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25 year old son struggling with sexual orientation

Discussion in 'For Parents and Family Members of LGBT People' started by Lor10Whi22, Sep 23, 2020.

  1. Lor10Whi22

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    Hi. I am so glad I found this site. Lord knows how many different searches I tried until I finally found it. My husband and I have always been comfortable with homosexuality, gender identity, etc. When my son was a toddler and regularly played with my friend's daughter and they wore butterfly wings, I thought it was adorable. Whenever we went to McDonalds (bad choice on retrospect) and they asked, "boy or girl" when getting a happy meal, I would switch back and forth so as not to reinforce gender stereotypes. When he was in first grade and wanted pink Converse sneakers, we said, "of course," without hesitation. Unfortunately, I think he got teased because he only wore them to school one time. He was always a very intense, passionate kid which sometimes got him in trouble on the yard during team sports.

    Fast forward: He started dating his "first love", a girl, during senior year. He was madly in love, very affectionate and loving even in front of us. They went away to college - different schools but in the same big city across the country. He ended up not creating a community of friends as he clung to the relationship. They broke up the middle of soph year and he was devastated. He has struggled with alcohol and weed before and after. Fast forward: After college, living at home, held a job for a little over a year but left the job he was promoted to - toxic boss. Drinking, using, sports gambling. We started an intense therapy program for him and us to help him launch into the next life phase. Since not much progress was being made, we set a date by which he needed to move out and told him he needed to find a place (we would help with rent).

    It was then, in a family therapy session, at the moving deadline, that he told us he had been struggling with his sexual orientation and that, in his last year of college, he would go on ####### and have hookups. He was filled with shame and self loathing saying he didn't want that and he wanted to get married (implying having what he thinks is a normal life). We were very loving and accepting and empathic about the pain he was feeling and reinforced that we love him no matter who he loves. It's interesting because he has acted in a homophobic way with slurs when watching sports and angry at how a player is playing, etc. He also had become right wing and pro Trump in college (complete opposite of us) and still is.

    As soon as he realized that his revelation was not going to delay our move-out ultimatum, he dropped that issue and did not want to discuss it further. He moved in Feb, COVID hit in March and has remained unemployed. Aside from reiterating that we were here for him with regards to that convo one time shortly after, nothing has come up. He is still in therapy (zoom) with 2 of the therapists he was seeing and I have no idea what they discuss. The family therapy and the parent therapy ended. We have family dinner once per week and keep in touch by text in between.

    Is there any chance he is straight and was experimenting or acting out in some type of self-loathing?

    Are there any other red flags I should be aware of?

    Is there anything I can or should do to help him?

    Thank you!
     
  2. QuietPeace

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    He could marry a man, so that is not blocking him from having a normal married life. Maybe his perceptions of what it is to be gay are a bit off especially if all that he has personally seen of it or participated in is hook-up culture.

    Yes, though I would not know how to figure that out.

    Just be there for him and keep telling him that whatever sort of relationship he ends up in you love and support him. Hopefully he can work this out in therapy, which fortunately he is in.

    Just as an aside, I really wish that my parents had been like you.
     
  3. silverhalo

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    Hey welcome to EC. I'm really sorry your son I said struggling but it is nice to know that he has truly supportive parents so thank you for that.
    Only your son knows how he truly feels but to me the story reads like your son is gay and displays (or certainly did when he was younger) some of the stereotypical gay characteristics. It's likely he has been teased and perhaps bullied about these and so probably everything about being gay in his mind equals negativity and bad things. He perhaps got with the girl in high school because it helped 'take the gay away'. Perhaps the teasing etc became less when he was with her. We can be very good at acting the part and potentially being even more affectionate than normal in order to prove to ourselves and others that we really are straight. It could be that he put so much importance on this relationship that when it broke down he was totally lost and then things spiralled.
    Even growing up in a liberal accepting household doesnt mean you cant suffer from internalised homophobia and quite often people who show aspects off homophobic behaviour towards others later come out as gay. I think perhaps used as another security blanket towards not being found out, or just an outward reflection of how much they hate the gay feelings inside themselves.

    If he has gotten as far as hooking up several times i think it is unlikely he is straight. You say he is seeing 2 therapists, I dont suppose either of them specialise in LGBT issues? It might be worth looking into that. Struggling with your sexuality can be all consuming and it may be that if that is the root cause of the other issues then dealing with that may ease the others in turn.

    Be kind to yourself you may not think you are doing a great job but being there for him and loving him whatever happens is priceless.
     
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  4. Chip

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    I think it is highly, highly unlikely that he's straight. I base this on the combination of his shame in revealing it to you, the hookups on the app site, the drug and alcohol use, and the homophobic slurs. All of these are means of pushing away what he is truly feeling, and projecting the hatred onto himself. (Likely, the Trump support as well in his case.) For him to bring this up to you in therapy means he had carefully thought about it already, and clearly if it was happening in college, he's been thinking about it for a long time; it wasn't some sudden desperate move.

    My first question: Why is he seeing two therapists? That's highly unusual, and unless there is really, really good coordination between them, and very specific reason for it, it can actually be counterproductive. Even if one is for the substance use issues and the other is for everything else, the therapeutic approaches may not be compatible and are a great way for a client to essentially stay in a "holding pattern."

    The substance use is almost certainly medicating the worthiness issues that are pretty evident. The challenge is exploring the self-worth in a deep way. And here's where it gets difficult: Most therapists are not well trained in working at a deep level with the family-of-origin issues where worthiness issues come up, because many of the issues are subtle, and require some pretty deep exploration, requiring specialized skills in the therapist. These days, most therapists focus on interventions that solve the surface layer without getting into the underlying issues. It makes things better in the short term, but doesn't solve the underlying issues. And with substance use disorders and internalized homophobia and difficulty with self-acceptance, it's only a band-aid.

    There's one school of thought about treating adolescent and young adult clients with substance use disorders where working with the family is seen as more important than the work with the primary client. Since he sounds unwilling to talk much to you about what's going on for him, this might be a reasonable approach. Since everything is Zoom-based these days, I see that you're in LA, and know of a practice in northern CA that uses this approach that it might be worthwhile to explore a couple of sessions with them (just you and your husband) to see if they might be able to help. There are also some books and video courses that I think could be really helpful in giving you the perspective that will help you help him... and, if he's open, potentially help him as well. If that's of interest, let me know and I can provide those resources to you.
     
    #4 Chip, Sep 23, 2020
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2020
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  5. Lor10Whi22

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    Thank you so much for your kind and supportive reply. I hope we can start talking about it with him.
     
  6. Lor10Whi22

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    Your reply is very helpful. I'm so glad I reached out.
     
  7. Lor10Whi22

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    Hi. I'm still learning how to reply on the platform. On one above, I inserted a response but it ended up included in the text the sender's reply.

    Anyway, thank you, Chip, for this. Here is how he ended up seeing two therapists. About a year ago, we were very concerned about his depressed mood (already on antidepressants) and miserable outlook combined with his drinking, using and sports gambling and his seeming inability to move forward. We knew rehab was not the answer and knew he would not want to go. A place was recommended that is basically an intensive, individual outpatient model. He had one session/week of individual/EMDR therapy, somatic experiencing, mindfulness and family therapy plus 2 off-site sessions with a "mentor" where they would go for hikes and talk or work on job applications, etc. After he moved out in Feb and we felt we had gone as far as we could with the family sessions. Then covid hit and he wasn't making the most of the mentor sessions so we ended those. Mindfulness had switched to someone to help him take steps to get a job and he was not making the most of that, either. We all agreed for him to continue to with the support of the individual and somatic therapists. I do not think these therapists have enough experience/skills for the deep level work on family of origin issues. But would that even be possible right now given his identity issues around his sexual orientation? Isn't/shouldn't that be primary?

    I am very open to the possibility of exploring your recommendations of both the family work and the books and video courses. Normally, I would have replied to you privately but I did not knowing that this will certainly help another parent who is in a similar situation. Feel free to reply privately with the referrals if that is your preference.

    Thank you again. I am so grateful.
     
  8. Chip

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    Here's the challenge: The family-of-origin and whatever other childhood issues are interwoven with the sexual orientation issues, and both of those are deeply interwoven with the substance abuse issues. Additionally, there is at least one study that shows a significant portion (15-20%) of clients entering treatment for substance use disorders are actually gay or lesbian and in denial of that, and as those issues are addressed, the SUD is no longer an issue.

    It's difficult to explain in a few words why all of that is, but in a nutshell, it goes to sense of worthiness and the messages he got (likely indirectly and inadvertently) that all of us, as parents, pass on to our kids as a result of our own experiences and wounds that we often don't even realize are there. What's so profound about being in a training where this kind of work is being taught, is watching the therapists, some of whom have been practicing for 20+ years, discover pieces of themselves that they didn't know were there. So there's no judgment about any shortcoming as parents, because whatever occurred, the parents are almost always unaware of, and not intending, the influence they are having.

    One question is about the nature and frequency of the substance issues. Weed, by itself, can be a serious addiction, and it is problematic because it can absolutely sap motivation and any desire to better oneself. It is also very different than the weed of 30 years ago, because 30 years ago, average THC potency was about 4%, and today, the average potency is ~20-30%, and if one is using tinctures, wax, dabs, and the like, potency can reach 60-90%. Totally different drug than what people experienced a generation ago, more addictive, more debilitating. And another major concern with any extensive drug use in a teen or young adult (up to mid-20s) is the impact it has on brain development, which is still actively happening up to about ~25-27. But on the positive side, the risks of serious, life-threatening side effects (other than increased susceptibility to Covid, if one is smoking it) are pretty minimal.

    Now... if there are other drugs, or alcohol, involved, then the risks of life-threatening side effects become more serious. So part of the calculation here has to be about the mortality risks of whatever drugs of abuse he is using. And one of the concerns is, most people with dependency problems are not being honest with anyone (even themselves) about what, how often, and how much they are using. One way of evaluating this is, if he gets evaluated somewhere, doing a urine and breathalyzer screen. It's important to know exactly what's going on, because that deeply impacts treatment planning.

    And you are also correct that the majority of therapists are not really adequately trained in the kind of deep family-of-origin work that gets to the root of this kind of combination of issues. Somatic experiencing and EMDR are powerful tools, but the problem I see with their use is that many therapists tend to see them as a magic bullet that will solve all of their clients' problems, and what they really are, objectively, are tools that take away the emotional impact of trauma, but don't really process or address the self-perception that is created as a result of the trauma, and it is that, typically, that is driving the distorted thinking and self-perception issues that, in turn, make it difficult to accept oneself (if, indeed, he is gay), and that lack of self-acceptance, ultimately, is what is driving the numbing behavior that's coming from the drug use, gambling, and so forth. If the underlying issue isn't addressed, then typically what happens is the numbing behavior is transferred from drugs and gambling to food, sex, shopping, and the like.

    Three books I would highly recommend:

    "In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts" by Gabor Maté MD
    "Hold On to Your Kids" by Gabor Maté MD and Gordon Neufeld
    "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brené Brown

    I'll warn you in advance that Hungry Ghosts is a tough read. The first third of the book is incredibly depressing, because Gabor is talking about his experience working on Canada's Skid Row, with people who are basically hopeless, and it is heartbreaking. I almost quit reading it. But if you can get past that, the rest of the book talks deeply about the origins of addiction, the tie to worthiness, and how we work through those issues. "Hold On to your Kids" draws on the same basic understanding, but is from the perspective of how we interact with our kids at a young age deeply impacts them, and helps us understand their behaviors as they grow up. "Gifts of Imperfection" is in a completely different vein, and is focused on the psychological aspects of shame, lack of worthiness, and what, cognitively, causes that, and how we change our behaviors to make change. All of them work well together.

    I'll PM you separately about the other resources.
     
    #8 Chip, Sep 24, 2020
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2020
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  9. Lor10Whi22

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    Thank you so much for your educated, experienced and deep reply. I am very grateful. I think I will start with Brené Brown; need to ease in. I also look forward to any video education as well. Look forward to the referrals.
     
  10. SilentM

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    I can only tell you that straight people do have sex with same-sex partners for number of reasons and the most popular factors are economical (needs money) or social (peer pressure, lack of more suitable sex-partners, confinement).

    I know there are erroneous cognitive patterns in some people treated with personality disorders that include: promiscuity, guilt and "fix" attempt by more promiscuity (a vicious cycle) but not sure if sex/gender really matters in this.
     
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  11. Lucy Marie

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    Let me start ((momhugs)). We all need those, yes?
    Mom to Mom here. My son is close in age to yours so I can relate somewhat.
    You have done what you can. You created a safe space. You have gotten professional help. You have not abandoned your child.
    I have a hard time hearing this, so I am not saying it lightly—Mama you need to step back. I get very angry when anyone says I need to step back, but sometimes it is best we can do is let our baby boys live their own lives. You have given him all the tools and then some to understand himself. Let him and therapist(s) do the work. Remind your son you love him regardless and you are there for him regardless. The virus screwed up my plans for my kid too. Deep breaths as long as your son knows you are there for him...that is the greatest gift.
    There are alternate view points and suggestions—this is simply mine.
    ((momhugs))
     
  12. Lor10Whi22

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    Thank you mama! I really appreciate what you said and that is what I have decided to do: Reinforce that we love him and are here for him.
     
  13. Lucy Marie

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    And, if you want to vent about sons who “forget” chores...I’m here.
    Best of luck!
    ((momhugs))

    PS you took that better than I ever have
     
  14. musicteach

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    Sometimes as Parents all we can do is love. Loving people is hard work. It sticks when it feels like your hands are tired and there’s nothing you can do, especially when your child is hurting. It sounds like you’ve done what you can: you’ve given the infrastructure he needs. Love and support is just what the good doctor ordered.