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Did Donal Óg really tell gay kids to talk to their parents first?

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The Indo ran the headline, “Talk to family, GAA star tells gay youngsters”. The Times says, “Teenagers advised to be open about their sexuality” and the story is noticeably different from the Indo.

The first openly gay GAA star, Donal Og Cusack, has urged youngsters confused about their sexual identities to confide in their families.

The hurling star stressed that telling his family and friends that he was gay was one of the best decisions he ever made.

Cusack (33) — speaking to 600 schoolchildren and teachers at a Cork Mental Health Foundation event at the weekend — said he was taken aback by the incredible support shown to him.

Last year, Cusack confirmed he was gay in his best-selling sports memoir. Now, the GAA star has urged any youngster uncertain about their sexuality to confide in their family.

There are no real quotes so it’s hard to say whether his words have been misconstrued or if that is actually what he has advised kids to do. The Times goes with a different interpretation of his comments:

Speaking at a Cork Mental Health Foundation conference last week, the 33-year-old goalkeeper urged teenagers to talk to their friends about their sexuality.

“Talk to people. I was afraid to talk to people in the early days, but I can guarantee, and this is the truth, that there was no adverse reaction from any of the friends I talked to. If anything, our friendships became stronger.”

Maybe, to the people who write these stories, the distinction is minor, irrelevant.

For those of use who’ve had to come out and those of us who still have to, it’s a really important distinction.

Would you recommend gay kids talk to their parents first? I wouldn’t.

Yes, parents love their children. Mostly they love their children as little extensions of their own egos. This might explain what happens when a kid comes out to her supportive, loving parents and they go bananas and kick her out.

I know my case isn’t necessarily typical, but if I’d told my parents before I told anyone else, it would have gone even worse. My mom — when I told her, years later, when I was confident and able to cope — suggested ex-gay therapy and marrying a man would help me. “Sex isn’t everything in a marriage,” she told me. Can you imagine getting this response when you are young, new to all of this and more vunerable? Not pretty.

I was lucky. It just so happened the university’s student counsellor was a lesbian, so I knew coming out to her would be easy. She was also able to help me talk about coming out to others.

While it’s lovely that Donal Óg had a great response from friends and family, that isn’t the case for everyone. Kids need to chose someone who is a “safe bet” and preferably someone on whom they are not financially dependent. Coming out, unfortunately, often requires growing up a little bit more than one would have to otherwise.

Who do you think kids should talk to first?

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  • God no! Don’t talk to your parents first unless you have a particularly supportive relationship with them. Maybe you know that they’ll be fine, then go ahead.
    But most people? No flipping way!
    Go to BeLonG To/local gay youth organisation, go to the internet, go to your friends, or brothers/sisters. Only when you are secure in yourself, go to your parents. They’ll need your support not the other way around.

    hal said:
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  • Definitely not your parents. You need a lot of strength to deal with them so only do it when you are ready. They spend a lot of time feeling quite sorry for themselves and asking why me rather than realising that you need their support and providing it. Dealing with them is hard even if they are very liberal and very close to you.
    Tell one friend or tell the one person you can think of who will (a) keep it secret until you are ready to be open (b) respond very positively to your news.
    It’s much easier to come out if the initial feedback is positive.
    That said, the first people you should come out to are those in the gay community. It’s a fantastic environment, diverse supportive and caring. We’ve all been there so ask one of us or tell us. There are so many resources available to you, like the gay switchboard/Dublin Lesbian Line and the meetup groups in the Outhouse, or sports groups at OutinIreland.net…or running Amach on meetup.com – for LGBTQ women. You’re first point of call has to be someone supportive, even if that person is a complete stranger to you.

    j said:
  • Not the parents first!  Maybe in years to come when we reach some kind of utopia but no definitly not the parents or anyone you have to live with for that matter.  Its such a massive deal and unless you are really close to a sibling etc I would say not to tell even them at the start.  Its not easy if you live somewere without a lot of support so I would advise to say it to a friend as I did or more specificly I dropped massive hints that Angie rather than Brad did it for me.  Take the time and don’t be rushed regardless of how, when or whom you tell.  Some genies can’t be put back into the bottle.

    mel said:
  • Insane!!  I know of so many kids kicked out of the home for coming out, vulnerable kids whose lives were ruined by their parents’ homophobia.  Safety first!  I came out to my parents in 1991 and they still are not comfortable with it.  It really would be lovely if all parents were sane and supportive, but sadly, they are not.  And they are generally the very last thing a young person coming out needs to deal with.  Go to a peer support group.  Pick up a queer magazine.  Check the web.  But unless you have really exceptional parents, have a very solid support network in place before you come out to them.  My girlfriend and a good friend basically stood outside staring in the window when I came out to my parents in case they went completely psycho.

    okitty said:
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