My gay adult son wants me to attend his wedding ceremony, which is coming up in a matter of weeks. Our relationship is already a mess. My wife and I are committed Christians and we believe that God sees homosexuality as an abomination and that He is strongly against the perversion of marrying two people of the same sex. To stand up for my son at his wedding would feel like I’m spitting in God’s face. My son “came out” when he was a teen and our relationship has been strained ever since. I don’t know how to deal with this side of him. It makes me feel disgusted and I’ve refused to meet any of his “boyfriends”, including the one he’s about to marry. This is not the kind of relationship I want to have with my son, but what options do I have? My wife and I have already said we’re not going to attend the wedding, but that decision isn’t sitting well with me, either. This situation has already caused so much division and pain. Any advice would be appreciated.
I’m glad you asked, because there are many parents out there who are in the same situation. It’s enormously stressful when our kids start making life choices that we feel are wrong, and it’s even worse when we don’t understand their reasons for doing so. But let’s face it: the real issue that’s causing all of this stress is that you love your son and you want to have a good connection with him. The good news is that that is a very attainable goal, even while your son continues on his current path. The first step is to get a better understanding of what homosexuality is really about, so let’s get started.
A Trauma Coping Method
Homosexuality is just one of countless psychological coping methods. While your son might believe that he was born the way he is, in reality his subconscious has intentionally rerouted his sex drive to focus on male targets. Often this reprogramming occurs before puberty, although it can occur later in life as a response to traumatic experiences. When the mind adjusts the sex drive before puberty, gay teens often have no chance to experience an attraction to the opposite sex, and this leads them to the reasonable yet false assumption that they were born the way they are.
Very few people realize what a massive role the subconscious plays in determining not only who they feel sexually attracted towards, but also what style of sexual interactions they desire. To the subconscious, sexual attractions and interactions are loaded with symbolism which the mind itself has come up with. A metaphor will make this more clear…
Imagine two people standing in an art gallery looking at a canvas that is covered in blue paint. The first person says, “This painting makes me feel happy. The blue reminds me of a lake, and of all the happy times I spent fishing with my grandfather as a child.” The second person says, “This painting makes me feel very sad. The blue makes me think about how much of my life I’ve spent feeling depressed.”
Notice how different these two responses are. Also notice how specific the first person’s memories are. He doesn’t just think of water in general, he focuses on a certain relative and on specific childhood memories. But while the first person instantly links the color blue to a geographical feature (a lake), the second person associates blue with an emotion (depression). It is the subconscious part of each person’s mind which created these symbolic associations. Is depression really a color? No, and a fishing trip involves many colors, not just blue. Yet for both people, the same process is at work: the subconscious is instantly pulling up memories of certain life experiences in response to being shown a piece of art. All minds do this sort of thing, yet the kinds of associations that get formed vary drastically from person to person. There is no “right” or “wrong” association. When it is your mind making the symbolic connections, those associations will often feel right to you. It’s only other people’s associations that you often find mysterious because you usually don’t have access to the logic that their minds are using.
Now to your son’s mind, male sexual partners are currently linked to some experiences and concepts which are very important to his mind. Psychological trauma is a state of severe mental distress that occurs when the mind feels that one or more of its critical needs aren’t being met. Many traumatized people can appear to function quite normally on the outside, yet a closer look at their lives will reveal some abnormal behaviors which the mind is using to try and manage its distress. In the case of homosexuality, the mind is often focused on one of two goals: it is either trying to avoid a threat (which is often symbolized by opposite sex partners) or it is trying to find a solution to an unresolved problem by pursuing intimate relations with a same sex partner. As is the case with all trauma coping methods (and the list is endless), homosexual relationships feel very symbolic to the people engaging in them.
Now to protect the well-being of your overall person (which includes your mind, body and soul), your subconscious will often block you from consciously understanding what its top stresses are. A severe lack of self-awareness is very common in trauma cases, and it is the reason so many traumatized people honestly don’t understand why they are engaging in abnormal behaviors. Once the mind locks onto a specific kind of behavior for managing its problems (such as homosexuality, alcoholism, hoarding, or compulsive lying), that behavior often feels essential to the person doing it. An overwhelming internal push to behave in certain ways can also cause people to defend their behavior as being morally correct, which is what the broader gay community does. Insisting that their sexual orientation is natural, normal, and healthy is a way that homosexuals try to protect themselves from soul stress.
Your soul is a very important element of your being, and it has a core need to see you as a morally good person. Gays who view their homosexual desires as morally wrong often suffer immense internal anguish as their souls constantly shame and/or punish them for something that they don’t feel they have any control over. Remember that it is the subconscious that controls the sex drive, and it is simply not possible for any human to force his subconscious to make instant, drastic changes to its agendas. Once the mind is pushing for an agenda that the soul disapproves of (which is a very common problem), there is no easy solution. Some degree of internal stress is unavoidable until the two warring elements agree to form a truce. Once you realize how horrific intense soul distress can be, it’s easier to be compassionate towards gays who have a desperate need to make you and everyone else affirm their homosexual relations as morally correct. The often obnoxious promotion of homosexuality as a wonderful thing is at bottom just an attempt to avoid internal misery, and that is a goal we can all sympathize with.
Now we’d all be better off if we identified trauma coping strategies for what they are, which means recognizing them as important indicators of internal distress. Until we admit we have a problem, we won’t get serious about looking for a real solution. Simply giving ourselves over to any dysfunctional coping methods that our minds come up with won’t result in true healing. Trauma coping methods act like the bandages that you can plaster over a wound. While the bandage makes you feel better by hiding your wound from sight, it won’t stop the wound from growing worse. True healing requires directly treating the wound, and to do that, the bandage often needs to be temporarily set aside.
Now in real life, recovering from any kind of trauma is a stressful process which takes a lot of a time. A stressed out mind will refuse to even attempt true recovery until it feels it has some extra resources on hand. And just as you would automatically feel threatened by a dentist examining your sore tooth even though you came to him for help, traumatized minds are very guarded about revealing their struggles to other people. As a result of all of this stress and guardedness, traumatized people often remain stalled in their minds’ chosen coping methods, while not consciously recognizing those coping methods for what they are.
So what does all of this mean for your gay son? First it means that his homosexuality is not a random thing or a biological mishap. His current attraction to same sex partners is being fueled by his subconscious, and his subconscious has very logical reasons for deciding that pursuing an intimate homosexual relationship is a helpful stress management tool. The key thing for you to understand is that this is a rational psychological strategy, not a moral failing. Just as a man can be a very kind, moral person and also find himself sorely tempted to drink to excess whenever he’s around alcohol, your son can be a wonderful person and still find himself incapable of feeling any sexual attraction towards females. The mind controls the sex drive and it does not give any of us a say in who or what we will be sexually attracted to. If you accuse your son of consciously trying to be immoral by chasing after men, you are not only going to make him feel crushed and rejected, but you will also be accusing him of something he isn’t doing. A man who loves the taste of spaghetti isn’t consciously choosing to do so–he’s simply going with how his tongue responds to that food. If the same man were to label spaghetti as an evil food, that wouldn’t stop his tongue from craving it and enjoying it. We don’t consciously choose our preferences in food, and we don’t consciously choose what kinds of sexual targets make us feel aroused. These impulses rise up from the subconscious, which is constantly adjusting our appetites and desires to align with its personal agendas. Even the most disturbing and destructive coping methods that the mind comes up with are sincere attempts to help. Your subconscious is very protective over you and will go to extreme lengths to protect you from harm.
So then, within your son’s mind, there is a very logical argument for why it is currently necessary for him to pursue a same sex spouse. There could also be a very logical argument for why he should avoid a female spouse. How strongly his mind is pushing him towards males and/or pulling him away from females depends on what real life experiences his mind is reacting to. As is often the case with trauma coping methods, homosexuality can develop as a response to a wide variety of life experiences. While being sexually assaulted as a child will often cause the mind to make drastic changes to how the sex drive operates, an assault experience is just one of many possible causes. Certain types of conflicts with significant members of the male or female gender can easily trigger homosexuality, as can insecurities about one’s own anatomy. It sounds like you currently have no idea what the specific triggers for your son’s homosexuality are, and it’s likely that he doesn’t either, since gays today are strongly pressured not to view their same sex attraction as the trauma flag that it is. So what we have left is your son instinctively trying to help himself by doing what his mind is pushing him to do. Depending on what the underlying causes are for him, his need to remain in a relationship with his chosen partner could range from mild to extreme. The fact that he is choosing to marry this man certainly suggests that he feels strongly attached to him. These two are choosing to advance their relationship to the highest possible level by legally committing to each other. Marriage also comes with the assumption that both partners are committing to no longer pursue intimate relationships with anyone else–a choice you’d probably be proud of if your son’s partner was a woman.
Every human has negative qualities and hangups, but none of us want to be defined by those things. It sounds like you stopped seeing your son as a person once he came out to you, and instead started seeing him as a flaw. To restore your relationship with your son, you need to change tactics by intentionally looking past the homosexuality issue and getting to know your son as a person again. Our sexual appetites and preferences are merely side details of our lives. There is so much more to your son than the fact that his mind is pushing him towards same sex partners. Remove sex from the equation and your son’s relationship with his partner is probably like that of a male best friend, which you would probably be very supportive of if your son was straight.
As you know from your own experience, sex is not enough to build any quality relationship on. It is merely a detail–important, yes, but also one that becomes quite trivial when you look at the whole picture. To condemn your son’s relationship with his partner solely on the assumption that they sometimes have sexual relations is to refuse to appreciate the good that is probably occurring in that bond. Many gay partners work very hard at establishing a positive, safe and respectful relationship with each other, and along the way they hit many of the same kinds of roadblocks that come up for straight spouses. As a man who has collected a lot more life experience than your child, you have a lot of wisdom that you can offer your son when he hits the storms that are inevitable in any close relationship. The principles of how to resolve conflicts and keep the power balanced correctly in an intimate relationship are the same regardless of the genders of the relationship partners.
While sexual orientation is controlled by the mind, it is the soul that pushes for the development of moral character. This means that it is quite possible for your son to be a very classy, God-fearing individual even while his mind insists on keeping his sex drive focused on men. When you condemn your son based on what his mind is doing, he’s going to hear your criticism as a comment on his moral character, which will of course be very crushing and upsetting, especially if his soul really does care about doing the right thing. Factor in his likely belief that he really was born different than you for no discernible reason and all you have is your son feeling rejected by a father who he desperately wants to please. Your rejection of your son over his sexual orientation is only going to increase his internal stress load. Since homosexuality is at bottom a stress-driven condition, you can see how you pushing your son away does nothing to help the situation.
What I would recommend is that you extend an invitation to your son and his partner to join you and your wife for dinner so that you can get to know this man who is going to soon be a legal member of your family. Since you’ve already rejected their invitation, you’ll need to make it clear that the dinner isn’t a set up for a roasting, but a sincere attempt to fix the negative dynamic between you. Realize that your son’s choice to legally bind himself to this man could be inspired by the kind of commitment he’s seen you and your wife model. Also remember that this man is someone who your son feels very attached to. So why is that? Instead of just assuming your son has picked a zero, be open to his partner being a very nice, classy individual who could be having a very positive and uplifting effect on your son.
Character is an entirely different issue than sexual orientation. This new member of your family might be quite a blessing if you give him a chance. What’s a given is that both your son and his partner want to be accepted by you and your wife. It’s always painful when in-laws reject us, but it’s devastating when our own parents shun us. As dad, you will always be a very powerful figure in your son’s life, even in your absence.
The God Issue
It is God who teaches us the difference between normal and abnormal behaviors, and blurring the lines between these two concepts is always detrimental. It’s not helping gays or straights to pretend that homosexuality is a normal, harmless condition. But that said, you can’t control how other people respond to this issue. God only holds you accountable for how you respond to the convictions that He gives you. Understanding the principles of homosexuality that I’ve explained in this post is very useful, but all it really means is that your son’s behavior indicates he’s grappling with some significant psychological stress. Is it up to you to swoop in and try to fix his problems for him? No, it’s not. He’s an adult, and at this stage in his life, you need to step out of the role of protective caregiver and focus on giving your son the kind of compassionate love that God gives him.
As the Creator of every human characteristic and struggle, God understands us better than we understand ourselves. It is by His intentional design that humans have very limited self-awareness, as well as a very limited ability to alter their behaviors. Your son can’t force himself to change who he feels sexually attracted to, nor is it realistic to expect him to just ignore his biological need for sexual release. Once the mind alters the sex drive in response to its own struggles and locks onto inappropriate targets and negative forms of sexual interaction, there is usually no solution that looks morally perfect. These situations are very complex and require a lot of time to untangle. Meanwhile, if our Creator only accepted flawless human beings, none of us would have any chance of succeeding with Him.
Is God disgusted with your son for seeking out homosexual relations? No, because God understands what is really driving this need and He also understands that this isn’t something your son had a conscious say in. Just as you seek out sexual relations with your wife primarily to satisfy your own needs, and not to declare your feelings about God, your son is seeking out sexual relations with another man to satisfy needs that have nothing to do with his relationship with God. The human soul does not need sex, and it is our souls that we relate to God with. Sex is a physical and psychological need, and when it becomes perverted, it is due to psychological distress, not spiritual rebellion. Since God judges us by how our souls respond to Him, and not by the condition of our minds and bodies, it is quite common for Him to be very pleased with humans whose souls are responding well to Him, even while their minds and bodies are engaged in some very negative activities.
A correct understanding of how God judges you simplifies the issue of whether or not you should attend your son’s wedding. According to God, homosexuality is a perversion of what is normal and healthy. But if God were to speak on the subject, He wouldn’t just stop there. He would go on to explain that this is a psychological issue that is fueled by a sincere attempt on the part of the mind to fix a legitimate crisis. Is the solution misguided? Yes, but God doesn’t fault us for the way He programmed our minds to work. For you, honoring God means agreeing with His view of homosexuality while also aligning with His command that we be gracious and compassionate towards our fellow humans.
A problem that I often see in these situations is people letting others define what their behaviors mean. For example, you could decide to attend your son’s wedding to show your support of him as your child, and to demonstrate that you love and accept him, struggles and all. When other people hear that you attended your son’s wedding, some might decide that your behavior means you think homosexuality is a wonderful thing. Why should you let other people define what your motivations are? God is your only Judge, and He will judge you by what your motivations actually were, not by what other people wanted them to be. If you decide to participate in an extremely important day in your son’s life as a step in restoring a positive relationship with him, that would be a very honorable thing to do. Certainly others may condemn you for it out of ignorance, just as you’ve shunned your son all this time because you attached the wrong meanings to his behaviors. Your son isn’t gay because he hates God or because he wants to make his life extra difficult. But thanks to scores of folks who grossly misrepresent how God judges us, your son is likely having an extra hard time gaining confidence in God’s willingness to accept him where he’s at. You could be a very positive influence in his life by putting effort into restoring your relationship with him, as well as accepting his partner as another human who God loves.
All humans long for love and acceptance, especially from their parents. We’re all messed up in some way or another. We’re all lugging around internal baggage that negatively impacts the way we treat others. It’s by having compassion on each other and being generous with love and grace that we really walk our talk as “followers of Christ.” What better place to get started than at the wedding of a son you dearly love? Talk to your wife, invite your son and his partner to dinner, and ask God to make it clear to you what He thinks you should do regarding the wedding. Whether or not you attend, keep pursuing a relationship with your son. Consider starting a tradition of you and him meeting up for some quality father-son time once a week so you can continue reconnecting. Whether he’s pursuing male or female partners, your son will always need his father’s love.
This post was written in response to Concerned Dad.
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