I wish I'd known then what I know now about my gay son

Written by Louise Bailey

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I finished work one night and came home to a note behind my door.  Before even taking my coat off, I read the note which told me that my son is gay.

I had no idea, I didn’t have any inclination of this! My son, Jordan, had had girlfriends, so how could this be right?

My initial feelings were hurt and anger. I was hurt that I had received a letter, and I was angry that he was telling me that he was gay. What did this mean for him. What did this mean for me? I immediately thought that it was my fault - that I had raised him on my own, so that was why he felt this way.

Then I felt like this couldn’t be right, that he was confused. This was my fault. I never had an issue with anyone being gay, but at the time I just didn’t think that my son was gay.

I approached Jordan in his room, waving the letter at him and asking if “this was right?” He told me it was. I totally reacted when I heard him saying it out loud. I told him that he was “not gay, he was confused, maybe he was bi, he was too young to know and not to be so silly!”

I then left the room! All I could think about was what this meant for him, what this meant for me – how would we tell people, he was putting himself at risk, would he get bullied, what would my family think?

We never spoke about it again for a long time. I left my son feeling lost and alone.

This made me self reflect and realise how badly I had handled things years ago. I spoke with Jordan and he understood. I made sure that he knew I always loved and supported him.

I tried to carry on with life as though nothing had happened and just tried to blot it out, thinking that he would ‘change his mind’. I didn’t talk about it to my family or anyone in my work. My husband was Jordan’s biggest supporter – he could talk to him, and my husband helped and guided him throughout this period.

Over time we started to talk more about it.  I started to talk to people and soon realised that it was only me who felt the way that I did. Not one other person I spoke to had an issue with my son’s sexuality: even my parents, who were ‘old school’ and in their late 60s, told me that “he’s still Jordan, we love him and nothing has changed.”

This made me self reflect and realise how badly I had handled things years ago. I spoke with Jordan and he understood. I made sure that he knew I always loved and supported him.

A couple of years later he got involved in politics and campaigning, and befriended Liam Stevenson. Liam is a straight man, partnered and with a daughter. He once used language such as ‘poof’ or ‘that’s gay’ as banter in the football changing rooms or the pub. When Jordan opened up to him to tell him the impact of growing up gay in Scotland, Liam was horrified. He then felt that he could fully open up to Liam.

During this time, around 2015, Jordan told me that he considered taking his own life aged 12 as he couldn’t cope with or understand his feelings about his sexuality. He had a horrific time in school with people taunting him, and some of his teachers’ strong beliefs and vocal views that anyone who was gay was a sinner and would go to hell.

This was the breaking point for me – the guilt, the horror, and knowing that I had failed him.

Jordan and Liam then set up Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) to campaign for LGBT education in schools. They didn’t want anyone to go through what Jordan did at school.

During this time, I got involved in some of their activities and started to learn more about the LGBT community as I met various people that TIE were working with: from gay and lesbian to bisexual and transgender people, I was being educated through talking to people, and I realised more and more that being LGBT was not an issue at all. Who cares? It doesn’t change the person.

In fact, it has shaped who Jordan is today – he has made world history by delivering a successful campaign and gaining a commitment from the Scottish Government that ours will be the first country in the world to bring LGBT education into schools. He is the Overall Young Scot of the Year for 2018-19 and he is a support to so many people. I couldn’t be more proud of who he is today.

If only I knew back then what I know now.

I would have taken him in my arms and told him that it is okay. I would have told him that I love him no matter what and I would have told him I will always be there for him.

I need to live with that guilt and, believe me, it tears me up. I try every day to make it up to him. I try to do as much as I can to support him and the LGBT community – hence my passion for setting up and leading the #PrideInOurselves group in my own workplace, challenging prejudice when I see it and attending Prides as often as I can to show visible support as a parent.

I don’t want other people to go through what we did. If your child is coming out and you need support too, then please let them know that it’s okay first of all, and that you are there for them. Try to make it a positive environment and experience for them, because coming out to you will seem like the hardest thing that they will ever do, and then try to educate yourself and speak to someone else.

If you are a parent looking for more information about how you can support your child, take a look at the following links: