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IF YOU ASK ME

by The Next Family December 31, 2009

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Dear IF YOU ASK ME-
I am writing to you for some advice on a pretty complicated situation I find myself willingly being drawn into. I am English, a gay man, and 55 years of age living in England at present. I have a friend aged 49 in Texas who has recently realized that he is gay, despite having been married and the father of an 11 year old adopted son. My friend’s ex wife, who has very strong negative views regarding gays, is still on the scene and has tried poisoning the boy’s mind about his dad. Luckily the relationship between father and son is still very strong, but the mother is mentally unstable and still has access and influence over the boy. We very much hope to be able to live together in the US as soon as we are able to and the boy is ready. We need some advice on how to prepare my friend’s son on the sexuality of both of his dads and the distinct possibility of another male entering the family home to “replace” his mother with whom he has a not very good relationship. I thought, as a first step, there might be a film suitable for my friend to watch with his son to start the process of familiarization with the changing circumstances, and to show the boy that there are more types of valid relationships than the stereotypical “family”. We both understand that this may well take some time, but the useful thing is that the boy does understand and accepts that some people are gay and live together as couples, but the idea of gay couples having children, and it happening to him, will need a huge measure of acceptance on his part. Any advice you may be able to offer us would be gratefully accepted, and I would stress that the welfare, security and happiness of my friend’s son is the most important aspect of our planning.

Yours Sincerely,

Chas J Pearce

Dear Chas-
Thank you for your well thought-out question; it is a very delicate situation indeed. I appreciate and respect the fact that you are taking the time to do research in order to make the boy’s transition as easy as possible. This alone tells me that you will be a wonderful role model for your “friend’s” son.

Although there aren’t many movies available for the topic you requested, there are some great resources. One is a very mainstream, popular TV show called Modern Family on ABC here in the United States. This show features a family with 2 dads and a baby and is light-hearted and funny. If the boy hasn’t already heard of this sitcom, it might be a nice way to “normalize” his new situation a bit.

As for movies, it’s been tough for me to find the perfect film that I would recommend, given the particular situation you are in. It might be fun to do a movie night and rent Birdcage, a comedy with Robin Williams in which he plays a gay man with a daughter (played by Calista Flockheart). I’m going with fairly mainstream recommendations rather than Indie films for two reasons: one, it has been difficult for me to find the right independent film that doesn’t display the “issues” that can go into same sex parenting, and two, I think it’s important given the boy’s age, that you go with a more mainstream approach. This might help to validate things in his mind.

I also think it’s important for you to do some research as well. There are some great films on same sex parenting that I would urge you to check out for your own sake. Jack is a film about a teenage boy whose father comes out as a gay man. You might want to watch this first and see if it would be a fit for the boy. “Jack” can be purchased on Amazon.com.

There is also another resource for teenagers with gay parents that you may later want to explore. There is an organization called Colage, which is a support and advocacy organization for daughters and sons of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) parents. This would be a tremendous opportunity for the boy to meet other kids that have gone through similar emotions on the topic. I have been to a panel in which I’ve heard these children speak firsthand and they are incredibly articulate and have many great things to explain to parents that are LGBT. Colage also has a few films that you could check out; one of them is “In My Shoes”, which I found particularly interesting. It’s a documentary film by and about youth with LGBT parents.

My last bit of advice is to let the boy find his own feelings about the matter. Try to listen and be there for him when he needs to talk, but don’t push him into feeling a certain way about his new life. It’s tough at that age, and with his mother giving negative feedback, he needs to figure out his own opinion on the matter. I think you are absolutely on the right path by wanting to educate him through mediums that he most relates to- film and television.

Below are links and information to the above-mentioned resources, as well as a few more:

Modern Family
Birdcage
Jack
Colage
In My Shoes

Books
Families like mine: Children of gay parents tell it like it is
Out of the ordinary: Essays on growing up with gay, lesbian bisexual, and transgender parents

More Movies:
Daddy and Papa
It’s Elementary: Talking about gay issues in school

Best of Luck!

I.Y.A.M

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