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Dear Christine, Fearing Fatherhood

  • Posted on August 27, 2017 at 10:49 am

Dear Christine,
I am16 years old, now the thing is I’m not really sure of my sexuality, but I think I’m gay.
This weekend I had a talk with my grandma (this is when they start telling me my duties as a man and other crap) and she spoke about family and how I’m the only male of my generation with my granddads surname, so should I not have children, our surname kinda dies with me.
When I told her i don’t want kids, she threw a fit and lectured me about how I’d be killing a legacy. We also watched a popular TV show which features a gay couple, and she said to me “and I hope you don’t like what you see.”
Also, my mom is very homophobic (my dad seems more accepting) and if she found out about me, there will be a sh*t-storm. What’s worse is that even she expects me to carry on the family name.
Normally, I don’t care what people say (even my parents, but they know that I don’t want kids) but the way my gran spoke to me made me think. Part of me thinks that my family is selfish for expecting something of me that I’m not comfortable with, but another part thinks that I am being selfish for not wanting to have kids for the family.
I am not the kind of guy to just sleep with someone, so I won’t be having kids unless I actually marry the woman.
It seems that so far my only solution (which I am greatly considering) is either studying abroad and hopefully finding a job there so I can stay, or moving out of the country after studying and running away.
I know I’m only 16 and shouldn’t be worrying about kids, but let’s be honest, this is going to haunt me for a long time, so I might as well think about it now. So far I have no plans of coming out to my family.
What I want to know is whether I should go through life faking being straight, marry a woman and have kids with her? Also, any other advice would be appreciated.
Signed, Fearing Fatherhood in Farmington

Dear Fearing Fatherhood, Hey!  Last time I checked, most families didn’t want their 16 year old kids having babies just to carry on the name!  You are too young for all this pressure!  If you aren’t out to your family, then I’d encourage you to not come out until you’ve got more support in your life to cope with your family’s dreams and expectations of you.

David-Furnish-Elijah-Furnish-John-Zachary-Furnish-John-and-Sir-Elton-John

So, what do you do?  It’s hard to be out and proud with homophobics in the family.  You are not alone, however.  There’s support, here on the internet, and in the real world (Affirmations Youth Program would be a good place to start http://.goaffirmations.org).  If you have a parent (your dad seems more possible here) have him check out Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, PFLAG, a national non-profit organization with over 200,000 members and supporters.  There, your family can get facts and information about having a gay kid, and they can discover that it is completely possible for you to have your own children, even as a gay man!  Science is wonderful!  For PFLAG in general, check out this site:    http://pflag.org and for PFLAG Detroit’s area chapter see http://pflagdetroit.org or PFLAG Ann Arbor http://pflagaa.org or info@pflag-fr-detroit.org. 
I do not recommend trying to pretend to be straight to the point of marrying a woman and having children.  That’s not fair to the woman, or children, and it’s certainly not fair for you.  Focus on school.  Graduate High School, and the College.  Studying abroad is a great way to learn more about yourself as an independent adult (I studied in Jerusalem for a year).  There are others who make sure they move out of the family home as soon as they are able to support themselves, some even moving out of state, where they can explore who they are without family pressures.

Gay men have kids all the time these days.  There’s women who will be a surrogate for you, allowing her egg or someone else’s to be mixed with your sperm and implanted in her for the pregnancy.  There’s also plenty of foster children and children who need adoption.  They might not carry on your genes, but they are children who are here and desperately need a family to belong to and to love them.  I just heard an interview with Elton John on the radio last week, and learned he now has two sons, Zachary (2.5 y o) and Elijah, 9 mo old) both born of a surrogate mother.  He has been legally in a civil union with David Furnish since 2005, and is a staunch supporter of gay marriage in the United Kingdom.  The United States is changing rapidly in attitudes and laws about gay marriage.  There are currently 13 states that allow gays and lesbians to marry, and fifteen countries around the world that recognize gay marriage.  The Federal Agency that collects taxes in the US, the IRS, recently ruled that gay and lesbian couples who are legally married in any state or country must now file taxes as a married couple.  Social Security also just announced that same sex marriages will be recognized by the Social Security Association, allowing gay couples retirement and disability income rights, among others.  There are lawsuits going through in Michigan and Ohio and other non-gay marriage states that are working to overturn the state constitutional amendments that were made 6 -9 years ago to forbid gay marriage.  You’re 16.  By the time you’re ready to marry anyone, male or female, I’m guessing it could be 10 years.  That is a long time with how quickly change is happening in acceptance of gay and lesbian families and marriages.  By the time you finish college, you may well be out, living in a different state from your family and you may be out and happy with life.  And they may see what more straight but not narrow people see:  you are still their son/grandson, and they love you for who you are, nothing more, nothing less.  Take care, and keep in touch.

Christine C. Cantrell, PhD
1026 W. 11 Mile Rd,
Suite C
Royal Oak, MI 48067
248-591-2888

Click here to email Christine.

Torn in Trenton

  • Posted on August 21, 2016 at 7:02 pm

Dear Christine,

I just turned 50 last week and it hit me. I’m finally ready to come out. I’ve led the life I thought I was supposed to for all these years. Married 22 years, two kids who are now 18 and 20 years old, and a successful career in auto sales.  I’ve never cheated, never sought out the gay community until now.  I put in some search words to find out how to handle this and found you. I’m ready to do this but need a push.  How do I do it without hurting the people I love and where do I start?  My plan is to come out at work as well as to my wife and kids. I’m terrified and have no idea how this will play out. 

Thanks, Torn in Trenton

Dear Torn,

Good question.  How do you come out and not hurt the people you love?  I don’t know if that’s possible. It sounds like you have lived your life according to others’ expectations and it isn’t working for you.  You love your family.  But you haven’t been you, who you really are, at your core.

The start is being honest with yourself about who you are and what you are feeling.  Then, you start telling people you trust.  People who can accept you for who you are.  Get some support for yourself as you go through this.  Get into psychotherapy with a gay affirming therapist.  Join a Coming Out group at Affirmations www.goaffirmations.org in Ferndale.  Find people who will listen non-judgmentally and with understanding.  http://www.goaffirmations.org/programs-services/support-discussion-groups.

Perhaps you don’t need a push.  You will know when it is the right time to tell family members.  They will not hurt less if you don’t tell them.  And perhaps some of them have seen this in you all along, or have wondered about you.  It’s a scary time, but give those you love a bit of time and space to deal with this.  You have been struggling through this for a while now, maybe even 22 years or more!  Your family will need support too.  Individual psychotherapy and  family counseling can help, and there are free support from groups such as PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).  There is a chapter, PFLAG Detroit www.pflagdetroit.org that meets monthly on the second Sunday at 2 pm in Troy at the Lutheran Church on Crooks Road just north of 16 Mile.  Their website has a page on Our Friends and Allies at http://pflagdetroit.org/Friends_Web_Links.html.  This list may open more doors to support and information for you and your family.

If your wife does not have an inkling, this can be very hard for her.  The hardest is if you are in love with a man and you’ve finally accepted yourself, and you are finally happy.  She could feel rejection, low self worth and find it difficult to be glad for you.  She may feel lied to an betrayed.  She may be understanding and relieved as this piece of information may make sense to her about you and the marriage.

Give your family and friends space and time to adjust.  Encourage them to talk to you and share their experience.  If they can’t share with you, then offer them resources such as PFLAG to assist them in adjusting to your new reality.

I have watched families go through this  situation.  There may be a time of distance, hurt or misunderstanding, but over time, sometimes months, sometimes years, the love can find a way to continue among all of you.  Keep in touch and let me know how your coming out process goes.  Take care,
Christine Cantrell, PhD

Psychologist

Not Quite Out in Oxford

  • Posted on December 30, 2015 at 6:56 pm

Dear Christine:  

 My girlfriend and I have been together for a year, and maybe I moved in too fast(second date…) but I’m having a hard time with her relationships with her family. Her two daughters live with us half of the time and half with their father. I am very close to the girls and they talk with me all the time, and tell me that they love me and even come into our bedroom at night to kiss their mom goodnight, and me! My girlfriend isn’t gay, and she’s isn’t comfortable telling the girls, or anyone else in the family, that we are in love and we are a couple, and with the girls, we really are a family. Her family is involved with Christmas, and last year, we pretended I was just living there for a while, to help them out. She wants me to move out of the bedroom, so her sister and brother-in-law can have her bedroom when they visit for Christmas. That’s the living end for me! I’ve been out and proud for over 20 years, and I just feel like a maid. I’m “the help”, helping with the household, cooking, driving kids around etc, but not given the respect of being family! My girlfriend has been telling me all year that she wants to tell her family, but that she’s not ready. I’m afraid she’s never going to be ready, and I feel like I’m going crazy. Help! What do I do to not feel like a maid, but be a part of this family? Signed,  Not quite out in Oxford

Dear  Not Quite Out in Oxford,

The holidays are such a stressful time, even without the pressures of coming out to family! Sounds like you have a very loving and good relationship with your girlfriend and her children, and that’s wonderful. Since you’ve been out forever, and she never saw herself as lesbian before, it’s really important to give her space and time to figure out how to acknowledge this relationship with her family. I would be surprised if the kids haven’t figured out that the two of you are a couple, saying good night to both of you in your bedroom! Kids are pretty sophisticated and aware these days. They may not know the labels, but clearly they feel connected to you, and treat you like family, not a maid. I’m not recommending you move out of the bedroom for visitors, as I don’t recommend a couple in their own home give up their private space to others. One example of why, is the story I heard recently. A man stayed overnight at a friend’s house, and she let him use her bedroom. He opened a bedside drawer, looking for a clock, and he found some handcuffs! Clearly, she hadn’t expected him to go in the drawer! He found it very embarrassing to see her the next morning, thinking “Good morning Mrs. Handcuffs” but tried to keep cool and be appropriate. When he thinks of that friend, the handcuffs are the first thing that comes to mind. So, keeping your privacy is important, both yours and your girlfriend’s. Keep talking with your girlfriend about her process, but back off of any ultimatums. Listen to her thoughts and feelings, and trust the love that you and she and her children share. Love conquers fear, always. Trust your girlfriend’s process and hopefully she will tell her family directly, soon.

Good luck!

Christine C. Cantrell, PhD.
Psychologist
christineccantrellphd@gmail.com

Fearing Regret in Redford

  • Posted on August 24, 2015 at 5:04 pm

Dear Christine,

I grew up with catholic, republican, homophobic parents.  My dad passed 20 years ago and my mom is 85 and starting to have health issues.  I’ve never come out to her and we’ve never talked about the issue though I’ve always figured she must know or suspect.  She gave up asking for grandkids years ago.  I’ve had a “roommate” for 15 years and we’ve kept the appearance of not sharing a bedroom when my mom is over.

My question is, should I come out to her while I still have a chance?  I fear I will regret it if I never fully share who I am with her.  I guess I want her to love and accept the real me.  I’ve been weighing the pros and cons and need to make a decision soon.  The downside is if it will upset her too much as gays “go to hell” you know.

Fearing Regret in Redford

Dear Fearing Regret,

My gut feeling upon reading this is that you want reassurance to come out to your mom.  Fear is about the future and regret is about the past.  I don’t hear that you regret not having come out to your dad and that you are ok with having lived a “don’t ask, don’t tell” life with your mom.  You are right, she probably knows your truth.  What you and I don’t know is whether she will be able to cope with that truth being spoken.  Many conservative, religious, homophobic parents go into the closet when their child comes out.  They then have to try to reconcile the beliefs they have held for so long that are judgmental of their child they love.  PFLAG has helped many parents figure out how to hold their gay son or lesbian daughter in love and respect but not have to forsake their values or spiritual beliefs.  Those parents are looking for a way to bridge the chasm between loving their child and having always believed what the church taught:  “gays go to hell.”

I have a few quotes concerning fear and regret I thought might be helpful to you in your deliberations.

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” – Buddha

“My life is my message.” – Mahatma Gandhi

The message here is “be you” fully and completely everywhere and with everyone.  But that means “be” you, not necessarily proclaiming to others who you are.  Sometimes words are superfluous.  I heard a joke yesterday.     How do you find out someone is a vegan?  Just wait, and they will tell you! And they will keep telling you!

“Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Confronting the fear by speaking your truth will take away your fear, but it may be replaced with some other feeling, which might be preferable to living in fear.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

So, if you are going to confront your fear, prepare yourself well.  Make sure your heart, your soul are in the right place and that you are coming from love and truth, not self-righteousness or anger.  Write out what you want to say so you can take the time to sleep on it and then do a gut check on those words to see if they reflect you and your intention.  You may not get the reaction you want, but you will have been as clear, direct and loving as you are able.  You may not able to predict or control what your mom’s response will be, but if you use those loving and brave words, you are creating a space for a deeper level of honesty and a closeness that has not been available to both of you.  Your mom will not have had the time to prepare her reaction.  After time to reflect and process, she may modify her words.

“I don’t really have any regrets because if I choose not to do something there is usually a very good reason. Once I’ve made the decision I don’t view it as a missed opportunity, just a different path.” – Andrew Lincoln

“If you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, change your attitude.  Don’t complain.” – Maya Angelou

Examine your beliefs about yourself, your mother and the strength of your bond.  If you believe you must speak your truth to her before she dies, do it.  But be aware she is on a different path and expect nothing.  If her different values and beliefs  have too much risk of judgment or rejection, perhaps this is a very good reason for missing this opportunity.  And then, years from now when you look back, take responsibility for the choice you make now while she is here and know you did what you felt was best for you and for her, given your experience, awareness and understanding at the time you decide to take or forgo speaking your truth.  Accept whatever choice you make and be at peace in your heart whatever the outcome.  There are no regrets when you do what you are able to do, knowing that you cannot make someone else do, feel, think, choose or respond in anyway.

Whatever you decide to do, remember that there is no “right” or “wrong” decision here.  You may decide today that you cannot risk rejection from your mom, but a month from now, you may decide that you are willing to accept her no matter what she says or does, but speaking your truth is most important.  You will learn a lot about yourself from this process, and probably a lot about your mom as well.  Good luck, and let me know what you decide if you so choose.