n i s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h l e a r n i n g a c h i l d i s g a y / l e s b i a n . T h i s f e e l i n g i s r e p r e s e n t e d by t h i n k i n g you are the o n l y one w i t h a gay c h i l d , thereby r e d u c i n g the p o t e n t i a l f o r support and t h e r a p e u t i c d i s c u s s i o n w i t h o t h e r s . For Q i t was a "lonesome" t ime as she c o u l d n ' t t a l k to anyone about i t . P thought she was the o n l y one w i t h a gay c h i l d t h e r e f o r e had to m a i n t a i n i t s s e c r e c y . A f t e r l e a r n i n g her son was gay M's f e e l i n g s of i s o l a t i o n l e d to her w i thdrawal from s o c i a l and i n t i m a t e r e l a t i o n s h i p s , thereby s e v e r i n g the t i e s of a p o t e n t i a l support network. 32 1.2. L o s s / G r i e f : F e e l i n g s of l o s s are i d e n t i f e d as a n t i c i p a t e d images of t h e i r c h i l d ' s f u t u r e become a l t e r e d . T h i s e x p e r i e n c e takes on d i f f e r e n t forms . P "gr ieved" f o r the image she expected or wanted her son to be . Q spoke of l o s s as "a p e r s o n a l e x p e r i e n c e tha t you keep to y o u r s e l f . " M d e s c r i b e d her l o s s as "something e a t i n g away i n s i d e . " I t was l i k e her son had d i e d and she was e x p e r i e n c i n g g r i e f over t h e i r l o s t r e l a t i o n s h i p . The l o s s of the image of a normal f u t u r e b r i n g s w i th i t common f e e l i n g s of sadness and d i sappo in tment over the r e a l i z a t i o n t h a t t h e i r son /daughter would not marry and have c h i l d r e n . 13. F e a r / W o r r y For C h i l d ' s F u t u r e : As the c h i l d w i l l not be f o l l o w i n g what i s c o n s i d e r e d the normal l i f e s t y l e , p a r e n t s e x p e r i e n c e f ear and apprehens ion c o n c e r n i n g t h e i r c h i l d ' s f u t u r e . M and R, r e c o g n i z i n g the d i s c r i m i n a t i o n a g a i n s t gays , w o r r i e d about how t h e i r son would handle i t . P ' s b i g g e s t concern was tha t R would be l o n e l y in h i s l a t e r y e a r s . A l l p a r e n t s w o r r i e d about the a f f e c t s of the g a y / l e s b i a n l i f e s t y l e on t h e i r c h i l d r e n ' s c a r e e r c h o i c e s and p r o f e s s i o n a l deve lopment . 14. C o n d i t i o n a l A c c e p t a n c e : Acceptance of a gay son or l e s b i a n daughter i s c o n d i t i o n a l as i t i s acknowledged w i t h accompanying f e e l i n g s of d i s a p p r o v a l and d i sappo in tment and the u l t i m a t e wish for a r e t u r n to the "normal l i f e s t y l e . " Parent s are w i l l i n g to accept and adapt to the degree they have to i n o r d e r to c o n t i n u e t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h the 33 c h i l d . R sees i t as a "compromise to keep up c o n t a c t . " P wishes R was " s t r a i g h t " , yet she i s w i l l i n g to accept h i s views and l i f e s t y l e . M sees i t as something she has to accept i n o r d e r to m a i n t a i n c o n t a c t and be a v a i l a b l e f or support s h o u l d P need i t . Q d e s c r i b e s her acceptance a s , " I t ' s not what we wished , we d o n ' t approve and we're s t i l l d i s a p p o i n t e d but we do accept i t . " Time i s a f a c t o r a s s o c i a t e d w i t h coming to terms as p a r e n t s become more a c c e p t i n g and c o m f o r t a b l e as t ime p r o g r e s s e s . T h i s acceptance i s f u r t h e r a s s i s t e d as p a r e n t s p e r c e i v e t h e i r c h i l d to be happy and secure i n themselves and i n the c h o i c e s they have made. 15. C r e a t i n g a R a t i o n a l e : Coming to terms i s a f f e c t e d by one ' s own t h i n k i n g and r e a s o n i n g . M's " d i g g i n g deep and t h i n k i n g " h e l p e d her in a c c e p t i n g and u n d e r s t a n d i n g . P ' s t h i n k i n g l e d her to view R ' s l i f e s t y l e as normal to him as the h e t e r o s e x u a l l i f e s t y l e was to h e r . Her c r e a t i o n of a r a t i o n a l e moves her to q u e s t i o n the s t a t u s quo which l e a d s to her c o n c l u s i o n tha t m a r r i e d l i f e , or the h e t e r o s e x u a l l i f e s t y l e , b r i n g s as many problems as her son i s l i k e l y to have . 16. S u p p o r t / V a l i d a t i o n of the P a r e n t a l R o l e : A sense of r e l i e f i s a s s o c i a t e d wi th support from o t h e r s . When p a r e n t s d i s c l o s e , f e e l i n g s of i s o l a t i o n and g u i l t d i m i n i s h . Such v a l i d a t i o n can come about through a v a r i e t y of s o u r c e s . P ' s r o l e as a good parent was v a l i d a t e d through h i s .34 p s y c h i a t r i s t . Q's g u i l t f e e l i n g s were he lped through c o n f i d i n g wi th her f a m i l y p h y s i c i a n . When she was f i n a l l y a b l e to t e l l her husband, she d e s c r i b e d h e r s e l f f e e l i n g as i f a weight had been l i f t e d from h e r . As P f e l t she c o u l d not t a l k to anyone (except her husband) about i t , her o u t l e t for support came through t e l e v i s i o n , books and the media which p r e s e n t e d the gay l i f e s t y l e in a p o s i t i v e and n o r m a l i z e d way. T h i s n o r m a l i z i n g ev idence p r o v i d e d the v a l i d a t i o n needed to r e l i e v e her of the blame. 17. V a l i d a t i o n / N o r m a l i z a t i o n of the G a y / L e s b i a n  L i f e s t y l e : One of the i n i t i a l r e a c t i o n s to f i n d i n g out a c h i l d i s gay or l e s b i a n i s to p l a c e them i n the s t e r e o t y p i c a l r o l e s that s o c i e t y has d e f i n e d . R e c o g n i z i n g t h i s , as w e l l as the f a c t tha t the r o l e of gay or l e s b i a n goes a g a i n s t the "norm", m o t i v a t e s p a r e n t s to seek sources ( i . e . books , f i l m s , . t e l e v i s i o n , e x p e r t s ) t h a t presen t s u c c e s s f u l gay r o l e models . I t i s t h i s f a v o r a b l e r e p r e s e n t a t i o n that p r o v i d e s n o r m a l i z i n g p r o o f . The degree of acceptance depends upon how normal or a t t r a c t i v e p a r e n t s p e r c e i v e these s o u r c e s . U ' s c h o i c e of p a r t n e r made i t e a s i e r for her mother to accept her s e x u a l o r i e n t a t i o n , as she was ' l o v e d by a l l and welcomed as a f a m i l y member. P f e l t more open and a c c e p t i n g a f t e r she l e a r n e d about the l a r g e number of gays who were " e x t r a o r d i n a r y " f i g u r e s throughout h i s t o r y . R ' s acceptance was h i n d e r e d by h i s l i m i t e d knowledge of the gay l i f e s t y l e , as was M's whose at tempts to f i n d p o s i t i v e gay images were u n s u c c e s s f u l . 35 18.. S t r e n g t h e n i n g of P a r e n t - C h i l d R e l a t i o n s h i p : The p r o c e s s of coming to terms wi th a c h i l d ' s homosexua l i ty can have a p o s i t i v e a f f e c t on the p a r e n t - c h i l d r e l a t i o n s h i p , as P and Q e x p e r i e n c e d a s t r e n g t h e n i n g of the r e l a t i o n s h i p s w i t h t h e i r c h i l d r e n because they f e l t "c lose enough" to d i s c l o s e to them. PHENOMENOLOGICAL DESCRIPTION The themes ( c o n s t i t u e n t s ) p r e v i o u s l y i d e n t i f i e d p r o v i d e the b a s i s from which to d e s c r i b e the e s s e n t i a l s t r u c t u r e of coming to terms w i t h a gay son or l e s b i a n d a u g h t e r . The e s s e n t i a l s t r u c t u r e e v o l v e s from the i n t e r w e a v i n g of themes and t h e i r meanings in an attempt to a r r i v e at a more g e n e r a l or u n i v e r s a l f e e l i n g of the e x p e r i e n c e . The d e s c r i p t i o n of the e lements c o m p r i s i n g the e s s e n t i a l s t r u c t u r e of t h i s e x p e r i e n c e are p r e s e n t e d h e r e . Coming to terms w i t h . a gay son or a l e s b i a n daughter i s an ongoing p r o c e s s . L e a r n i n g a c h i l d assumes the s t i g m a t i z e d r o l e of homosexual i n i t i a t e s shock and d i s b e l i e f which i s e x p e r i e n c e d as be ing "stunned" "blank" and f e e l i n g l i k e your h e a r t s t o p s . Q d e s c r i b e s her shock as a dead f e e l i n g . "I heard i t i n my ears but I d i d n ' t seem to hear i t i n my h e a r t and body ." A l t h o u g h t h i s e x p e r i e n c e may appear p a s s i v e , i t i s n o t , as i t i s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h anger , h u r t , g u i l t , blame and c o n f u s i o n . 36 P r e o c c u p a t i o n wi th these f e e l i n g s l e a d s to the implementat ion of c o p i n g d e v i c e s that serve to d i s t a n c e p a r e n t s from the i s s u e so they won't have to t h i n k about i t . Keeping busy i s one such d e v i c e used in c o p i n g w i t h these overwhelming f e e l i n g s . M c o u l d n ' t s top t h i n k i n g about i t so kept h e r s e l f busy by w a l k i n g . In p u b l i c i t was e a s i e r for Q not to t h i n k about her d a u g h t e r . "You c a n ' t c r y or be too glum w a l k i n g among p e o p l e . " T h i s need to keep busy i s a l s o a s s o c i a t e d w i t h the i n a b i l i t y to accept the c h i l d in the s t i g m a t i z e d r o l e , as w e l l as the u n d e r l y i n g hope f o r a change back to the h e t e r o s e x u a l or normal l i f e s t y l e . When p a r e n t s beg in to t h i n k of t h e i r son or daughter as gay or l e s b i a n , p h y s i c a l and mental p a i n s u r f a c e . P was "s i ck" about i t and remembered i t as a very d r a i n i n g e x p e r i e n c e . Q was "miserable" and c o u l d n ' t s tay a l o n e . I t was l i k e she was both p h y s i c a l l y and e m o t i o n a l l y weighted down. M became depressed and would break down and c r y whenever she t a l k e d about i t . Such r e a c t i o n s are a s s o c i a t e d w i t h the f a c t tha t homosexua l i ty l i e s o u t s i d e the p a r e n t a l e x p e r i e n c e thereby a f f e c t i n g t h e i r a b i l i t y to u n d e r s t a n d . As p a r e n t s are l i m i t e d i n t h e i r u n d e r s t a n d i n g of h o m o s e x u a l i t y , they e x p e r i e n c e c o n f u s i o n s u r r o u n d i n g i t s na ture and consequences . Ambiva lence i s connected w i t h t h i s as p a r e n t s in t h i s s i t u a t i o n must make a c h o i c e to accept or r e j e c t t h e i r c h i l d . I n i t i a l l y p a r e n t s d o n ' t know what to do or how to 37 respond to t h e i r c h i l d in h i s / h e r r o l e as a gay or l e s b i a n . I t ' s as i f , w i t h the r e v e l a t i o n , they view t h e i r c h i l d as be ing d i f f e r e n t from the c h i l d they knew b e f o r e . T h i s ambivalence i s n u r t u r e d by the s t igma s o c i e t y p l a c e s on h o m o s e x u a l i t y . Such a t t i t u d e s add to t h e i r c o n c u r r e n t f e e l i n g s of l o v e , hate and r e j e c t i o n . M f l u c t u a t e d between l o v i n g , h a t i n g , b o t h e r i n g and not b o t h e r i n g w i t h her son . Q d e s c r i b e d t h i s f e e l i n g as "going back and f o r t h between a c c e p t i n g and not a c c e p t i n g " her daughter as a l e s b i a n . R ' s ambivalence c e n t e r e d around h i s s o n ' s m o t i v a t i o n f o r d i s c l o s u r e as he thought P was u s i n g i t as a means to break up R ' s m a r i t a l r e l a t i o n s h i p . T h i s e x p e r i e n c e l e d to the r e j e c t i o n of h i s son . A l though P l o v e d R d e e p l y , she went through p e r i o d s of t h i n k i n g she d i d n ' t want to be "bothered w i t h him" or see him anymore. In an attempt to make sense of t h e i r t h o u g h t s , f e e l i n g s and a c t i o n s p a r e n t s engage i n a l i f e r ev i ew . In t h i s r e f l e c t i n g back there i s a focus on the c h i l d ' s development and r e l a t i o n s h i p s and i n p a r t i c u l a r t h e i r own r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h the c h i l d . T h i s need to u n d ers t an d why he / she i s g a y / l e s b i a n r e l a t e s to t h e i r own f e e l i n g s of g u i l t and blame and the sense of r e s p o n s i b i l i t y a parent f e e l s f o r t h e i r c h i l d ' s f u t u r e . There i s a f e e l i n g , i f they had done some t h i n g s d i f f e r e n t l y t h e i r c h i l d would not have become gay or l e s b i a n . R blamed h i m s e l f because he wasn't around d u r i n g h i s son ' s f o r m a t i v e y e a r s . Q thought i f she had a c t e d more "dominant" towards her d a u g h t e r , she would not have become a 38 l e s b i a n . M thought of her homosexual f r i e n d s and blamed her a s s o c i a t i o n w i t h them as the cause of P ' s s e x u a l i t y . As c h i l d r e n are expected to ac t a c c o r d i n g to t h e i r sex r o l e s , P thought i f R had been encouraged to engage i n the more "mascul ine" a c t i v i t i e s ( i . e . f o o t b a l l , hockey) he may not have t u r n e d out gay . The l i f e review can a l s o i n v o l v e the a n a l y s i s of t h e i r own p e r s o n a l h i s t o r y and development , which can t r i g g e r d e e p - r o o t e d i n t e r n a l c o n f l i c t s c o n c e r n i n g u p b r i n g i n g , s e x u a l a t t i t u d e s and p a r e n t i n g a b i l i t i e s . Exposure to such f e e l i n g s l eads to the s earch for v a l i d a t i o n of t h e i r r o l e as p a r e n t s and f u r t h e r u n d e r s t a n d i n g of t h e i r c h i l d i n h i s / h e r new r o l e . V a l i d a t i o n can come from a v a r i e t y of sources i n c l u d i n g l i t e r a t u r e , media , e x p e r t s , f a m i l y and f r i e n d s . P ' s p o s i t i o n as a good parent was r e i n f o r c e d as she became aware of the l a r g e number of gays who l e d s u c c e s s f u l and p r o d u c t i v e l i v e s . The knowledge she g a i n e d through r e a d i n g and the media h e l p e d her i n s ee ing tha t she "wasn't the on ly one" w i t h a gay c h i l d and tha t the gay l i f e s t y l e "may not be t h a t bad a f t e r a l l . " Q' s v a l i d a t i o n came through d i s c u s s i o n s w i t h her p h y s i c i a n and husband and R ' s support came through h i s p s y c h i a t r i s t who r e a s s u r e d him h i s absence was not the cause of P ' s s e x u a l o r i e n t a t i o n . M's i n a b i l i t y to e x p e r i e n c e v a l i d a t i n g s o u r c e s , on the o ther hand, c o n t r i b u t e d to her 39 p a i n i n c o p i n g and coming to terms wi th her son . The l i f e review and v a l i d a t i o n s o u r c e s , t h e n , a i d in c l a r i f y i n g the p a r e n t a l r o l e and a s s i s t i n the r e l i e f of g u i l t and blame, thereby opening the way f o r f u r t h e r knowledge and u n d e r s t a n d i n g of the c h i l d and the st igma i t s e l f . Upon l e a r n i n g a c h i l d i s g a y / l e s b i a n , an i n i t i a l r e a c t i o n i s to f i t the c h i l d i n t o the s t e r e o t y p i c a l r o l e . V i e w i n g a c h i l d in these s t e r e o t y p i c a l c o n t e x t s s t i m u l a t e s hope f o r change back to the h e t e r o s e x u a l l i f e s t y l e . P e x p r e s s e d such f e e l i n g s v e r b a l l y to her son by " p l e a d i n g " w i t h him to " t r y to be h e t e r o s e x u a l . " By keeping her d a u g h t e r ' s l e s b i a n i s m to h e r s e l f , Q thought i t would e v e n t u a l l y go away. M and R s t i l l f i n d i t hard to b e l i e v e and hope tha t t h e i r son w i l l go back to b e i n g " s t r a i g h t . " R e c o g n i z i n g that homosexua l i ty i s a s t i g m a t i z e d r o l e tha t goes a g a i n s t the norm c r e a t e s a f u r t h e r need and d e s i r e f o r p a r e n t s to f i n d n o r m a l i z i n g ev idence t h a t p r e s e n t s g a y s / l e s b i a n s and t h e i r l i f e s t y l e s i n "normal" and a c c e p t a b l e ways. T h i s n o r m a l i z i n g element p r o v i d e s exposure to gay r o l e models e m i n a t i n g success and e m o t i o n a l s t a b i l i t y and s t i m u l a t e s p a r e n t s to q u e s t i o n and c h a l l e n g e the s t e r e o t y p i c a l v i e w p o i n t s and r e p l a c e them w i t h "normal i zed" ones . 40 V a l i d a t i o n and n o r m a l i z a t i o n of the s t i g m a t i z e d r o l e i s f u r t h e r r e i n f o r c e d as p a r e n t s , i n becoming a c q u a i n t e d w i t h o ther g a y s / l e s b i a n s , view them in an a t t r a c t i v e l i g h t . J u s t as s t e r e o t y p i c a l images c o n f i r m f e a r s and serve as b l o c k s in "coming to terms", so can exposure to p o s i t i v e or n o r m a l i z i n g i n f o r m a t i o n open the way to u n d e r s t a n d i n g and e v e n t u a l a c c e p t a n c e . Q' s acceptance of her daughter as a l e s b i a n was made e a s i e r through her c h o i c e of p a r t n e r , as E was l o v e d by a l l and a c c e p t e d as p a r t of the f a m i l y . P became more a c c e p t i n g as she became a c q u a i n t e d w i t h her son ' s f r i e n d s and found them to be "no d i f f e r e n t " from h e r s e l f . M and R ' s acceptance was h i n d e r e d as they were unable to e x p e r i e n c e such n o r m a l i z i n g p r o o f . M "kept t h i n k i n g about a l l the bad t h i n g s you hear about g a y s . " As p a r e n t s come to p e r c e i v e and e x p e r i e n c e g a y s / l e s b i a n s in a p o s i t i v e l i g h t and as no d i f f e r e n t from normal o t h e r s , t h e i r a n x i e t y and nervousness subs ide and they become more c o m f o r t a b l e i n d e a l i n g w i t h t h e i r gay or l e s b i a n c h i l d and the i s s u e of homosexua l i ty i t s e l f . Knowledge of a gay son or l e s b i a n daughter a f f e c t s the p a r e n t / c h i l d r e l a t i o n s h i p as p a r e n t s view t h e i r c h i l d d i f f e r e n t l y . M's r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h her son kept " d e t e r i o r a t i n g " as she was unable to see him as the same p e r s o n . A l t h o u g h R was not c l o s e to h i s son , knowledge of h i s s e x u a l i t y f u r t h e r d i s t a n c e d t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p . Both P and Q e x p e r i e n c e d a s t r e n g t h e n i n g of t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p because t h e i r c h i l d r e n f e l t "c lose enough" to d i s c l o s e . 41 In coming to terms w i t h changes i n t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p , f e e l i n g s of l o s s are i d e n t i f i e d as p a r e n t s e x p e r i e n c e sadness and d i s a p p o i n t m e n t over the l o s s of the image they expected or wanted t h e i r c h i l d to be . T h i s l o s s i s a unique e x p e r i e n c e , d e s c r i b e d as f e e l i n g s v a r y i n g i n i n t e n s i t y from d i s a p p o i n t m e n t , through the f e e l i n g s of g r i e f as e x p e r i e n c e d by d e a t h . The focus of the e x p e r i e n c e i s on the r e a l i z a t i o n t h a t t h e i r c h i l d ' s f u t u r e as w e l l as t h e i r own w i l l not b r i n g c h i l d r e n or g r a n d c h i l d r e n . Knowing t h e i r c h i l d w i l l not be f o l l o w i n g the norm i n i t i a t e s a d d i t i o n a l f e e l i n g s of apprehens ion and concern about the c h i l d ' s f u t u r e i n g e n e r a l and how he / she w i l l cope w i t h the r e p e r c u s s i o n s ( i . e . p r e j u d i c e , c a r e e r / s o c i a l r e s t r i c t i o n s ) of t h e i r s exua l o r i e n t a t i o n . Coming to terms a l s o a f f e c t s s o c i a l and i n t i m a t e r e l a t i o n s h i p s . T h i s i s a l o n e l y t ime as p a r e n t s f e e l they are the o n l y one w i t h a gay or l e s b i a n c h i l d , t h e r e f o r e i t ' s something t h a t c a n ' t be t a l k e d a b o u t . Cop ing w i t h t h i s i s o l a t i o n i s e x p e r i e n c e d through d i s t a n c i n g , s e c r e c y and c o v e r i n g which d i m i n i s h the o p p o r t u n i t y f o r t h e r a p e u t i c i n t e r v e n t i o n and a l t e r r e l a t i o n s h i p s w i t h o t h e r s . M's e x p e r i e n c e of i s o l a t i o n l e f t her unable to r e l a t e to anyone. T h i s l e d to her wi thdrawal from a l l s o c i a l t i e s as w e l l as her s e x u a l r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h her husband. P ' s sense of a lonenes s was e x p e r i e n c e d as a b lockage in t e l l i n g 42 o t h e r s . M a i n t a i n i n g t h i s s e c r e t for s e l f p r o t e c t i o n and the p r o t e c t i o n of her son a l t e r e d her i n t e r a c t i o n s w i t h f r i e n d s as she became uneasy around them in a n t i c i p a t i o n of i n q u i r i e s about her son ' s l i f e s t y l e . In an e f f o r t to a l l e v i a t e such f e e l i n g s she u t i l i z e d c o v e r i n g d e v i c e s as c o p i n g measures . A l t h o u g h R d i d not p e r c e i v e changes in h i s s o c i a l r e l a t i o n s h i p s , he was w o r r i e d tha t i f c o l l e a g u e s and f r i e n d s found out i t would "harm" h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p s w i th them. The f e a r of h i s f r i e n d s "making fun" of him added to h i s shame and embarrassment f u r t h e r b l o c k i n g h i s way to a c c e p t a n c e . Movement through these b lockage p o i n t s i s a s s i s t e d by one ' s own r e a s o n i n g . T h i s p r o c e s s of " d i g g i n g deep" w i t h i n o n e s e l f promotes the q u e s t i o n i n g of the "s ta tus quo" and the concept of normalcy and generates c o n c l u s i o n s t h a t i f the c h i l d i s happy, p r o d u c t i v e and secure w i t h t h e i r own s e x u a l i t y , then tha t i s the "normal." l i f e s t y l e f o r h i m / h e r . Through c h a l l e n g i n g the "s ta tus quo" P moved to the i n s i g h t , l a t e r on i n her acceptance p r o c e s s , that " I t ' s not a l l tha t grea t b e i n g m a r r i e d because they have j u s t as many problems as R ' s go ing to have ." Acceptance of a gay son or l e s b i a n daughter i s c o n d i t i o n a l , as i t i s acknowledged w i t h accompanying f e e l i n g s of d i s a p p r o v a l / d i s a p p o i n t m e n t and the u l t i m a t e wish f o r a r e t u r n to the "normal" l i f e s t y l e . P a r e n t s e x p e r i e n c e acceptance as a back and f o r t h p r o c e s s i n which 43 they adapt to the degree they have t o , in o r d e r to m a i n t a i n c o n t a c t and c o m f o r t a b i l i t y w i th t h e i r c h i l d . As p a r e n t s move through the adjustment p r o c e s s , f e e l i n g s of d i s a p p r o v a l and d i s a p p o i n t m e n t d i m i n i s h making way for a f u l l e r acceptance and u n d e r s t a n d i n g . T h i s i s a s s i s t e d by the passage of t ime which a l l o w s p a r e n t s to become more in formed about t h e i r c h i l d ' s l i f e s t y l e and c o n f i d e n t tha t the c h i l d i s secure and happy. ESSENTIAL STRUCTURE Coming to terms w i t h a gay son or l e s b i a n daughter i s an ongoing p r o c e s s . L e a r n i n g t h a t a c h i l d had assumed the s t i g m a t i z e d r o l e of gay or l e s b i a n i n i t i a t e s shock and d i s b e l i e f , which i s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h a n g e r , h u r t , g u i l t , blame and c o n f u s i o n . P r e o c c u p a t i o n w i t h these f e e l i n g s l e a d s p a r e n t s to employ the use of c o p i n g d e v i c e s tha t d i s t a n c e them from t h i n k i n g about i t . P h y s i c a l and mental p a i n s u r f a c e when p a r e n t s beg in to t h i n k of t h e i r son or daughter as gay or l e s b i a n . The p a r e n t - c h i l d r e l a t i o n s h i p becomes a l t e r e d as p a r e n t s , i n t h e i r i n a b i l i t y to u n d e r s t a n d , e x p e r i e n c e ambiva lence d e s c r i b e d as c o n c u r r e n t f e e l i n g s of l o v e , hate and r e j e c t i o n towards t h e i r c h i l d . F u r t h e r on i n the acceptance p r o c e s s p a r e n t s may e x p e r i e n c e a s t r e n g t h e n i n g of t h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p . T h i s i s a s s o c i a t e d wi th the f a c t tha t the c h i l d f e l t c l o s e enough to the parent to r i s k d i s c l o s u r e . To make sense of t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e p a r e n t s engage i n a l i f e r e v i e w . T h i s , as 44 w e l l as v a l i d a t i o n sources ( i . e . books , f a m i l y , f r i e n d s , media and the m e d i c a l p r o f e s s i o n ) a s s i s t p a r e n t s i n u n d e r s t a n d i n g and h e l p s c l a r i f y t h e i r r o l e i n the c h i l d ' s a d o p t i o n of h i s / h e r s exua l i d e n t i t y . Through the l i f e review and v a l i d a t i o n sources p a r e n t s are f u r t h e r a i d e d i n the r e l e a s e of g u i l t and blame. The l i f e review a l s o i n v o l v e s the a n a l y s i s of t h e i r own p e r s o n a l h i s t o r y which can t r i g g e r d e e p - r o o t e d i n t e r n a l c o n f l i c t s . R e c o g n i z i n g tha t be ing gay or l e s b i a n i s a s t i g m a t i z e d r o l e which goes a g a i n s t the norm, f o s t e r s a need to seek out ev idence p r e s e n t i n g gays and l e s b i a n s i n an a t t r a c t i v e l i g h t . Exposure to these p o s i t i v e images s t i m u l a t e s p a r e n t s to q u e s t i o n and c h a l l e n g e the s t e r e o t y p i c a l images and r e p l a c e them w i t h imore a c c e p t a b l e ones . As p a r e n t s beg in to p e r c e i v e g a y s / l e s b i a n s as no d i f f e r e n t from normal o t h e r s , they become l e s s anx ious i n d e a l i n g w i t h t h e i r gay son or l e s b i a n daughter and more at ease w i t h the i s s u e of homosexua l i ty i t s e l f . Coming to terms w i t h a g a y / l e s b i a n c h i l d marks a l o n e l y t ime for p a r e n t s . They may cope w i t h t h i s i s o l a t i o n through the use of s e c r e c y , p a s s i n g , d i s t a n c i n g and c o v e r i n g which may serve to c r e a t e a b lockage in i n t i m a t e and s o c i a l i n t e r a c t i o n s . R e c o g n i z i n g t h e i r c h i l d ' s f u t u r e w i l l not b r i n g c h i l d r e n , i n i t i a t e s f e e l i n g s of apprehens ion and concern as p a r e n t s e x p e r i e n c e d i s a p p o i n t m e n t over the l o s s of the image 45 they wanted or expected t h e i r c h i l d to be . Acceptance of a gay son or l e s b i a n daughter i s c o n d i t i o n a l as p a r e n t s , i n t h e i r acknowledgement, e x p e r i e n c e f e e l i n g s of d i s a p p r o v a l , d i sappo in tment and the u l t i m a t e wish f o r a r e t u r n to the h e t e r o s e x u a l l i f e s t y l e . I t i s e x p e r i e n c e d as a back and f o r t h p r o c e s s a s s i s t e d by p a r e n t a l a t tempts to c r e a t e a r a t i o n a l e to h e l p them unders tand more f u l l y . The tempora l element r e l a t e s d i r e c t l y to the degree i n which p a r e n t s can accept t h e i r c h i l d ' s s exua l i d e n t i t y , as p a r e n t s , w i t h the passage of t i m e , become more u n d e r s t a n d i n g and a c c e p t i n g . T h i s comes about as p a r e n t s p e r c e i v e and b e l i e v e t h e i r c h i l d r e n to be happy and secure i n t h e i r l i f e s t y l e c h o i c e s . 46 CHAPTER FIVE DISCUSSION The phenomenolog ica l e x p e r i e n c e of coming to terms w i t h a gay son or l e s b i a n daughter has been p r e s e n t e d in Chapter F o u r . T h i s p r o c e s s was found to c o n s i s t of a number of themes which , when i n t e g r a t e d , took the form of a s t o r y d e p i c t i n g how a parent comes to terms w i t h a g a y / l e s b i a n c h i l d . The meaning of t h i s phenomenolog ica l e x p e r i e n c e was p r e s e n t e d i n the E s s e n t i a l ( fundamental) S t r u c t u r e . T h i s c h a p t e r w i l l e x p l i c i t l y s t a t e thoughts and awarenesses c o n c e r n i n g the r e s u l t s of t h i s s tudy and as w e l l d i s c u s s c o n c e p t u a l and p r a c t i c a l i m p l i c a t i o n s . The d i s c u s s i o n w i l l conc lude wi th s u g g e s t i o n s f o r f u r t h e r r e s e a r c h . LIMITATIONS The focus of t h i s s tudy was the p r o c e s s f o l l o w i n g the knowledge tha t a son or daughter' was gay or l e s b i a n . T h i s encompassed u n d e r s t a n d i n g the meaning of the e x p e r i e n c e of coming to terms w i t h t h i s i n f o r m a t i o n . A l t h o u g h p r e v i o u s f a c t o r s ( i . e . u n c o n f i r m e d / c o n f i r m e d s u s p i c i o n s of a s o n ' s / d a u g h t e r ' s homosexua l i ty ) may have a f f e c t e d c o - r e s e a r c h e r ' s t h o u g h t s , f e e l i n g s and a c t i o n s , they were not a c o n c e r n i n t h i s s t u d y . 4 7 Keeping i n mind tha t E x i s t e n t i a l - P h e n o m e n o l o g y does not seek to d i s p o s e of an i n d i v i d u a l ' s unique q u a l i t i e s i n order to a p p l y i t s r e s u l t s to every person in a l l s i t u a t i o n s , t h i s assumpt ion can serve as the f o u n d a t i o n for u n d e r s t a n d i n g the meaning of coming to terms w i t h a gay son or l e s b i a n d a u g h t e r . In t h i s s tudy the r e s u l t s have meaning f o r the four c o - r e s e a r c h e r s who t o l d t h e i r s t o r i e s of coming to terms w i t h a c h i l d ' s s t i g m a t i z e d s exua l i d e n t i t y . With t h i s l i m i t e d number one must acknowledge the f l e x i b l e na ture of the e s s e n t i a l s t r u c t u r e . G i v e n t h i s i n f o r m a t i o n , the e s s e n t i a l s t r u c t u r e p r e s e n t e d i n t h i s s tudy can be expanded and deve loped i n order to c r e a t e a more i n t e g r a t e d and u n i v e r s a l s t r u c t u r a l u n d e r s t a n d i n g of the phenomenon. T h i s s tudy was the f i r s t to i n v e s t i g a t e the phenomenolog ica l na ture of coming to terms w i t h a c h i l d ' s h o m o s e x u a l i t y . S i n c e i t breaks new r e s e a r c h ground , i t e s t a b l i s h e s a b e g i n n i n g or f o u n d a t i o n on which to extend and d e v e l o p i t s meaning and u n d e r s t a n d i n g . As i t r e p r e s e n t s the f i r s t o p p o r t u n i t y f o r p a r e n t s to t a l k about the meaning of t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e , s t o r i e s were p r e s e n t e d i n a c l e a r coherent f a s h i o n . A l t h o u g h c l a r i t y a s s i s t s i n c r e a t i n g an u n d e r s t a n d i n g of the phenomenon, i t d e c r e a s e s the p o t e n t i a l f o r a deeper u n d e r s t a n d i n g of the e x p e r i e n c e . I t i s my assumpt ion tha t these s t o r i e s c o u l d be e l a b o r a t e d , thereby expanding the meaning of t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e i n a number of areas ( i . e . f a m i l y , w o r k p l a c e , r e l i g i o n and s o c i a l s e t t i n g s ) . 48 The g e n e r a l i z a b i l i t y of t h i s s tudy i s p r o b a b l y l i m i t e d somewhat, i n that a l l but one c o - r e s e a r c h e r was female . From the review of r e s e a r c h on acceptance of d i s a b i l i t i e s by r e s e a r c h e r s such as Wright (1960) and J a q u e s , et a l . (1970) there i s ev idence s u g g e s t i n g women tend to be more t o l e r a n t of d i f f e r e n c e s than men. CONCEPTUAL IMPLICATIONS The c o n c e p t u a l i m p l i c a t i o n s of t h i s s tudy are c o n s i s t e n t w i t h the p a r e n t a l r e a c t i o n s p r e s e n t e d i n Chapter Two. The p r o c e s s of coming to terms w i t h a gay son or l e s b i a n daughter i s d i r e c t l y a f f e c t e d by s o c i e t a l a t t i t u d e s towards s e x u a l l i f e s t y l e c h o i c e s . In c o n c u r r i n g w i t h the works of Coleman (1981/82) , Goffman (1963) and Simpson(1976) , t h i s s tudy support s the f i n d i n g s that p a r e n t s are a l s o v i c t i m s of the s t igma s o c i e t y p l a c e s on be ing gay or l e s b i a n as s t i g m a t i z a t i o n serves to h i n d e r the development of a c c e p t i n g a t t i t u d e s towards s e x u a l l i f e s t y l e c h o i c e s and c o n t r i b u t e s to a p a r e n t ' s i n a b i l i t y to unders tand and a d j u s t to t h e i r g a y / l e s b i a n c h i l d . S impson's (1976) d i s c u s s i o n of the e f f e c t s of the s t r e s s s o c i e t y p l a c e s on a parent to d e v e l o p normal b e h a v i o r in t h e i r c h i l d r e n i s a l s o r e f l e c t e d i n the f i n d i n g s of t h i s s t u d y . Each c o - r e s e a r c h e r , in t h e i r s t r u g g l e w i th s o c i e t a l c o n d i t i o n i n g , e x p e r i e n c e d a f e a r and r e l u c t a n c e in u n d e r s t a n d i n g both the c h i l d in t h e i r s exua l r o l e and the i s s u e of homosexua l i ty i t s e l f . T h i s r e l u c t a n c e to c o n f r o n t 49 and e x p l o r e the t o p i c of homosexua l i ty a l s o s u p p o r t s the f i n d i n g s i n S a g h i r and R o b i n ' s (1973) s t u d y . T h i s h e s i t a n c y , on the p a r t of p a r e n t s , i s e s p e c i a l l y n o t i c e a b l e i n the e a r l i e r s tages of t h e i r adjustment p r o c e s s . As p a r e n t s move f u r t h e r a l o n g i n t h e i r acceptance p r o c e s s the r e l u c t a n c y s u b s i d e s , a l t h o u g h c e r t a i n a s p e c t s of the g a y / l e s b i a n l i f e s t y l e ( i . e . the s e x u a l na ture of homosexua l i ty ) remain unques t ioned and u n e x p l o r e d . C l a r k (1977) r e p o r t e d tha t s o c i e t a l a t t i t u d e s and c o n d i t i o n i n g c o u l d mani fe s t i n t o b e l i e f s of p a r e n t a l blame. T h i s was the e x p e r i e n c e of each c o - r e s e a r c h e r as they spoke of t h e i r b e l i e f t h a t they were the cause of t h e i r son ' s or d a u g h t e r ' s h o m o s e x u a l i t y . The f o r m u l a t i o n of these b e l i e f s prompt c o - r e s e a r c h e r s to review t h e i r own pas t h i s t o r y and development as w e l l as t h e i r c h i l d ' s . In t h i s review of the p a s t , p a r e n t s s e a r c h for c l u e s tha t may h e l p them uncover reasons why t h e i r c h i l d i s gay or l e s b i a n . T h i s s tudy f u r t h e r r e v e a l e d t h a t engaging i n a l i f e review a s s i s t s p a r e n t s i n p l a c i n g t h i s i n f o r m a t i o n i n t o a c o n t e x t tha t l e n d s i t s e l f to the development of an u n d e r s t a n d i n g and e v e n t u a l acceptance of a c h i l d ' s s exua l i d e n t i t y . I f p a r e n t s are to acknowledge and make sense of t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e of coming to terms w i t h a g a y / l e s b i a n c h i l d , they must be w i l l i n g to re-examine t h e i r own a t t i t u d e s and b e l i e f s as i t i s through t h i s p r o c e s s t h a t a readjustment i n t h i n k i n g can o c c u r . 50 Myers (1981/82) , F a i r c h i l d and Hayward (1979) and S i l v e r s t e i n (1977) r e p o r t e d t h a t p h y s i c a l and p s y c h o l o g i c a l symptoms were a s s o c i a t e d wi th l e a r n i n g a c h i l d i s gay or l e s b i a n . They i d e n t i f i e d f e e l i n g s of g u i l t , anger , shock, h u r t , blame, i s o l a t i o n and ambivalence as p o s s i b l e p a r e n t a l e x p e r i e n c e s . The r e s u l t s of t h i s study are c o n s i s t e n t w i t h the above p a r e n t a l r e a c t i o n s . Each c o - r e s e a r c h e r spoke of these symptoms and f e e l i n g s as key e lements i n t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e of coming to terms w i t h t h e i r g a y / l e s b i a n o f f s p r i n g . These symptoms a s s o c i a t e d wi th "coming to terms" can be a l l e v i a t e d by i n c r e a s i n g the a v a i l a b i l i t y of l i t e r a t u r e p r o v i d i n g a c c u r a t e i n f o r m a t i o n on homosexua l i ty and p r e s e n t i n g the g a y / l e s b i a n l i f e s t y l e as one wi th the p o t e n t i a l f or h e a l t h y s a t i s f y i n g r e l a t i o n s h i p s ( e . g . B e l l , Weinberg and Hammersmith, 1981; S a g h i r and R o b i n s , 1973). R e a c t i o n s may a l s o t r i g g e r . i n t e r n a l c o n f l i c t s . T h i s view of S i l v e r s t e i n ' s (1977) was a l s o a f i n d i n g of t h i s s tudy as c o - r e s e a r c h e r s r e p o r t e d the s u r f a c i n g of d e e p - r o o t e d f e e l i n g s c o n c e r n i n g t h e i r own u p b r i n g i n g , s e x u a l a t t i t u d e s and p a r e n t i n g a b i l i t i e s . The r e s u l t s of t h i s s tudy f u r t h e r showed t h a t a t tempts to c o n f r o n t and r e s o l v e these i n t e r n a l c o n f l i c t s c o u l d a s s i s t p a r e n t s i n t h e i r own p e r s o n a l u n d e r s t a n d i n g , as w e l l as h e l p them through the acceptance p r o c e s s . R e a c t i o n s to the knowledge of homosexua l i ty as w e l l as the s t igma a t t a c h e d to i t , can l e a d to changes i n s o c i a l and i n t i m a t e r e l a t i o n s h i p s . As i n Myers ' (1981/82) work, t h i s •51 study showed tha t coming to terms w i t h a g a y / l e s b i a n c h i l d can l e a d to a weakening or s t r e n g t h e n i n g of the p a r e n t - c h i l d r e l a t i o n s h i p as w e l l as c h a l l e n g i n g the s t a b i l i t y of the m a r i t a l r e l a t i o n s h i p . In s u p p o r t i n g Goffman's (1963) v iews , t h i s s tudy i n d i c a t e d changes i n s o c i a l r e l a t i o n s h i p s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h f e e l i n g s of t e n s i o n and s e l f - c o n s c i o u s n e s s s u r r o u n d i n g the p o s s i b l e d i s c l o s u r e of a c h i l d ' s s t i g m a t i z e d s exua l i d e n t i t y . C o - r e s e a r c h e r s t a l k e d of r e a c t i o n s r a n g i n g from t o t a l w i thdrawal from s o c i a l c o n t a c t s , to the w i t h h o l d i n g of i n f o r m a t i o n c o n c e r n i n g t h e i r c h i l d ' s s t i g m a t i z e d i d e n t i t y through s e c r e c y and c o v e r i n g . T h i s s tudy a l s o i n d i c a t e d f e e l i n g s of l o s s as a p a r e n t a l r e a c t i o n . T h i s i s s i m i a l a r to the g r i e v i n g p r o c e s s tha t o c c u r s as p a r e n t s e x p e r i e n c e the l o s s of the image of t h e i r c h i l d as m a r r i e d or h a v i n g c h i l d r e n (Myers , 1981/82) . As in Coleman's work (1981 /82) , t h i s study r e p o r t e d a c o n d i t i o n a l element to a c c e p t a n c e . T h i s study found tha t what t h i s meant for p a r e n t s was a w i l l i n g n e s s to accept the c h i l d i n t h e i r s exua l r o l e , to the p o i n t they had t o , i n o r d e r to m a i n t a i n c o n t a c t . A l t h o u g h t o t a l acceptance ( u n c o n d i t i o n a l acceptance ) was not found to be a r e s u l t of t h i s s t u d y , the c o n d i t i o n s s u r r o u n d i n g the acceptance of a gay son or l e s b i a n daughter decreased wi th the passage of t i m e , an i n c r e a s e d knowledge and u n d e r s t a n d i n g of homosexua l i ty and the r e a s s u r a n c e t h a t the c h i l d i s happy and s e c u r e . 52 The r e s u l t s of the s tudy i n d i c a t e the l i m i t a t i o n s of the a p p r o a c h e s . T h i s s tudy i s the f i r s t to i n v e s t i g a t e the meaning of coming to terms wi th a gay son or l e s b i a n daughter and the f i r s t to p r o v i d e a thorough d e s c r i p t i o n of the e x p e r i e n c e . When one reads the phenomenolog ica l d e s c r i p t i o n and the e s s e n t i a l s t r u c t u r e , they can come to unders tan d the meaning of coming to terms w i t h a g a y / l e s b i a n c h i l d i n a p e r s o n a l way. I t i s t h i s e s s e n t i a l s t r u c t u r e of meaning tha t can p r o v i d e the b a s i s from which t h e o r y , r e s e a r c h and p r a c t i c e can e v o l v e . COUNSELLING IMPLICATIONS The r e s u l t s of t h i s s tudy have s e v e r a l i m p l i c a t i o n s for the f i e l d of c o u n s e l l i n g p s y c h o l o g y . F i r s t l y , i t i d e n t i f i e s a l a r g e group of p e o p l e , namely the p a r e n t s of l e s b i a n s and gays who e x p e r i e n c e an adjustment p r o c e s s t h a t c o u l d be f a c i l i t a t e d through the h e l p and support of a c o u n s e l l o r . T h i s a l l o w s the c o u n s e l l o r the o p p o r t u n i t y to unders tand and i d e n t i f y the meaning of coming to terms w i t h a gay son or l e s b i a n d a u g h t e r . The a b i l i t y to r e c o g n i z e a s p e c t s of t h i s e x p e r i e n c e p l a c e s the c o u n s e l l o r i n a p o s i t i o n where he / she can a s s i s t p a r e n t s in coming to know t h e i r p e r s o n a l e x p e r i e n c e in the adjustment or acceptance p r o c e s s . The r o l e of the c o u n s e l l o r can have a g r e a t a f f e c t on p a r e n t s as they t r y to make sense of t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e . For most , s e e i n g a c o u n s e l l o r marks the f i r s t t ime a parent i s a b l e to d i s c u s s t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e . The c o u n s e l l o r can be an 53 a c t i v e l i s t e n e r and p r o v i d e a sa fe and t r u s t i n g environment where the parent can t a l k c o n f i d e n t i a l l y and come to unders tan d t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e . The c o u n s e l l o r sh ou ld keep in mind the c o m p l e x i t y of t h i s e x p e r i e n c e as coming to terms w i t h a gay son or l e s b i a n daugther i s h i g h l y p e r s o n a l and a parent may need a l o t of t ime to a d j u s t . T h i s p r o c e s s may i n v o l v e c o n f r o n t i n g and r e s o l v i n g i n n e r c o n f l i c t s as p a r e n t s come to terms w i t h t h e i r own s e l f - i d e n t i t y . T h e r e f o r e , the c o u n s e l l o r must be s e n s i t i v e to a p a r e n t ' s r e a d i n e s s i n o r d e r f o r them to unders tand t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e more f u l l y . The s t i g m a t i z a t i o n of homosexua l i ty a f f e c t s the p r o c e s s of coming to terms w i t h a c h i l d ' s s exua l i d e n t i t y . The c o u n s e l l o r c o u l d a s s i s t p a r e n t s i n c h a l l e n g i n g and u n d e r s t a n d i n g the e v o l u t i o n of t h i s s t igma and the p a r t i t p l a y s i n t h e i r acceptance p r o c e s s . The c o u n s e l l o r c o u l d educate a parent about the c u r r e n t t h e o r i e s and p o s i t i o n s on homosexua l i ty tha t r e l e a s e p a r e n t s of blame, suggest r e a d i n g m a t e r i a l on the s u b j e c t ( e . g . C l a r k , 1977; F a i r c h i l d and Hayward, 1979; S i l v e r s t e i n , 1977) and recommend group c o u n s e l l i n g or support g r o u p s . L e a r n i n g about homosexua l i ty and g a i n i n g a support network can serve to d i m i n i s h t h e i r sense of i s o l a t i o n , v a l i d a t e t h e i r p a r e n t i n g a b i l i t i e s and open the way for b r e a k i n g down the e x i s t i n g b a r r i e r s between parent and c h i l d . T h i s f a c i l i t a t i o n , through e d u c a t i o n and support g r o u p s , h e l p s them i n g a i n i n g a c l e a r e r u n d e r s t a n d i n g of the 54 na ture of homosexua l i ty which s erves to a l t e r t h e i r p e r c e p t i o n of the g a y / l e s b i a n l i f e s t y l e . Parent s can use t h i s change i n p e r c e p t i o n to generate s o c i a l , p o l i t i c a l and p s y c h o l o g i c a l changes r e f l e c t i n g more a c c e p t i n g a t t i t u d e s towards h o m o s e x u a l i t y . The f i n d i n g s of t h i s s tudy have meaning for c o u n s e l l i n g i s s u e s o ther than coming to terms w i t h a g a y / l e s b i a n c h i l d . S i n c e the themes r e v e a l e d how p a r e n t s come to terms w i t h an unexpected l i f e event , the same phenomenon i s l i k e l y to occur as p a r e n t s come to terms w i t h o ther unexpected a d j u s t m e n t s . T h i s p o t e n t i a l g e n e r a l i z a b i l i t y i s of importance to c o u n s e l l o r s as the themes have r e l e v a n c e f o r p a r e n t s a d j u s t i n g to o ther l i f e events such as an o f f s p r i n g ' s unexpected c a r e e r c h o i c e , onset of a d i s a b i l i t y , i n t e r - c u l t u r a l m a r r i a g e , c r i m i n a l i t y or marr iage d i s s o l u t i o n . The t r a n s f e r a b i l i t y of these r e s u l t s can a s s i s t the c o u n s e l l o r i n l e a r n i n g s t r a t e g i c ways of c o p i n g w i t h f e e l i n g s and a t t i t u d e s brought about by a number of l i f e events f o r which there are no g u i d e l i n e s to f o l l o w . C o u n s e l l o r s can r e a s s u r e p a r e n t s t h a t r e a c t i o n s such as g u i l t , f e a r and p a i n are a p p r o p r i a t e because the unexpected i s not easy to a c c e p t . Such g e n e r a l i z a t i o n s are u s e f u l to p a r e n t s as they c o n t r i b u t e to a f u l l e r u n d e r s t a n d i n g i n f l u e n c i n g the e f f e c t i v e n e s s i n h a n d l i n g t h e i r p e r s o n a l a d j u s t m e n t s . 55 IMPLICATIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH I t i s hoped the e s s e n t i a l s t r u c t u r e or meaning r e v e a l e d i n t h i s s tudy can be used as a f o u n d a t i o n f o r b u i l d i n g upon, d e v e l o p i n g and expanding the meaning of coming to terms wi th a gay son or l e s b i a n d a u g h t e r . S i n c e t h i s can be seen as a b e g i n n i n g , q u e s t i o n s c o n c e r n i n g r e l a t e d areas remain open f o r e x p l o r a t i o n and i n v e s t i g a t i o n . T h i s s tudy d e a l s w i t h p a r e n t s of independent c h i l d r e n . How do p a r e n t s of dependent c h i l d r e n ( i . e . teens) e x p e r i e n c e "coming to terms" wi th t h e i r c h i l d ' s homosexua l i ty? Other q u e s t i o n s a l s o come to mind . For example, how do p a r e n t s i n o ther c u l t u r e s "come to terms"? Does the gender of a parent or a c h i l d a f f e c t the acceptance p r o c e s s ? In l i g h t of the recen t r e s e a r c h on AIDS what a f f e c t does t h i s have on the p a r e n t a l r e a c t i o n ? How does a g a y / l e s b i a n p a r e n t e x p e r i e n c e t h i s p r o c e s s ? F u r t h e r i n v e s t i g a t i o n i n t o the above areas c o u l d add to the u n i v e r s a l i t y of the e x p e r i e n c e . L e a r n i n g about the homosexua l i ty of a c h i l d can p r e c i p i t a t e v a r i o u s problems for a parent ( i . e . m a r i t a l c o n f l i c t , s e l f - i d e n t i t y c o n f l i c t , f a m i l y c r i s e s ) . As s o c i e t y , i n g e n e r a l , f i n d s i t d i f f i c u l t to cope w i t h d i f f e r e n c e s , i t s s o c i a l p r e d j u d i c e a f f e c t s each f a m i l y member and i s t h e r e f o r e an i n f l u e n t i a l f o r c e upon f a m i l y l i f e . T h i s has p r a c t i c a l r e l e v a n c e f o r c o u n s e l l o r s as they can l e a r n to i d e n t i f y these problems and d e v e l o p c r i t e r i a f o r v i e w i n g the v a r i o u s a s p e c t s of t h i s e x p e r i e n c e . 56 The f o r e g o i n g are s u g g e s t i o n s for f u t u r e r e s e a r c h i n an area tha t l ends i t s e l f to the e x i s t e n t i a l - p h e n o m e n o l o g i c a l a p p r o a c h . A d d i t i o n a l r e s e a r c h can l e a d to f u r t h e r u n d e r s t a n d i n g of p a r e n t a l and f a m i l y needs and the best methods f o r meeting them. CONCLUSIONS T h i s study addres sed the meaning of coming to terms w i t h a gay son or l e s b i a n d a u g h t e r , u s i n g the e x i s t e n t i a l - p h e n o m e n o l o g i c a l a p p r o a c h . Four c o - r e s e a r c h e r s were i n c l u d e d in the s tudy based on the c r i t e r i a they had e x p e r i e n c e d coming to terms w i t h a c h i l d ' s homosexua l i ty and were a b l e to c l e a r l y a r t i c u l a t e t h i s e x p e r i e n c e to the r e s e a r c h e r . The c o - r e s e a r c h e r s were asked to d e s c r i b e t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e as i f they were t e l l i n g a s t o r y ; w i t h a b e g i n n i n g , midd le and end . The d e s c r i p t i o n s were t a p e - r e c o r d e d and t r a n s c r i b e d over two i n t e r v i e w s . The p r o t o c o l s were then broken i n t o meaning u n i t s and compared to those of each c o - r e s e a r c h e r . The r e s e a r c h e r and c o - r e s e a r c h e r v a l i d a t e d and v e r i f i e d what was r e v e a l e d at each s t e p of the a n a l y s i s . From these meaning u n i t s , themes ( c o n s t i t u e n t s ) and the e s s e n t i a l s t r u c t u r e (meaning) e v o l v e d , the r e s u l t s of which were shared and v a l i d a t e d i n a f i n a l ( t h i r d ) i n t e r v i e w . F o l l o w i n g the e x p l i c a t i o n of themes, a thorough phenomenolog ica l d e s c r i p t i o n e v o l v e d from which the e s s e n t i a l s t r u c t u r e 'or meaning of coming to terms wi th a gay 57 son or l e s b i a n daughter was r e v e a l e d . From the meaning found i n t h i s s t u d y , p e r s o n a l a s sumpt ions , l i m i t a t i o n s and c o n t e x t u a l and c o u n s e l l i n g i m p l i c a t i o n s were d i s c u s s e d . The study c o n c l u d e d w i t h s u g g e s t i o n s for f u r t h e r r e s e a r c h . Coming to terms w i t h a c h i l d ' s homosexua l i ty has meaning for a s i g n i f i c a n t number of p a r e n t s . As i t s i n t r u s i o n a f f e c t s t h e i r d a i l y l i v e s , those i n v o l v e d - a t t e m p t to make sense of t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e . H o p e f u l l y , u n d e r s t a n d i n g and knowing the f u l l meaning of "coming to terms" w i l l serve to make the l i v e s of a l l those who share i n the e x p e r i e n c e more m e a n i n g f u l . 58 REFERENCES B e l l , A . & Weinberg , M. H o m o s e x u a l i t i e s : A Study of D i v e r s i t y Among Men and Women . New Y o r k : Simon & S h u s t e r , 1978. B e r l g e r , E . H o m o s e x u a l i t y : D i s e a s e Or Way Of L i f e . New Y o r k : C o l l i e r , 1956. B i e b e r , I . , D a i n , H . J . , D i n c e , P . R . , D r e l l i c h , M . G . , G r a n d , H . G . , G r u n d l a c h , R . H . , Kremer, M . W . , R i f k i n , A . H . , W i l b e r , C . 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C o u n s e l l i n g The P a r e n t s Of Young Homosexual Male P a t i e n t s . J o u r n a l Of  H o m o s e x u a l i t y , 7, ( 2 / 3 ) , 131-143. O b e r h o l t z e r , W.D. Subduing the C y c l o p s . A G i a n t Step Towards 61 E t h i c s . In W. Dwight O b e r h o l t z e r ( E d . ) , I_s Gay  Good. E t h i c s Theo logy and Homosexual i ty (pp. 11-73) . P h i l a d e l p h i a : The Westminster P r e s s , 1971. S a g h i r , - M . T . , & R o b i n s , E . Male And Female H o m o s e x u a l i t y . A Comprehensive I n v e s t i g a t i o n . B a l t i m o r e : W i l l i a m s & W i l k i n s , 1973. S i l v e r s t e i n , C . A F a m i l y M a t t e r . A P a r e n t ' s Guide To  H o m o s e x u a l i t y . New Y o r k : M c G r a w - H i l l , 1977. S impson, R. From The C l o s e t s To The C o u r t s . The L e s b i a n  T r a n s i t i o n . New Y o r k : V i k i n g P r e s s , 1976. S o c a r i d e s , C . The Overt Homosexual . New Y o r k : Grune & S t r a t t o n , 1968. S o c a r i d e s , C . H o m o s e x u a l i t y . New Y o r k : Jason A r o n s o n , 1978. S z a s z , T . The Manufac ture Of Madness . New Y o r k : Harper & Row, 1970. T r i p p , C A . The Homosexual M a t r i x . New Y o r k : M c G r a w - H i l l , 1975. W e i n b e r g , G . S o c i e t y And The H e a l t h y Homosexual . New Y o r k : S t . M a r t i n ' s P r e s s , 1972. 62 West, D . J . (1983) . Homosexua l i ty And L e s b i a n i s m . The B r i t i s h  J o u r n a l Of P s y c h i a t r y , 143, 221-226. W i l l i a m s , L. W a l l s of I c e . Theology and S o c i a l P o l i c y . In W. Dwight O b e r h o l t z e r ( E d . ) , I_s Gay Good. E t h i c s and  Homosexual i ty (p . 163-184) . P h i l a d e l p h i a : The Westminster P r e s s , 1971. Woodman, N . , & Lenna , H . C o u n s e l l i n g With Gay Men And Women. San F r a n c i s c o : J o s s e y - B a s s , 1980. W r i g h t , B . A . P h y s i c a l D i s a b i l i t y ^ b. P s y c h o l o g i c a l A p p r o a c h . New Y o r k : Harper & Row, 1960. Zuger , B . (1980) . Homosexual i ty and P a r e n t a l G u i l t . The  B r i t i s h J o u r n a l Of P s y c h i a t r y , 137, 55-57. 63 APPENDIX A O u t l i n e and Nature of I n t e r v i e w Quest ions The i n t e r v i e w w i l l be u n s t r u c t u r e d w i t h the pr imary focus be ing on the s u b j e c t ' s e x p e r i e n c e of coming to terms w i t h t h e i r c h i l d ' s h o m o s e x u a l i t y . The g e n e r a l format of the i n t e r v i e w s i s as f o l l o w s : "I am d o i n g a s tudy to unders tand the meaning of the p a r e n t a l e x p e r i e n c e of coming to terms w i t h a c h i l d ' s h o m o s e x u a l i t y . The s t igma a t t a c h e d to the homosexual i d e n t i t y m a n i f e s t s i t s e l f i n v a r i o u s ways ( i . e . t e s t i n g p a r e n t - c h i l d r e l a t i o n s h i p ) . I w i l l be a s k i n g you q u e s t i o n s about your e x p e r i e n c e of coming to terms w i t h t h i s s t i g m a t i z e d r o l e . " "I would l i k e you to beg in by t h i n k i n g back to the t ime when you l e a r n e d you son /daughter was g a y / l e s b i a n . In as much d e t a i l as p o s s i b l e d e s c r i b e t h i s e x p e r i e n c e e s p e c i a l l y w i t h regards to your f e e l i n g s , t h o u g h t s , and a c t i o n s . I t may h e l p you to t h i n k of your e x p e r i e n c e as a s t o r y w i t h a b e g i n n i n g , m i d d l e , and e n d . " In a d d i t i o n some r e l a t e d q u e s t i o n s w i l l be asked i f they are not c o v e r e d i n the above d e s c r i p t i o n . The na ture of these quest ions i s as f o l l o w s : What key f a c t o r s opened the way f o r your p e r s o n a l unders tand ing? What were the major s t u m b l i n g b l o c k s ? What were your thoughts and f e e l i n g s about y o u r s e l f d u r i n g t h i s e x p e r i e n c e ? What were your thoughts and f e e l i n g s about o t h e r s d u r i n g t h i s e x p e r i e n c e ? Were there any changes in your p e r c e p t i o n s ? What brought them about? What he lped you the most i n coming to terms? Do you f e e l you worked i t through? 64 APPENDIX B I n t e r v i e w 1 ( C a s e M) M: P s a i d he w a n t e d t o t a l k t o me s o he s a y s I 'm g a y . I s a i d y o u ' r e k i d d i n g . He s a i d no I 'm n o t . I s a i d how do y o u know y o u r ' r e g a y ? He s a i d I ' v e b e e n gay s i n c e I was t w e l v e . I s a i d y o u ' r e c r a z y . I t ' s n o t t r u e . He s a i d w e l l i t i s . T h e n he g o t mad a n d t o o k o f f . I was l e f t w i t h t h i s empty f e e l i n g . I was s h o c k e d , h u r t , I c o u l d n ' t b e l i e v e i t . I was u p s e t a n d s t a r t e d t o c r y . U n i t l I saw h i m 4 - 5 d a y s l a t e r , I c o u l d n ' t s l e e p ' c u z i t was on my m i n d . I f I d i d s l e e p I d r e a m e d a b o u t i t . I was a l w a y s a s k i n g m y s e l f q u e s t i o n s . How come? How d i d he know? I went b a c k t o t h e p a s t t o a l l t h e gay f r i e n d s I knew t o p i c k up s o m e t h i n g t h a t c o u l d h a v e h a p p e n e d t h e r e , b u t I c o u l d n ' t c a t c h a n y t h i n g g o i n g on t h e r e . I c o u l d n ' t f i g u r e i t o u t . I g o t s c a r e d c u z I d i d n ' t know w h e t h e r h e ' d g e t A IDS o r n o t . I c r i e d a n d c r i e d , I d i d n ' t know what t o d o . F i n a l l y I t h o u g h t t h e r e must be some s o c i e t y t o h e l p me, s o I f o u n d o u t a b o u t S E A R C H . We, P ' s f a t h e r a n d I, went down t h e r e a n d t a l k e d t o a c o u p l e o f f e l l o w s . One was r e a l n i c e a n d t h e o t h e r was o p p o s i t e , t h e k i n d o f h o m o s e x u a l who f e e l s y o u h a v e no r i g h t t o q u e s t i o n . The o t h e r one u n d e r s t o o d c u z he c o u l d n ' t t e l l h i s p a r e n t s f o r o v e r two y e a r s . He s a i d , " Y o u r s o n must l o v e y o u a l o t i f he c o u l d t e l l y o u he was g a y . " T h a t s t i l l d i d n ' t make me f e e l c o m f o r t a b l e w i t h i t . I t h o u g h t no he c a n ' t b e . H e ' s t o o k i n d , n a i v e , t o o g o o d - l o o k i n g . A l l t h e s e t h i n g s came i n t o i t . What l i f e i s he g o i n g t o h a v e ? I s he g o i n g t o g e t a j o b ? What k i n d o f gay w i l l he b e ? I d i d n ' t r e a l l y know i f he w a s , s o t o h e l p me f r o m b e i n g u p s e t , I s a i d I h a d t o f i n d o u t . I p h o n e d a r o u n d t o f i n d some d o c t o r who d e a l t w i t h h o m o s e x u a l s i n o r d e r t o e x p l a i n t o me a n d t o P i f he was r e a l l y gay o r n o t . A l l t h e w h i l e I 'm c h u r n i n g i n s i d e , c r y i n g , n o t k n o w i n g how t o f e e l . I d i d n ' t want P t o t o u c h me. I c o u l d n ' t b e l i e v e s o m e t h i n g l i k e t h i s c o u l d h a p p e n t o my k i d . I d i d n ' t want h i m t o k i s s me. I w o u l d t h i n k o f h i m b e i n g w i t h o t h e r men a n d i t made me s i c k . I w a n t e d t o l o v e h i m a n d a t t h e same t i m e I d i d n ' t want t o . F i n a l l y , R t o l d h i s d o c t o r who s e n t u s t o D r . S . When he came o u t t o s e e u s , he was gay h i m s e l f . He s a i d , " Y o u h a v e a v e r y n i c e gay s o n . " I t h o u g h t I was d e a l i n g w i t h a d o c t o r who t o o k on h o m o s e x u a l s i n h i s p r a c t i c e a n d c o u l d t e l l me i f P was gay o r n o t . T h i s d o c t o r was gay h i m s e l f a n d I g o t t h e i m p r e s s i o n t h a t he was p l e a s e d t o h a v e a n o t h e r gay p a t i e n t who he c o u l d t e l l how t o be g a y . I n e e d e d t h i s l i k e I n e e d e d a h o l e i n t h e h e a d . So he b r o u g h t us i n t o h i s o f f i c e a n d t o l d u s i t ' s n o t w r o n g b e i n g g a y . By t h i s t i m e I was r e a d y t o t h r o w u p . I c o u l d n ' t a c c e p t t h e f a c t t h a t h i s s e x u a l a c t s w o u l d be s o d i f f e r e n t f r o m my own . He t o l d P , "Go k i s s y o u r m o t h e r , " b u t I c o u l d n ' t . I d i d n ' t want h i m t o t o u c h me a n d I was s o u p s e t a b o u t i t . I s t i l l l o v e d h i m b e c a u s e P a n d I h a d a v e r y c l o s e r e l a t i o n s h i p b u t I c o u l d n ' t 65 b r i n g m y s e l f t o a c c e p t t h a t he was g a y . I k e p t t h i n k i n g i f i t was t r u e . I c o u l d n ' t e a t a n d a l l t h e bad t h i n g s y o u h e a r a b o u t g a y s y o u wonder i f h e ' s g o i n g t o t u r n o u t t h a t way. Y o u r m i n d i s b l o w n . I t h o u g h t t h a t g a y s I knew a s f r i e n d s m i g h t h a v e done s o m e t h i n g t o h i m . I t h i n k t h e t h i n g t h a t h e l p s i s t i m e . T h e r e was so much b a t t l i n g b a c k a n d f o r t h . A t f i r s t I d i d n ' t want h i s gay f r i e n d s h e r e . I was e v e n s c a r e d o f h i m u s i n g t h e b a t h r o o m . I s t i l l d i d n ' t know w h i c h way t o t h i n k so I went t o my own d o c t o r . T h a t ' s an e x e r c i s e I w o u l d n ' t want a n y o n e t o go t h r o u g h . F o r t w e n t y - f i v e m i n u t e s he t o l d me f r o m s q u a r e one what g a y s do s e x u a l l y . He saw i t a s a j o k e . He was f l i p p a n t . He t o l d me a b o u t how P s h o u l d u s e condoms. I k e p t s a y i n g d o n ' t t e l l me more b e c a u s e I'm g e t t i n g s i c k . He s a i d y o u c a n t h r o w up i n my w a s t e b a s k e t . I l e f t a n d d i d n ' t go b a c k t h e r e a g a i n . I c o u l d n ' t a c c e p t t h e way he t o l d me a n d g o i n g i n t o d e t a i l a b o u t s e x u a l s t u f f a n d d i s e a s e s . I was so u p s e t . I c o u l d n ' t u n d e r s t a n d . I t was a w o r s e s h o c k t h a n f i n d i n g o u t I h a d c a n c e r . On a s c a l e o f t e n t h i s was a t l e a s t an e i g h t . I l o o k a t P a n d I must s a y i t ' s s o m e t h i n g I h a v n ' t g o t t e n o v e r b u t h a v e l e a r n e d t o l i v e w i t h i t . We h a d o u r ups a n d downs. He was a g g r e s s i v e . I c o u l d n ' t s a y a n y t h i n g t o h i m . He was m outhy. We c o u l d n ' t t a l k . He s t o r m e d i n a n d o u t . Our r e l a t i o n s h i p k e p t d e t e r i o r a t i n g , y e t my l o v e was t h e r e . I f e l t p u l l e d a n d p u l l e d . Then I f o u n d o u t t h e o n l y way I c o u l d l i v e w i t h m y s e l f w i t h o u t b e i n g u p s e t a n d s i c k was t o l i v e w i t h i t , t a k e t h e good t i m e s w i t h t h e b a d . He w o u l d a s k me t o go f o r w a l k s a l o n g t h e b e a c h , i n gay c r u i s i n g t e r r i t o r y w h i c h was h a r d on me b e c a u s e I w o u l d see a l l t h i s a n d come home d r a i n e d . I d i d n ' t want t o n o t go w i t h h i m b e c a u s e I d i d n ' t want t o l o s e h i s l o v e o r f r i e n d s h i p , y e t a t t h e same t i m e I d i d n ' t want t o s u b j e c t m y s e l f t o t h a t k i n d o f an o u t i n g . F i n a l l y he j o i n e d a gay g r o u p p l u s c o n t i n u e d t o s e e D r . S f o r s i x m o n t h s . He d o e s n ' t t a l k t o me a b o u t s e x u a l a c t i v i t y b e c a u s e I c a n ' t d e a l w i t h i t . T h i s h a s been g o i n g on f o r t h r e e y e a r s . The f i r s t y e a r and a h a l f was t h e w o r s t , c o m i n g t o g e t h e r t o a c c e p t he was gay a n d b e i n g a b l e t o do i t w i t h o u t f e e l i n g p a n i c , f e a r , h u r t a n d c r y i n g . I t t o o k me a y e a r a n d a h a l f b e f o r e I c o u l d a c t u a l l y d e a l w i t h i t b e c a u s e I was g o i n g b e t w e e n h a t i n g , l o v i n g , b o t h e r i n g , n o t b o t h e r i n g w i t h h i m . I d i d n ' t know how t o a c t . When he came I w o u l d be n e r v o u s b e c a u s e I d i d n ' t want any o u t b u r s t s . I w a n t e d t o know what was h a p p e n i n g a n d a t t h e same t i m e I d i d n ' t s o I d i d n ' t a s k h i m any q u e s t i o n s t h a t m i g h t make him r e a c t . T h i s was a c h a n g e f o r me i n how I was w i t h h i m b e f o r e b e c a u s e I f i n a l l y h a d t o a c c e p t i t . So, a f t e r one a n d a h a l f y e a r s I t a l k e d t o h i m a n d s a i d i f t h a t ' s t h e way y o u ' r e g o i n g t o be t h a t ' s f i n e , b u t s p a r e me t h e g o r y d e t a i l s a nd l o o k a f t e r y o u r s e l f . I a s k e d h i m n o t t o go w i t h o l d e r men b e c a u s e I d i d n ' t want t h a t . Now t h a t h e ' s w i t h t h e g r o u p he c a n i d e n t i f y w i t h o t h e r s . He's b r i n g i n g h i s gay f r i e n d s h e r e a n d I f i n d t h e m, f o r t h e most p a r t , v e r y n i c e a n d c o n s e r v a t i v e . I f e e l i f t h e y c a n h a n d l e b e i n g gay a n d a r e h a p p y w i t h i t , t h e n I w i l l be h a p p y w i t h i t . I t h i n k i f P g o t t o t h e p o i n t where he c o u l d n ' t h a n d l e b e i n g 66 gay I would go back to the same f e e l i n g s I had a t the b e g i n n i n g when I found o u t ; the f e a r , worry , a p p r e h e n s i o n . I c a n ' t handle h i s f lamboyant f r i e n d s because i t makes me f e e l v e r y u n c o m f o r t a b l e . I do go out w i t h him and h i s f r i e n d N, but I f e e l uncomfortab le because o t h e r gays look at me as to say what are you t r y i n g to d o . Are you t r y i n g to pass your k i d s o f f to gay p r o s t i t u t i o n or something? I get t h i s f e e l i n g so i t ' s a t r a u m a t i c e x p e r i e n c e , but I ' v e t r i e d not to d w e l l on i t because i f I d o n ' t go when they ask me, I d o n ' t want to hur t them by s a y i n g no . I'm s t i l l not sure whether P i s t e s t i n g me or t r y i n g to h u r t me w i t h t h i s gay d e a l . I f e e l i f I want to keep P ' s l o v e and f r i e n d s h i p I ' l l have to go a long w i t h t h i s . T h i s makes me mad sometimes because I t h i n k how come I have to change for you but y o u ' r e not w i l l i n g to change for the s t r a i g h t s . T h i s has always been a r u n n i n g b a t t l e f or us and when we have a b a t t l e of him be ing gay I always go i n t o a d e p r e s s i o n . So, I'm always nervous around him because I'm always t r y i n g to make t h i n g s n i c e . T h i s i s s t i l l an edgy s i t u a t i o n but I f i n d i f I do i t t h i s way I d o n ' t have as many p r o b l e m s . Now another c o n f u s i n g t h i n g has e n t e r e d the p i c t u r e , a g i r l , not a l e s b i a n , a s t r a i g h t g i r l who's c r a z y over P and P i s c r a z y about h e r . T h i s puts me i n a dilemma in my acceptance of P b e i n g gay because I'm t h i n k i n g , i s he go ing to come out of t h i s ? Is t h i s a phase h e ' s go ing through? Is t h i s j u s t a f r i e n d s h i p ? She a c c e p t s him be ing gay but I'm not sure of what they have g o i n g . I'm hoping f o r something but I'm not g e t t i n g my hopes too h i g h . E : You t a l k e d about f e e l i n g edgy and nervous around P . Is t h i s d i f f e r e n t from how your r e l a t i o n s h i p was be fore f i n d i n g out he was gay? M: Yes , I ' v e always t o l d P e x a c t l y what I f e l t and thought , but I was so a f r a i d of a l i e n a t i n g him and l o s i n g h im. T h a t ' s why I was always so n i c e . I f i g u r e I have to hang on t i l h e ' s twenty . Then h e ' l l know i f h e ' s c o m p l e t e l y gay. He ' s got i t i n c o n t r o l or h e ' s n o t . By then he s h o u l d have something go ing for h i m s e l f and I can f e e l more r e l a x e d . I f I was to a l i e n a t e myse l f from him how c o u l d I be t h e r e i f he needed me? E : D u r i n g t h i s t ime what were your f e e l i n g s towards o t h e r s ? M: I used to worry a t f i r s t because I d i d n ' t want peop le to know he was gay. But once P came to v i s i t me and a g i r l who l o o k s a f t e r the b u i l d i n g s a i d , "Your son i s gay ." I s a i d , "Yes ." She s a i d , "So what?" A f t e r t h a t I thought , why shou ld I say no when people ask i f P i s gay? Before t h a t , I d i d n ' t want people to know, but a f t e r tha t I thought why s h o u l d I h i d e i t . I t ' s not as i f the w o r l d ' s come to an end . I t ' s not such a bad t h i n g i f he can handle i t . I o n l y thought i t would be harder for a gay person to s u r v i v e i n t h i s w o r l d than a s t r a i g h t and t h i s made me f e e l sad for P . So I ' v e got 67 to the p o i n t where I d o n ' t c a r e what people t h i n k . E : What he lped you the most i n coming to terms wi th t h i s ? M: I d i d n ' t want to l o s e P and f e a r of l o s i n g him kept me t r y i n g my best to be there to unders tand i t a l l . I was a l s o a b l e to h e l p my own s e l f by my own r e a s o n i n g , p u l l i n g i t a l l toge ther a f t e r the i n i t i a l shock. T h i s was h e l p e d by see ing a p s y c h i a t r i s t who gave me books and t a l k e d about i t , but most ly was by d i g g i n g deep w i t h i n y o u r s e l f , r a t i o n a l i z i n g , t h i n k i n g about i t , most ly by m y s e l f . E : Do you f e e l you worked i t through? M: I'm not s u r e . I s t i l l have t h a t f e e l i n g l i k e I'm masquerading . I go out of my way to be n i c e and watch e v e r y t h i n g I say . I have to be on my g u a r d . I s t i l l am not sure i f he ' s t r y i n g to use t h i s to manipula te me. I t ' s s t i l l very f r e s h , very h u r t f u l and v e r y r e a l . I h a v e n ' t c o m p l e t e l y a c c e p t e d i t . I'm s t i l l hur t about i t but I'm a b l e to d e a l w i t h i t , whereas a c o u p l e of y e a r s ago I c o u l d n ' t . ^68 I n t e r v i e w 2 (Case M) E : What does coming to terms mean for you? M: I t means I have to accept i t . I c a n ' t say I t o t a l l y have . I t r y by b e i n g n i c e to h i s f r i e n d s cuz I f e e l i f I t r y to be happy, be c a r e f u l of what I say and make t h i n g s f o r them when they come o v e r , then t h a t w i l l make me f e e l b e t t e r . But i f some remark c o n c e r n i n g the gay l i f e s t y l e happens , I'm r i g h t back at square one a g a i n . So I haven ' t t o t a l l y accepted i t but t h i s i s my way of t r y i n g to come to terms wi th i t . I t r y not to get too s e r i o u s and ask q u e s t i o n s l i k e how's your h e a l t h cuz I f e e l at l e a s t I s t i l l get to see him and know tha t h e ' s OK. For me i t ' s b e t t e r to be j o v i a l and mask the h u r t than not see him at a l l . E : D i d you g r i e v e ? M: Y e s , very much. I t was l i k e he was dead . T h i n g s we used to do I c o u l d n ' t s t a n d . I d i d n ' t want him to touch or k i s s me or even s i t c l o s e to me. He was f o r e v e r h o l d i n g my hand but I j u s t c o u l d n ' t do tha t e i t h e r . So t h i s was e a t i n g away at me. T h i s was my g r i e f . T h i s i s how I f e l t and I s t i l l f e e l , l i k e I l o s t t h a t r e l a t i o n s h i p we had be fore I found out he was gay . I c a n ' t r e l a t e to anyone e l s e e i t h e r . R and I d o n ' t have a n y t h i n g to do w i t h each o ther not s i n c e t h i s happened. We never get c l o s e anymore because i f I would the f i r s t t h i n g t h a t comes to my mind i s what would P be d o i n g . I guess i t ' s because P and I had such a good r e l a t i o n s h i p be fore t h a t a n y t h i n g tha t p e r t a i n s to tha t b r i n g s i t a l l back . A l l the h u r t comes back about h i s l i f e s t y l e and whether h e ' s go ing to make i t or n o t . E : What has h e l p e d you the most i n r e a c h i n g the acceptance you have today? M: My own f e a r of l o s i n g h im. I'm a very s e n s i t i v e p e r s o n , and f e e l s o r r y f o r P i n how h e ' s go ing to make out i n l i f e . T h e r e f o r e I f e e l I have to be u n d e r s t a n d i n g , have to mask my f e e l i n g s i n o r d e r to make sure h e ' s a l l r i g h t . A l s o to l i s t e n and read more about i t . E : What do you f e e l i s h i n d e r i n g you from a c c e p t i n g beyond the p o i n t you have reached? M: S c a r e d . I'm a f r a i d because gays are so d i s c r i m i n a t e d a g a i n s t , and even though I'm h u r t by him I s t i l l f e e l I'm the one who has to put t h i s a s i d e and be there f o r him i n case he needs me. Maybe i f he was o l d e r I wouldn ' t f e e l t h i s as much, but i t ' s as i f h e ' s not the same son he was be fore he was gay . I t ' s j u s t not the same f e e l i n g . E : What would you t e l l a parent of a gay c h i l d i f they came 69 to you for support? M: I would t e l l them to expect a l l k inds of t h i n g s . To expect changes i n t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h t h e i r son and husband, u p h e a v a l , c r y i n g , not s l e e p i n g , the dreams. E v e r y t i m e you see a gay on the s t r e e t y o u ' l l be wondering i f t h a t ' s go ing to be my son . I t ' s l i k e a whole changeover in your l i f e that you have to t r y and come to terms w i t h . I t might be b e t t e r to move to another town so they d o n ' t see them o f t e n . I would o f f e r my support i n any way I c o u l d . T a l k to them, spend time w i t h them, do t h i n g s w i t h them to h e l p get t h e i r minds o f f i t cuz t h e i r whole l i f e w i l l change. They w i l l be l o n e l y because y o u ' r e l o n e l y w i t h i n y o u r s e l f . I t h i n k t h i s l o n e l i n e s s i s a l s o my g r i e f and t h i s i s why I have a h a r d time t a l k i n g about i t , why I c r y and break down because I'm s t i l l g r i e v i n g . I'm t r y i n g to t e l l myse l f that he w i l l be a b l e to handle the d i s c r i m i n a t i o n and r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s of be ing gay, yet I see k i d s s e l l i n g t h e i r bod ie s and h e ' s at the t u r n i n g p o i n t and I wonder which way he w i l l go. P wants the best t h i n g s out of l i f e so I wonder which way he ' s go ing to go. E : Is there a n y t h i n g you would l i k e to add t h a t might f u r t h e r the meaning of your e x p e r i e n c e ? M: Y e s . When something happens tha t P r e j e c t s me I d o n ' t know who to t u r n to or t a l k to so the h u r t i s t h e r e and I go and get something to d r i n k , to numb i t away. I t ' s my way of-r e l e a s e and I c r y . T h i s always happens over P . T h i n g s he says or comes out w i t h . We always d i d e v e r y t h i n g t o g e t h e r . Now sometimes he r e a l l y r e j e c t s me and uses me. I d o n ' t know how h e ' s go ing to r e a c t to me and t h i s confuses me and keeps me from working through him be ing gay. I l ove him so much and we've been so c l o s e and I guess t h a t ' s why I f i n d i t so hard now cuz h e ' s c h o o s i n g that o ther type of wor ld and I'm a l l o w e d in when f e e l s l i k e i t and k i c k e d out when he wants me o u t . T h a t ' s hard for me to a c c e p t . One minute I'm happy, the next I'm c r y i n g . 70 I n t e r v i e w 1 (Case P) P: The n i g h t tha t R t o l d us we weren' t tha t s u r p r i s e d because he was q u i t e o l d and h a d n ' t had any g i r l f r i e n d s , j u s t f r i e n d s . He t o l d us and I remembered the shock of f e e l i n g l i k e your hear t a lmost s tops when you r e a l l y found o u t . At t h i s p o i n t , because I had been brought up s t r i c t l y , I h a r d l y knew what gays or homosexuals were. So R t o l d us and we t a l k e d . We t o l d him we s t i l l l ove you but i t i s a shock . He went home and A and I t a l k e d about i t . At f i r s t we got a l i t t l e mad, a n g r y . Why, he won't be m a r r i e d . He won't g i v e us g r a n d c h i l d r e n . I remember then s a y i n g , we're not go ing to l e t t h i s r u i n our l i v e s . I t ' s not as i f h e ' s a murderer , or on dope, or has committed a c r i m e . We're go ing to go on from here and we must not l e t i t r u i n our l i v e s . We thought o n l y of o u r s e l v e s at t h i s p o i n t , not of h im. We were s e l f i s h and d i d n ' t r e a l i z e how hard i t was for him to t e l l us , not a t t h i s t i m e . We were p r e t t y s i c k about i t because even 6 y e a r s ago gays weren' t as out as much as they are now. I had never met one, never had any c o n t a c t w i t h one and suddenly our son was one. We f i n a l l y went to bed . Now I ' l l t e l l you why I s t a r t e d to accept them more, because we met o ther gay f r i e n d s of h i s and we r e a l i z e d they were j u s t as n i c e as anyone e l s e . I d o n ' t know what we expec ted but we thought t h e r e would be something wrong w i t h them and not want to be around them. Then I met more of h i s men and women f r i e n d s and I l i k e d them. In f a c t I thought they were r e a l l y g r e a t . In the ensu ing y e a r s we read more books and watched more T . V . shows about gays . Be fore t h i s I would t u r n i t o f f b a s i c a l l y because of my u p b r i n g i n g by a domineer ing mother . We'd read more about them and then began to r e a l i z e how many of them there r e a l l y were. We never r e a l i z e d t h e r e ' d be 50,000 i n Vancouver and hundreds of thousands i n the S t a t e s . T h i s h e l p e d so much because i t was a g a i n s t the norm but there were so many of them. We read that p s y c h i a t r i s t s s a i d they c o u l d n ' t h e l p i t and t r u e , I do look back a b i t a f t e r and even as a l i t t l e boy R would p l a y w i t h d o l l s and t h i s i s r i g h t i n l i n e w i t h what they say . I thought about how he l o v e d a l l the p r e t t y t h i n g s as a c h i l d and began to t h i n k t h a t R c o u l d n ' t h e l p i t . I t ' s j u s t l i k e we're not gay and he i s . We c a n ' t h e l p what we are and he c a n ' t h e l p tha t h e ' s gay and he has t o l d us t h i s . I s t i l l have a b l o c k though i n t e l l i n g f r i e n d s . I d o n ' t t e l l anyone. I t h i n k our r e l a t i v e s a l l know because he t o l d h i s c o u s i n , but they have never mentioned i t to us and I never mentioned i t to them. I have t h i s b l o c k but f e e l t h i s i s not the k i n d of t h i n g you do anyways because i t ' s h i s p e r o g a t i v e to t e l l who he wants and i t ' s our p e r o g a t i v e to not t e l l . I t h i n k t h i s may have to do w i t h i t be ing a g a i n s t the norm and t r a d i t i o n . A l s o because of the st igma a s s o c i a t e d w i t h i t . E : What were your thoughts and f e e l i n g s about y o u r s e l f at t h i s t ime? 71 P: At f i r s t we blamed o u r s e l v e s . I t must have been something we d i d . A s h o u l d have p l a y e d f o o t b a l l w i t h h im. He was away a l o t . I was the one who brought him up more, so tha t mother t h i n g of be ing wi th him too much came to mind . I guess I was going a g a i n s t the norm cuz we would have l i k e d to see him m a r r i e d and have c h i l d r e n and I t h i n k t h a t he w i l l be l o n e l y l a t e r on i n l i f e when he has no c h i l d r e n or g r a n d c h i l d r e n . I f e e l very sad for t h a t . I d o n ' t l i k e to t a l k to him about i t too much. I remember the n i g h t he t o l d u s . We t o l d him we had suspec ted i t but d i d n ' t t a l k too much about i t . He t a l k e d q u i t e a b i t and s a i d i t was very hard to t e l l us and he d i d n ' t want to h u r t u s . We thought , t h e n , why are you t e l l i n g us? You know i t ' s go ing to h u r t us , but now I r e a l i z e i t was b e t t e r f o r h i m . We a l s o thought why c a n ' t he change? Why does he have to be? Why d o e s n ' t he marry someone n i c e ? S u r e l y , he c o u l d meet some n i c e g i r l and a d o p t . L a t e r we r e a l i z e d t h i s wou ldn ' t work, but at the time we thought i t would . We were v e r y , very u p s e t , e s p e c i a l l y A more than me because I thought we c a n ' t undo i t . He ' s gay and t h a t ' s i t . We got to go on from t h e r e . We e i t h e r have him as a son or we disown him and we d i d n ' t want to do t h a t . We were s o r t of hur t or mad and thought t h i n g s l i k e I d o n ' t want to see h im, I d o n ' t want to be bo thered w i t h h im, I d o n ' t want any more p r o b l e m s . T h i s went through our minds , but we came out of tha t s a y i n g we won't l e t i t r u i n our l i f e , and w e ' l l t r y to u n d e r s t a n d . T h a t ' s when we s t a r t e d r e a d i n g about i t . I d i d n ' t c r y or a n y t h i n g tha t n i g h t but I was very u p s e t , a l t h o u g h i t wasn't as b i g a shock as R thought i t would be because i t had e n t e r e d both our minds . T h i s was j u s t c o n f i r m a t i o n of our f e a r s . We thought maybe i f we brought him up d i f f e r e n t l y he w o u l d n ' t be gay, but r e a d i n g t o l d us by 4 or 5 t h a t ' s i t . For a c o u p l e of months we kept t h i n k i n g maybe i f we d i d t h i s or t h a t , p l a y e d b a s e b a l l w i th h im, maybe we would have changed h im. But the r e a d i n g , movies and p l a y s on T . V . r e a l l y he lped me unders tand i t b e t t e r and see even though i t ' s not the norm there are so many o ther people tha t are gay, and t h a t ' s the way i t i s . Maybe i t ' s the way of keeping the p o p u l a t i o n down. Who knows? Even wolves have another male w o l f , the u n c l e , who d o e s n ' t mate, who guards the l i t t l e ones w h i l e the p a r e n t s go o f f to f i n d f o o d . I t ' s been proven t h e r e a r e gay a n i m a l s and maybe i t does keep the p o p u l a t i o n down. Maybe I'm r a t i o n a l i z i n g but t h i s i s the way we thought i n t r y i n g to unders tand and accept i t b e t t e r . E : Do you f e e l you worked i t through? P: P r e t t y w e l l , except I s t i l l won't t a l k about i t to o u t s i d e r s . I t h i n k , though, tha t t h i s has to do w i t h my u p b r i n g i n g and our age group of 60, who have been brought up to not t a l k about t h i n g s l i k e t h a t . We j u s t d i d n ' t t a l k about sex . I w i l l never work tha t through because i t ' s i n g r a i n e d i n me and always w i l l be . I h e l p e d m y s e l f , t o o , by n o t i n g the famous people in the w o r l d who were gay; Oscar W i l d e , you name i t . These people were v e r y p r o d u c t i v e and 72 were good p e o p l e . There are so many who are gay t h a t are e x t r a o r d i n a r y people and t h i s made me f e e l more open and a c c e p t i n g of i t . At f i r s t you f e e l y o u ' r e the o n l y one, then you r e a l i z e there are so many of them and they are good p e o p l e . Now I f e e l l i k e most d o c t o r s , t h a t i t ' s in there when t h e y ' r e b o r n . I t took a w h i l e , but I f e e l h e ' s a good son and very t h o u g h t f u l . I f e e l very good and f e e l I ' v e a c c e p t e d him more than my husband. My o n l y concern i s that he w i l l be l o n e l y l a t e r on i n l i f e and t h i s makes me f e e l s o r r y . 73 I n t e r v i e w 2 (Case P) E : What does coming to terms mean to you now? P: To me i t means that I accept R, h i s views and h i s l i f e s t y l e . I suppose I wish he was s t r a i g h t , but I accept him as he i s . For the most p a r t I am c o m f o r t a b l e w i t h R and h i s f r i e n d s but i f my f r i e n d s ask q u e s t i o n s about R and i f h e ' s got a g i r l f r i e n d and i s he go ing to marry I f e e l uneasy . I say t h i n g s l i k e he d o e s n ' t seem to want to get m a r r i e d . I never t e l l them. I would f e e l uncomfor tab le i f he was the type tha t d r e s s e d up. That would r e a l l y upset me, but R i s n ' t l i k e t h a t . I t h i n k I do accept R and see h i s homosexua l i ty as normal to him as h e t e r o s e x u a l i t y i s to me. E : What was h a r d e s t f or you i n coming to terms w i t h R be ing gay? P: That R would never marry and have c h i l d r e n , what we thought was a normal l i f e . I t h e l p e d me to look at m a r r i e d c o u p l e s whose d i v o r c e r a t e i s so h i g h and see t h a t i t ' s not a l l that g r e a t be ing m a r r i e d e i t h e r . They have j u s t as many problems as R ' s go ing to have . There i s a s e l f i s h n e s s in t h i s because people are always t a l k i n g about t h e i r g r a n d c h i l d r e n and we have none. E : D i d you g r i e v e ? P: Y e s , we g r i e v e d the image we expec ted or wanted him to be . We had the image tha t R would be s u c c e s s f u l , which he i s , and have a f a m i l y . Now t h a t ' s gone and i n p l a c e of i t i s a bad image which you get through T . V . , the news, and the media . Once i n a wh i l e you get a r e a l l y good one and t h i s r e p l a c e s a l l the bad ones . I f e e l b e t t e r because more and more p o s i t i v e images of gays are p r e s e n t e d . T h i s g r i e v i n g was not l i k e mourning a d e a t h . I t was more a f e e l i n g of l o s s . I remember p l e a d i n g w i t h h im, " C o u l d n ' t you t r y to be h e t e r o s e x u a l ? " Then I read more and r e a l i z e d t h i s was i m p o s s i b l e . Then I s t o p p e d . I r e a l i z e d t h a t R l i k e s women as f r i e n d s and gets a l o n g w e l l w i t h them but he i s t o t a l l y homosexual . To R t h i s i s normal and I b e l i e v e h im. E : I f a p a r e n t of a gay came to you for h e l p what would you say and do? P: I ' d t e l l them what I went t h r o u g h , the a n g e r , blame, t h i n k i n g no i t ' s not t r u e , i t c o u l d n ' t be. I t h i n k they might go through what my husband's go ing t h r o u g h , s a y i n g R ' s b i s e x u a l , which I d o n ' t t h i n k , because they might go through i t . I t h i n k t h i s might h e l p them see there i s n o t h i n g they can do but accept i t and s t i l l l o v e t h e i r son or daughter and hope t h a t they w i l l be happy. I t would be e a s i e r to accept i f they read more about i t and f i n d out how many 74 t h e r e are because when you f i r s t hear about i t a l l you see are the ones tha t f i t the s t e r e o t y p e s and you t h i n k t h i s i s what my son w i l l be . What am I go ing to do? I f h e ' s go ing to d r e s s up l i k e t h a t , i t would be t e r r i b l e . You r e a l i z e that t h i s i s o n l y a m i n o r i t y when you read about i t , and tha t the m a j o r i t y of gays are r e a l l y j u s t the same as u s . And when you come r i g h t down to i t , i t ' s t h e i r b u s i n e s s . I f e e l l e a r n i n g about i t i s the b i g g e s t h e l p because so much of the r o t t e n s t u f f i s p l a y e d up . I f we had f r i e n d s who had a gay son , t h i s would h e l p a g r e a t d e a l because you would f e e l t h e r e ' s o ther people i n the same s i t u a t i o n . You are not the o n l y one. I f our f r i e n d s came out and s a i d our son i s gay, I would t e l l them about R because I t h i n k t h i s would h e l p them. That would be the best h e l p of a l l . They would i d e n t i f y w i t h o ther p a r e n t s . I t h i n k t h i s would have h e l p e d us a l o t , e s p e c i a l l y i f they were f r i e n d s ; knowing i t wou ldn ' t be spread around because i t ' s s o r t of a s e c r e t . We're not out of the c l o s e t . 75 I n t e r v i e w 1 (CASE Q) Q: When U phoned and wanted to know i f I was a l o n e , she came to see me and t o l d me. I had no idea what i t was a b o u t . U s u a l l y you do , but I wasn't aware. Going back to U ' s c h i l d h o o d , I d i d t h i s a f t e r w a r d s , t h i n k i n g about i t . She was a very obed ien t c h i l d . In s c h o o l she had e l o c u t i o n and m u s i c . She l o v e d l e a r n i n g and was a very a t t r a c t i v e g i r l . When she reached her teens she became much more s p a r t a n . D u r i n g t h i s teenage p e r i o d she became a very s e l f - r e l i a n t person so when she t o l d me about i t , I knew she had g i v e n i t a l o t of t h o u g h t . E : What happened a f t e r she c a l l e d you? Q: W e l l , she was c o u n s e l l i n g i n a s c h o o l , c a l l e d me and came o v e r . We sat down at the t a b l e w i t h a cup of t e a , as we're d o i n g . She t a l k e d about v a r i o u s t h i n g s then s a i d I have something b i g to t e l l y o u . I d o n ' t know whether you r e a l i z e i t or n o t . Then she t o l d me. I d i d n ' t g r a s p i t . I knew what she s a i d but i t d i d n ' t s i n k i n . I d o n ' t know i f i t was shock . I j u s t k i n d of heard i t but d i d n ' t r e s p o n d . E : What d i d she a c t u a l l y say to you? Q: She j u s t s a i d tha t she was a l e s b i a n and had known t h i s for some t i m e . I asked her how long and she s a i d she had a f e e l i n g about i t b e f o r e she was m a r r i e d . I thought maybe her marr iage was an unconsc ious way of f i g h t i n g i t . I wasn't too e m o t i o n a l about i t . I was k i n d of b lank about i t at the t i m e . You see , I heard i t i n my ears but I d i d n ' t seem to hear i t i n my h e a r t and body. She had j u s t t o l d me something and the way she t o l d me was v e r y g e n t l y , so i t p r o b a b l y h e l p e d me from be ing e m o t i o n a l . E : C o u l d you t e l l me more about the b lank f e e l i n g s you e x p e r i e n c e d ? Q: W e l l I was s o r t of s t u n n e d . I t was a lmost a dead f e e l i n g so we t a l k e d a l i t t l e l o n g e r about the d i f f e r e n t t h i n g s she had encountered and what had l e d to t h i s p o s i t i o n . I a c c e p t e d e v e r y t h i n g she s a i d . I have always done t h i s . Maybe i f I had been more dominant , f o r example, spoken up about my f e e l i n g s about her m a r r i a g e or her d e c i s i o n to do t h i s e d u c a t i o n a l endeavour . You see I saw t h i s as something e l s e , so I go a l o n g wi th i t . So you see a l i t t l e b i t of t h a t was in w i t h i t . I ' v e always a c c e p t e d what she ' s d e c i d e d so i f t h i s i s what she ' s s a y i n g i t must be t r u e . She never does a n y t h i n g o f f the top of her head so i t must be t r u e . We sat t h e r e f o r some time w i t h a l i t t l e s i l e n c e and a l i t t l e t a l k . Then I d i d become q u i t e e m o t i o n a l . I d i d n ' t c r y . I became a n g r y . My anger was d o n ' t you t e l l your f a t h e r and your b r o t h e r . I d o n ' t know why I r e a c t e d l i k e t h i s r e a l l y . I f e l t 76 i t would h u r t them to know about t h i s w i th h e r , so she c o u l d t a l k to me but was not to t e l l them. T h i s came up a f t e r about an hour or so of t a l k i n g . At f i r s t I d i d n ' t r e a l l y t h i n k i t got i n , but when i t s t a r t e d moving t h i s was my f i r s t r e a l l y e m o t i o n a l r e a c t i o n . T h i s was f i n e w i t h U and she l e f t . D u r i n g the f o l l o w i n g weeks I thought and thought and c o u l d n ' t s tay a lone because I would t h i n k , so I went out to walk or go to s t o r e s where I would see p e o p l e . I t r e a l l y bo thered me and I c o u l d n ' t t a l k to anyone about i t . E : What were you t h i n k i n g and f e e l i n g d u r i n g t h i s t ime? Q: I c o u l d n ' t unders tand i t , I guess . There was some g u i l t cuz I thought t h i s must be my f a u l t , something I d i d do or d i d n ' t do . Maybe, i f in her teens I had been a dominant f o r c e i n s t e a d of l e t t i n g her go her own way. I t r u s t e d her to make d e c i s i o n s and she proved t h i s to me. By d o i n g t h i s perhaps I was wrong. I d i d n ' t know i f I was but I thought maybe I was. T h i s went on f o r months and I became s i c k e r and s i c k e r and uncomfor tab le to l i v e w i t h . I was m i s e r a b l e . I c o u l d n ' t s tay a l o n e . I went out more and more to s t o r e s . You c a n ' t c r y or be too glum w a l k i n g among people so I d i d t h i s a l o t , an awful l o t . I never spoke to anyone about i t . I t r i e d to keep busy w i t h o ther t h i n g s l i k e w i t h my f r i e n d s but I never t o l d them about i t . F i n a l l y I got in r e a l l y bad shape so I went to my d o c t o r . As I was t a l k i n g to h im, I s t a r t e d to c r y . He ' s an o l d f r i e n d . He was s e v e n t y - s i x . H e ' d been our d o c t o r so he knows our home. He knows u s . So I t o l d him and he s a i d so what. He d i d n ' t even say i s tha t so? He j u s t s a i d so what. He s a i d I ' v e got l o t s of p a t i e n t s and even f r i e n d s . I s a i d but i t ' s not your d a u g h t e r . We t a l k e d a b i t and I f e l t b e t t e r a f t e r t h a t , be ing a b l e to exchange t h i s . We t a l k e d for about an hour and I r e a l l y d i d f e e l b e t t e r . He was g r e a t . Maybe he put on a l i t t l e f o r me but i t r e a l l y h e l p e d me f e e l a l o t b e t t e r . E : Do you know what i t was t h a t made you f e e l b e t t e r ? Q: I t was the f e e l i n g of s a y i n g i t out l o u d . I s a i d to h im, "My daughter i s a l e s b i a n . " I h a d n ' t s a i d i t out l o u d because I had been s a y i n g i t to myse l f a l l the t i m e . I s a i d i t out l o u d and d o i n g tha t h e l p e d so much. E : When you were s a y i n g to y o u r s e l f , "My daughter i s a l e s b i a n , " what meaning d i d tha t have for you? Q: At t h a t t ime to me i t meant she was d i f f e r e n t and w o u l d n ' t be a b l e to enjoy the so c a l l e d normal l i f e , m a r r i a g e , c h i l d r e n . A l l t h i s was v e r y jumbled f o r me. There was no d e f i n i t e l i n e of t h o u g h t . I t was d i f f e r e n t a l l the t i m e . I would go o f f in a tangent d i f f e r e n t ways and to say t h i s f l a t l y to a man s i t t i n g a c r o s s a desk from y o u , i t was such an o u t l e t . By t h i s t ime i t was almost a year and I was a l l chewed up . 77 E : Were t h e r e o ther f a c t o r s t h a t he lped you i n u n d e r s t a n d i n g and a c c e p t i n g your d a u g h t e r ' s l e s b i a n i s m ? Q: Y e s , she had a room-mate tha t I was extremely fond o f . T h i s h e l p e d c o n s i d e r a b l y . We a l l l o v e d h e r . My husband and my son were c r a z y over h e r . T h i s he lped me a l o t . J u s t a f t e r I t a l k e d w i t h my d o c t o r , U c a l l e d and s a i d she had to t a l k to me. I thought , there c a n ' t be a n y t h i n g more, s u r e l y . W e l l she came over and t o l d me she had got ten m a r r i e d but d i d n ' t p l a n on the t r a d i t i o n a l l i v i n g arrangements w i t h h im. She s a i d Dad w i l l need to know t h i s . I t o l d him and he s a i d so what about the r e s t of her l i f e ? He knew and I asked how and h i s r e p l y was do you t h i n k I'm dumb? I guess people t h i n k they are cuz I • thought I was h a n d l i n g i t a l l by m y s e l f , whereas he knew a l l the t i m e . Him s a y i n g t h i s opened the way f o r us to d i s c u s s i t . We were both e m o t i o n a l , very d i s a p p o i n t e d and down. I t was a very bad p e r i o d for both of us to have to accept i t . We d i d n ' t unders tand i t , never g e t t i n g i n t o i t at a l l . At t h a t t ime U s t a r t e d g i v i n g me books to r e a d . The books c l a i m e d that p a r e n t s c a n ' t blame themse lves , t h a t i t ' s j u s t born i n t o p e o p l e . T h i n g s went a long f ine- for a w h i l e . She l i v e d wi th E and t h i s made a tremendous d i f f e r e n c e i n our a c c e p t a n c e . We v i s i t e d them and they came h e r e . My son ' s c h i l d r e n l o v e d them both and would s tay week-ends w i t h them, so e v e r y t h i n g was g o i n g a l o n g n i c e l y . We were a c c e p t i n g very very w e l l I t h i n k . E was a c c e p t e d i n the whole f a m i l y group . We were much r e l i e v e d and at t h i s t ime f e l t maybe i t ' s a l r i g h t . Then they broke up and she was w i t h A . Ever s i n c e there has been f r i c t i o n . A has c h i l d r e n and U s a i d , "Now I have a f a m i l y . " That r e a l l y h u r t me. I f she had s tayed w i t h E I would have f e l t b e t t e r . Maybe i t ' s because A has c h i l d r e n , but I d o n ' t know. I h a v e n ' t gone i n t o i t . I never l e t mysel f go i n t o i t . E : Do your f e e l i n g s about U ' s c u r r e n t r e l a t i o n s h i p have a n y t h i n g to do w i t h U be ing a l e s b i a n ? Q: No my unhappiness now i s not w i t h her but who she ' s w i t h . I f she ' s happy t h a t ' s a l l I a s k . There i s not the same r e l a t i o n s h i p wi th us w i t h A . I guess E made i t very easy to accept and because of her and of course my t a l k w i t h the d o c t o r , I f e l t OK about i t . With U g e t t i n g m a r r i e d and h a v i n g to t e l l my husband, who admi t t ed he knew a l l t h i s t ime , I thought I was the o n l y one who knew because I had been t o l d . The f a c t tha t my husband and I c o u l d t a l k r e a l l y r e l i e v e d me. I t was tremendous to know t h a t both of us were a b l e to share t h i s . I t o l d him a l l I knew and how I had f e l t a l l t h i s t i m e . That year was t e r r i b l e . Maybe I thought i f no one e l s e knew i t would go away 5 but t a l k i n g to my d o c t o r , s h a r i n g i t w i th my husband, tha t made a b i g d i f f e r e n c e . T a l k i n g w i t h my d o c t o r opened the way for me. The g u i l t f e e l i n g s were t h e r e but d i s c u s s i n g them w i t h him c e r t a i n l y h e l p e d me. I t was from t h e r e tha t I s t a r t e d to g i v e . I c o u l d mention i t to people a f t e r t h a t . For example, i n one 78 s i t u a t i o n I s a i d you b e t t e r watch out what you say because my daughter i s a l e s b i a n . I was a b l e to t e l l my f r i e n d s . At f i r s t they gave me a l o t of sympathy. I d i d n ' t want that and I t o l d them t h a t . E : What was i t l i k e for you to t e l l them? Q: I never came out f l a t l y and t o l d them. I would wait f or a s i t u a t i o n to a r i s e tha t would seem c o m f o r t a b l e . People d o n ' t unders tand i t . I d o n ' t . Who does? E : Do you f e e l you worked i t through? Q: My f e e l i n g s r i g h t t h i s minute are tha t I a c c e p t . There i s no more c o n f u s i o n at a l l anywhere but t h e r e ' s j u s t not a p p r o v a l of her presen t l i v i n g arrangements . I w i l l accept them as her f r i e n d s but not her f a m i l y and I ' v e t o l d her t h i s . I guess t h e r e ' s g u i l t s t i l l there cuz I go back and t h i n k i f o n l y I had been more on top of her m a r r i a g e . I t w i l l a lways be t h e r e . Even though I have read and been t o l d c o n t r a r y , I s t i l l have deep down that f e e l i n g of g u i l t . E : Are t h e r e o ther f e e l i n g s , thoughts or a c t i o n s that s t i c k out in your mind as you look back to t h i s e x p e r i e n c e ? Q: I remember t h i n k i n g and f e e l i n g p r o t e c t him and p r o t e c t my son . D o n ' t you dare t e l l them. I remember t h i s cuz I was so e m o t i o n a l . I ' v e never been so e m o t i o n a l . I d o n ' t know whether I f e l t they weren' t capab le of a c c e p t i n g i t or whether I wanted to p r o t e c t her by not l e t t i n g them know. I know U was h u r t but she was be ing very s o f t w i t h me. She s a i d of c o u r s e she unders tood but she had to t e l l me cuz she c o u l d n ' t l i v e any longer wi thout t e l l i n g me. A c t u a l l y t h i s was a b r i g h t spot because she at l e a s t f e l t c l o s e enough that she had to t e l l me about t h i s . But whether I f e l t t h e y ' d be h u r t , or whether I used these t h i n g s , to cover up o ther f e e l i n g s I d o n ' t know because at the t ime she t o l d me I d i d n ' t c r y and I d i d n ' t f e e l h u r t . I t was o n l y d u r i n g the next week when I s t a r t e d t h i n k i n g about i t t h a t I f e l t h u r t . I c o u l d n ' t s t o p t h i n k i n g about what t u r n e d her t h i s way and what I might have done to make i t my f a u l t . Even though I knew in my head and from books t h i s wasn't t r u e , i n my h e a r t I s t i l l had and s t i l l have t h i s f e e l i n g . I thought that s i n c e I was unhappy she was t o o . But she w a s n ' t . She s a i d that when she accepted h e r s e l f and t o l d me, t h a t was a r e l e a s e f o r h e r . I can accept t h i s . 79 I n t e r v i e w 2 (Case Q) E : What does coming to terms mean for you now? Q: I t h i n k i t ' s a s a t i s f y i n g f e e l i n g in some ways. Not a happy s a t i s f y i n g maybe, but at l e a s t a d e c i s i o n . You e i t h e r accept or you d o n ' t . No more of t h i s go ing back and f o r t h . We have a c c e p t e d t h i s as a d e f i n i t e f a c t . I t ' s not what we wished , we d o n ' t approve , we're s t i l l d i s a p p o i n t e d but we do accept i t . I f e e l I am moving f o r w a r d , becoming more a c c e p t i n g as t ime goes by . I f e e l more r e l a x e d as each month goes by . Even a year or two ago I f e l t a t enseness when they were t o g e t h e r . Now I'm much more r e l a x e d . I f e e l b e t t e r now because s h e ' s happy and l i k e s her l i f e very much. She has companionsh ip , the f e e l i n g of a f a m i l y , she ' s p r o d u c t i v e and they u n d e r s t a n d each o t h e r ' s work. Knowing t h i s h e l p s me a c c e p t . I do f e e l she has found where she b e l o n g s . There are no i f s and b u t s . I s t i l l have those f e e l i n g s " i f o n l y I had done t h i s or that" and my u l t i m a t e wish would be tha t she be m a r r i e d and have a f a m i l y . I ' l l a lways f e e l tha t but I know t h a t ' s i m p o s s i b l e . T h i s i s the terms I ' v e come t o . I know t h i s i s i m p o s s i b l e and the l i f e she ' s l e a d i n g now i s the one I f e e l s h e ' l l l i v e f o r e v e r . I f e e l sad about t h i s but t h e r e ' s no more worry and blame. T h a t ' s beh ind me now. E : What was the hardes t p a r t f o r you i n coming to terms? Q: W e l l , t h i s i s what I want to c l e a r up on the l a s t t r a n s c r i p t . In r e a d i n g i t , I f e l t coming through was tha t I was so d i s a p p o i n t e d but t h a t ' s o n l y p a r t of i t . We wanted the best f o r her and we d i d n ' t t h i n k s h e ' d f i n d happiness l i v i n g tha t way. I was d i s a p p o i n t e d tha t she d i d n ' t f i t i n t o my i d e a l s f o r her but t h a t wasn't the o n l y p a r t . Sure we were d i s a p p o i n t e d and sad but i t was a l s o f o r her as w e l l because we wanted her to be happy. The h a r d e s t p a r t of acceptance of her c u r r e n t r e l a t i o n s h i p i s due to the f a c t she i s w i t h a woman w i t h a f a m i l y and I c a n ' t accept them as her f a m i l y . E : D i d you g r i e v e ? Q: Y e s . G r i e v e i s a very s t r a n g e word to me. I t ' s something you do y o u r s e l f , so the year I kept t h i s to myse l f was the time I g r i e v e d . I t was a lonesome time because I c o u l d n ' t t a l k to my husband and I f e l t there was n o t h i n g more to s a y . I thought i t was something t h a t U would do and be l i k e and nobody e l s e would know about i t except me. I t was k i n d of l i k e a weight on my s h o u l d e r . I t h i n k I r e a c t e d t h i s way because I was too upset to t h i n k s t r a i g h t , s i t down, and do i t p r o p e r l y . I f I had thought t h i s way I would have d i s c u s s e d i t w i t h h im, but I d i d n ' t . I was out i n l e f t f i e l d somewhere. I do f e e l t h i s g r i e f ended when I was a b l e to t a l k to my husband. 80 E : What would you t e l l or a d v i s e another parent of a gay c h i l d ? Q: T h i n k b e f o r e you speak. T r y to absorb i t be fore you say a n y t h i n g or make any b i g d e c i s i o n s because at f i r s t you w i l l be so angry you may say something you r e g r e t . Take time to t a l k to your c h i l d and l i s t e n to t h e i r f e e l i n g s i n s i d e because they can f i n d happiness i n t h i s l i f e . I f they are shocked they are l i k e l y to s t r i k e out because t h e y ' r e h u r t . T h i s might cause t r o u b l e they won't be a b l e to r e p a i r . Be p r e p a r e d to f e e l p r o t e c t i v e for o t h e r s i n not wanting to know, l i k e I f e l t in not wanting my husband to know. I t wasn't t h a t I thought he was too s o f t to take i t . I t was more of a p r o t e c t i o n t h i n g to keep the h u r t away from h im. I f I had thought about i t , I p r o b a b l y wouldn ' t have s a i d "Don't t e l l your f a t h e r , " but t h i s was one of my very f i r s t r e a c t i o n s . As time goes on they w i l l f e e l more r e l a x e d about i t and they w i l l be a b l e to a c c e p t . The more they f e e l t h e i r c h i l d i s happy and secure i n themselves the e a s i e r i t becomes to a c c e p t . 81 I n t e r v i e w 1 (Case R) R: I t was j u s t about C h r i s t m a s and we were t a l k i n g and out of the c l e a r b lue sky he t e l l s me h e ' s gay . Now I thought to myse l f t h i s i s j u s t another one of h i s s t u n t s that he uses to h u r t p e o p l e . H i s mom was in bed and o v e r h e a r d i t . She got up, came out and she was very upset and e m o t i o n a l . Then he j u s t dummied up and s a i d n o t h i n g . I was angry at the t ime when she came o u t , because I f e e l I c o u l d have go t t en more out of him at that p a r t i c u l a r t ime i f h i s mother h a d n ' t come o u t . I d i d n ' t blame her for coming out because every mother would . I guess my f i r s t r e a c t i o n was t h a t he was s a y i n g t h i s to h u r t us because he had done e v e r y t h i n g he c o u l d to break h i s mother and I up. Then he took o f f and M and I d i s c u s s e d i t . A f t e r t h i s I d e c i d e d to d i s c u s s i t w i t h my d o c t o r . He t o l d me i t wasn't h i s f i e l d but s a i d t h e r e was a d o c t o r in the b u i l d i n g who s p e c i a l i z e s in t h i s . He was a p s y c h i a t r i s t and had good r e s u l t s working w i t h gay p e o p l e . I s a i d t h a t ' s f i n e , would you recommend him? He s a i d y e s , and a r r a n g e d an appointment f o r M and m y s e l f . We went down w i t h P and he spoke w i t h M and I toge ther f i r s t and e x p l a i n e d i t to u s . I had r e s e r v a t i o n s about him t h e n . He t o l d us t h a t some people are born that way and some people may be t h i r t y b e f o r e they r e a l i z e t h a t they are homosexual . I asked i f he thought someone at twelve or f o u r t e e n would know what t h e i r s e x u a l i t y i s . He s a i d yes and s a i d there was documented ev idence of t h i s . I thought t h i s was t r u e , a f t e r a l l , h e ' s the p s y c h i a t r i s t . A f t e r t h i s he asked to speak to P a l o n e . We sent him i n and wai ted o u t s i d e . Awhi le l a t e r P and him came out and P was l a u g h i n g . I knew r i g h t away by the e x p r e s s i o n on P ' s face that he had won. I t was the way the d o c t o r t o l d us tha t got me the wrong way. I a s k e d , "What d i d you f i n d d o c t o r ? Is he d e f i n i t e l y homosexual?" "Oh, t h e r e ' s no doubt about i t , w i th our c o n v e r s a t i o n I have to c o n g r a t u l a t e y o u . You have a b e a u t i f u l homosexual s o n . " I thought , you son of a b i t c h . I had to r e s t r a i n myse l f because I c o u l d have p h y s i c a l l y a s s a u l t e d h i m . T h i s was r i g h t i n the l i t t l e lobby they have . I was so mad at my own d o c t o r f o r r e f e r r i n g him tha t I went to see h i m . I s a i d thanks a l o t , you 've been my d o c t o r for t h i r t y y e a r s and t h a t i d i o t you sent me to i s n o t h i n g but a r e c r u i t e r . H e ' s one h i m s e l f . He asked me,"What do you mean?" I s a i d , "He's gay h i m s e l f . " He s a i d he wasn't aware of t h i s , because he d i d n ' t know him p e r s o n a l l y and knew t h a t p r o f e s s i o n a l l y he was i n t h i s b u s i n e s s . I t o l d him what he s a i d and asked i f he thought t h i s was e t h i c a l . He s a i d w e l l h e ' s t e l l i n g you the t r u t h . I s a i d tha t i t would have been okay i f he had t o l d me, because I c o u l d handle i t , but I was mad t h a t he t o l d us i n such a way i n f r o n t of M. We then d e c i d e d to see another d o c t o r . We had four s e s s i o n s w i t h D r . L . He s a i d y e s , t h a t t h i s can happen and t h e r e ' s no doubt tha t some k i d s at the age of twelve or younger even know tha t they are not h e t e r o s e x u a l . I asked i f he had documented e v i d e n c e . He 82 s a i d y e s , but i t ' s not the norm, yet i t ' s not u n u s u a l . I r e a l l y f e l t good about h i m . He wasn't crude or a n y t h i n g and I r e s p e c t e d h i s o p i n i o n . E : When P t o l d you , d i d you e x p e r i e n c e any change i n how you were f e e l i n g ? R: I was h u r t . I was d e v a s t a t e d by i t . I t r i e d to mask i t and not l e t him see i t . At the back of my mind I was b laming myse l f I guess , but I r a t i o n a l i z e d i t by t h i n k i n g you always t h i n k something l i k e t h i s happens to the guy next door not your own. But t h i s t ime i t happened to me and t h a t ' s the way i t i s . To some extent I blamed M because she l i v e d i n tha t b u i l d i n g w i t h so many gays and maybe P was gay through a s s o c i a t i o n . M was f r i e n d s wi th many of them and thought they were n i c e p e o p l e . I r e a l l y d i d n ' t want a n y t h i n g to do wi th them. I thought s i n c e he l i v e d there d u r i n g h i s f o r m a t i v e y e a r s and t h i s was a l l he saw, t h a t he would t h i n k t h i s was the way i t was. I thought t h e r e was a p o s s i b i l i t y of t h i s but the p s y c h i a t r i s t s t r a i g h t e n e d me o u t , t h a t t h i s d i d n ' t have a n y t h i n g to do w i t h i t . I t h i n k at that t ime I was b laming myse l f and b laming everybody . Y o u ' r e b laming a n y t h i n g you can get your hands on because i t ' s such a shock . You see I s t i l l d i d n ' t r e a l l y know i f he was or n o t . I d i d n ' t e n t i r e l y b e l i e v e i t . T h i s c o u l d have been tha t I d i d n ' t want to b e l i e v e i t . I thought , maybe I was hoping that he was u s i n g t h i s to m a n i p u l a t e me and h i s mother, to h u r t us and cause t r o u b l e between u s . E : What were your thoughts and f e e l i n g s about y o u r s e l f d u r i n g t h i s t ime? R: I f e l t g u i l t y because I wasn't r e a l l y around i n h i s f o r m a t i v e y e a r s . I thought i f I had been around he wouldn' t have t u r n e d out gay . I t a l k e d about t h i s to D r . L and he t o l d me I c o u l d have been around and the same r e s u l t s would have happened. He t o l d me the mother and f a t h e r of a gay c h i l d always tend to blame themse lves . T h a t ' s the f i r s t t h i n g p a r e n t s do . He s a i d I s h o u l d n ' t blame myse l f at a l l and s i n c e I had g r e a t c o n f i d e n c e i n L t h i s h e l p e d me see t h a t I r e a l l y wasn't to blame. I had a l o t more c o n f i d e n c e i n a man who was not of the gay p e r s u a s i o n because , to me, h i s i s not a b i a s e d o p i n i o n . I thought about not h a v i n g g r a n d c h i l d r e n and t h i s was hard because we d o n ' t have any g r a n d c h i l d r e n . P a r e n t s always t h i n k t h e i r c h i l d r e n w i l l get m a r r i e d and t h i s was a d i s a p p o i n t m e n t to know we wouldn ' t get g r a n d c h i l d r e n from h im. E : How would you d e s c r i b e your acceptance? R: I a c c e p t i t . I c e r t a i n l y d o n ' t v o l u n t e e r the i n f o r m a t i o n but i f someone says i s your son gay I ' l l admit i t . I r e a l l y t h i n k i t ' s P ' s b u s i n e s s to t e l l people i f t h a t ' s what he wants to do and he f e e l s c o m f o r t a b l e about i t . I d o n ' t t h i n k 83 i t ' s f or me to t e l l peop le or i n f a c t f o r M to t e l l . I f P i s gay , and I'm s t i l l d o u b t f u l , i t ' s up to h i m . E : When you go back to when you found out P was gay i s t h e r e a n y t h i n g e l s e you r e c a l l about your r e a c t i o n s ? R: W e l l , we d i d e v e r y t h i n g we c o u l d to f i n d out about i t . We went to SEARCH. We c a l l e d the gay m i n i s t e r s we got from SEARCH. We phoned the p a r e n t s of gays s o c i e t y and none of them got back to us . We d i d e v e r y t h i n g we c o u l d to go someplace where we knew tha t somebody c o u l d e n l i g h t e n us to i t . We f e l t l i k e we were l e f t d a n g l i n g on a s t r i n g . We wanted so much for someone to s i t down and e x p l a i n to us what i t ' s a l l about , to c l e a r your mind and f i n d out i f we were d o i n g r i g h t as p a r e n t s , d o i n g r i g h t to P . The impact of f i n d i n g out you have a gay son has a l s o a f f e c t e d us s e x u a l l y . M d o e s n ' t want to be touched s i n c e she found out P was gay . T h i s i s one reason why we t r i e d to get i n touch w i t h the o r g a n i z a t i o n P a r e n t s and F r i e n d s of Gays because I f i n d these s e l f h e l p groups are sometimes more h e l p f u l than the medics because t h e y ' v e been through i t and by t h e i r p r a c t i c a l e x p e r i e n c e you can get much more out of i t . E : What were your f e e l i n g s towards o t h e r s a t t h i s t ime? R: W e l l , t h i s r e a l l y d i d n ' t change my f e e l i n g s towards f r i e n d s or those I worked w i t h . I remember t e l l i n g P tha t I d i d n ' t want him to b r i n g h i s gay f r i e n d s around the house . T h i s happened a f t e r I saw L . I s a i d look i f y o u ' r e gay and you say y o u ' r e gay and D r . L says t h e r e ' s a p o s s i b l i t y and D r . S says i t ' s d e f i n i t e , i t won't a f f e c t your r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h me but I would a p p r e c i a t e i f you d i d n ' t b r i n g any of your gay f r i e n d s to the house . I ' l l r e s p e c t the f a c t that y o u ' r e gay but what I want you to do i s to accept us and our h e t e r o s e x u a l i t y . I wasn't a l l tha t c o m f o r t a b l e w i t h i t . E : Do you f e e l you worked i t through? R: I ' v e a c c e p t e d i t , but i n the back of my mind I s t i l l hope tha t when h e ' s o l d e r he w i l l go back to b e i n g s t r a i g h t . I'm c o m f o r t a b l e w i th i t , but not t o t a l l y r e l a x e d . I t ' s something you l e a r n to l i v e w i t h but I d o n ' t t h i n k you can accept i t c o m p l e t e l y . P and I have both changed our a t t i t u d e s to some ex tent and seem to be coming c l o s e r . I ' v e become more at ease w i t h meet ing h i s gay f r i e n d s at home but i f I was to be seen i n p u b l i c w i th h i s gay f r i e n d s I wou ldn ' t f e e l c o m f o r t a b l e . With P a l o n e I'm a l r i g h t . Maybe I'm t h i n k i n g people w i l l t h i n k I'm gay because I'm a l o n g w i t h them. For me to t h i n k someone thought I was gay i s a b s o l u t e l y a b h o r r e n t because i t ' s a g a i n s t a l l the t e a c h i n g I ' v e had . I ' d f e e l u p t i g h t i f peop le thought I was t h a t way and i f I'm i n the company of gays , I'm so uncomfor tab le I wou ldn ' t be a b l e to enjoy mysel f or c a r r y on a normal c o n v e r s a t i o n . When I'm at home though, I d o n ' t f e e l l i k e t h i s . I'm much more 84 c o m f o r t a b l e . I must say P seems to accept i t w e l l f o r h i s age and i f he remains t h i s c o m f o r t a b l e be ing gay, i t h e l p s me accept i t more. 85 I n t e r v i e w 2 (Case R) E : What does coming to terms mean for you now? R: I t means I may not n e c e s s a r i l y l i k e i t , but I am t r y i n g to l e a r n to l i v e w i th i t . I s t i l l f e e l uncomfortab le about i t . I wouldn ' t want P to come to my job s i t e and have my f e l l o w workers know he was gay because I know what they f e e l about gays and t h i s would change how I would f e e l working w i t h these guys . I guess I f e e l they might make fun of me h a v i n g a gay son and t h i s would harm the r e l a t i o n s h i p s we have . I do want to keep our c o n t a c t w i t h P and t h i s i s why i t ' s something we have to come to a c c e p t . A n y t h i n g i s b e t t e r than no c o n t a c t at a l l . . E : Do you t h i n k you g r i e v e d ? R: Not g r i e f because P and I d i d n ' t have a very good r e l a t i o n s h i p . I was more hurt and d i s a p p o i n t e d and a f r a i d of what might happen to h i m . E : What would you t e l l another parent of a gay c h i l d who l e a r n e d t h e i r son was gay? R: No matter how d i s a p p o i n t e d and h u r t you a r e , s t i c k i t out and keep up the c o n t a c t . Y o u ' r e not go ing to unders tand i t o v e r n i g h t but i n t ime you w i l l become more a c c e p t i n g and c o m f o r t a b l e w i th i t . I d o n ' t a d v i s e anyone to r e j e c t them. T h a t ' s the worst t h i n g to do a l t h o u g h I imagine tha t would be the f i r s t r e a c t i o n . That was my f i r s t r e a c t i o n a l t h o u g h I d i d n ' t openly s t a t e i t . I n o t i c e d that even though we weren' t as c l o s e as he and h i s mother , I p u l l e d back even more a f t e r I found out he was gay . I know i t ' s my s t u p i d o l d ways that make me do t h i s . You do i t a u t o m a t i c a l l y . I remember d o i n g t h i s at New Y e a r s , p u l l i n g back from hugging him and I thought l a t e r , why i n the h e l l d i d I shake h i s hand i n s t e a d of g i v i n g him a hug? I wish I had but i t ' s something tha t happens a u t o m a t i c a l l y . E : What h i n d e r s you from a f u l l e r acceptance? R: M o s t l y P ' s ways. H e ' s a m a n i p u l a t o r and j u s t when y o u ' r e s t a r t i n g to f e e l t h i n g s are g e t t i n g more c o m f o r t a b l e , he p u l l s some s tunt to h u r t h i s mother and i t puts you r i g h t back to square one. You f e e l l i k e you d o n ' t want a n y t h i n g to do w i t h him and you c a n ' t d i s c u s s these t h i n g s w i th P because he takes o f f and you l o s e c o n t a c t for a w h i l e . You have to compromise y o u r s e l f j u s t to keep up the c o n t a c t . I f he wasn't f a m i l y , I wouldn ' t have a n y t h i n g to do w i t h h im. T h a t ' s what h u r t s the most, h e ' s a p a r t of y o u . 

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