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Words of Hope and Advice for Gays

March 22, 1987

It is regrettable that the young man who questioned Howard Halpern concerning his options as a closet homosexual (On Your Own, March 9), has not found peers to whom he can relate. As the parent of a gay child who "came out" to us 18 years ago, I speak confidently from outside the closet door. In the ensuing years, my husband and I have been supportive of and, hopefully, helpful to many gay people and to parents of gays. Such bolstering from straight friends and relatives is a vital ingredient for those in the process of finding fresh air outside the closet.

Before seeking psychotherapy as Halpern has advised, it is wiser, in my opinion, to look for emotional sustenance in risk-free relationships, for example, from other gays. There is no magic more effective than "I have been there. I have experienced your pain." There are synagogues and churches with outreach to the gay community. There are support groups that preserve anonymity, thus removing the threat to job security and family relationships. In such environments, freedom to share fears does much to put one's feet on the path to constructive confrontation, i.e., confronting one's self first.

From the mountaintop which we, as parents looking for understanding, had to climb, I add a hopeful note born of experience. Many parents are not so closed as to be unaware that their offspring is suffering. Some do suspect why and want to be helpful. It is true that biases are deeply rooted and take time to be destroyed, but love and understanding are the antibiotics that can lead to recovery.

"Coming out" is not only a matter of losing trust as the questioner suggests, it is a matter of destroying misconceptions and suspicions, of putting truth back into focus and clearing up the clouds of misunderstanding. The truth might hurt, but parents' relief at knowing, rather than guessing, is immense. Too much time is wasted trying to see through the closed closet door. Once we knew, my husband and I went into the closet with our son until he was ready to open the door wide.

AGNES G. HERMAN

Lake San Marcos

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