(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)
I am devastated because my son just told me he is bisexual
(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)
Dr. Kenner: I want to welcome Cynthia to the phone. Cynthia, you're having some questions about your son? How old is he?
Cynthia: He is 14.
Dr. Kenner: He's 14 years old and tell me what's going on?
Cynthia: He just confided in me, I've noticed that he's changing his way of thinking and his school grades were dropping so I knew something was bothering him. I confronted him because I had a feeling. He just told me that he is a bisexual and he likes boys and girls.
Dr. Kenner: Okay, and what went through your mind?
Cynthia: Oh my God. I was just crying. I didn't know that that could happen to me, and I asked him is he sexually active and he told me no, so I asked him how did he know? How did he know if he hasn't tried it, if he likes boys or girls? Because he's still a virgin. He said, "Mommy, you know." That's all he said to me. "I can know."
Dr. Kenner: So he's probably having some sexual arousal toward boys.
Cynthia: Probably, yes.
Dr. Kenner: But how does that relate to, I know that's the big issue and I'll talk about that in a moment. You said his school grades are dropping. How does that relate?
Cynthia: He was holding it all this time.
Dr. Kenner: Fascinating.
Cynthia: Now that he finally came out and said it, I see his change toward his brother and the way that his classes were coming out better. Like he feels free. I know that. I love my son no matter what, but I just cannot stop crying because I'm afraid for him.
Dr. Kenner: Afraid for what? What are your fears?
Cynthia: I'm afraid that if he really has turned this into like more boys, you know how the world is outside. I don't want him to get hurt.
Dr. Kenner: So you're assuming that he won't find a loving male partner? You're assuming that he will be taken advantage of?
Cynthia: Yes. Because there is a lot of bullying around.
Dr. Kenner: Tell me about your tears. What comes to mind?
Cynthia: Because he's suffered a lot of bullies before. Before he said that to me, everyday in school is to go out and fight for him because kids are calling him names. That's what I'm afraid of. I asked him not to say anything to nobody, just act the way that he's been acting now, but not to put a tag on himself.
Dr. Kenner: So not to go around telling people that he's bisexual?
Cynthia: Exactly. Today he says to me that I'm ashamed of him, I'm embarrassed because I'm saying that. It's not that I'm embarrassed. I'm afraid. I don't know how to feel. I don't know how to talk to him. I don't know what I should say to him.
Dr. Kenner: It sounds like you're being honest with him, which is wonderful. Number one, you're an incredible mom for noticing that he's bottling up something and giving him permission to talk. And the proof in the pudding is that he did talk to you.
Cynthia: Yes. We do have a great relationship. But I don't know how to share my feelings. It's like it hurts so much that he told me that. I didn't want to hear that.
Dr. Kenner: It's shocking to most parents who hear that. Especially if they've grown up with the idea that their son will get married and have kids. Now thinking bisexual, it still means he's attracted to women, right? And he is still so very young. And as a therapist, it was when I would see teenagers in my day and age not coming in and saying, "I'm bi," but it became very popular with this current generation to say, "I'm bi." So with some kids, it's something that they may have some sexual fantasies or they may get turned on, and people do that. People who are heterosexual can have fantasies like that. Maybe your son is just being honest about it that sometimes he has some fantasies with the same sex? And it may be something that he doesn't have going forward or it may be that he turns in that direction. But the key point is your wonderful connection with your son, that he can talk with you. And that gives you the opportunity to share with him that it's not that you're humiliated or embarrassed. You're shocked - I mean, he sees that and you can certainly share that. But what's going through your mind is more of the bully theme, that you want so badly to protect him.
Cynthia: Exactly, yes.
Dr. Kenner: From being taken advantage of. Because in his school there are bullies, if I understood you correctly?
Cynthia: Yes. Essentially they're very homophobic.
Dr. Kenner: So they would pick on him? So he didn't say, again, it sounds like he's telling you he's bisexual and he's only 14 years old.
Cynthia: That's what my husband said, that maybe he's confused. He doesn't really know what it is. But I just want to know, how should I act with him?
Dr. Kenner: I think you're doing a beautiful job, just by being open with him. There's a wonderful book, How to Talk so Teens Will Listen by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish that may help a little bit. They talk about how do you talk with your teens about difficult topics like sex and drugs and different topics, in a way that helps keep that wonderful connection that you've created. You're not coming across - and that's also on my website, DrKenner.com - but it means, Cynthia, that you're not coming across as a controlling mom. You are coming across as such a loving, caring mom who genuinely values your son and share that with him. If he's open enough and after the shock wears off for you a little bit, you may be more composed and you may be able, after your mind has connected the dots a little bit, you may be able to sit down and ask him more about it. You're inviting him to talk, "Honey, tell me more. When you say you're bisexual, tell me what goes through your mind." You already asked him if he's been sexually active. You can invite that question again. "Let me know when you're sexually active." Some parents will say that, they'll say, "I want to know. I'm so concerned. I'll give you whatever information you need. It's not that I'm encouraging it, because the risks are so high at your young age."
Cynthia: He knows that.
Dr. Kenner: If he knows that, that's wonderful. If he's not afraid of self pleasuring, if that's okay in private, then -
Cynthia: He knows that. We already talked about it and I told him when to do it, how to do it, if he needs to go to the bathroom.
Dr. Kenner: You're a wonderful mom.
Cynthia: That's what it was to me, because he said it so cold and he was crying. It was a weight off his shoulders, but I kind of said that. It's bugging my head.
Dr. Kenner: But don't catastrophize, because you may have grandkids in a couple of years or you may have a very nice man in your life if he goes in the other direction. But it may be wonderful.
Dr. Kenner: But don't catastrophize, because he's way too young and the thing that you have is what most parents long for, Cynthia, which is a very, very caring relationship with your son. As long as you can keep the doors of communication open and he knows that you value him and care for him and you give him some guidance about the bullies and keeping this part of his life private, and being open if there's any more information to share with you, then you're doing the best. You're doing a wonderful job.
Cynthia: Thank you.
Dr. Kenner: Thank you so much, and thank you for your call.
Cynthia: Thank you. You took a lot out of me right now. Thanks Ellen.
Dr. Kenner: Thanks Cynthia. Bye.
Female: Why can't I just have a normal boyfriend? Why? Just a regular boyfriend who doesn't go nuts on me?
Dr. Kenner: That's from As Good as it Gets. We've all been in situations where we're with somebody who goes completely crazy on you, whether it's a parent, whether it's a sibling, whether it's a friend or a boyfriend, and you decide to keep the relationship. Sometimes you can't change it, if it's a parent, but what do you do when someone acts highly irrational and you don't know how to cope? You first need to be able to name that this is irrational. This is not fair to me and you need to be able to tell yourself that I don't want to assume that I'm as bad as they're saying. They're losing it. It's not me. Assuming you haven't done anything to cause that intensity. What you say to yourself really matters. If you go down the path of beating up on yourself, "I'll never be able to change, this is all I deserve," or you engage in some other negative self talk, then that's where the real damage is done. You can't control somebody else. But you can control your own thinking and you want to make sure it's anchored in reality.