How Do I Know If My Son Is Gay?

09/28/2016 04:48 pm ET Updated Sep 29, 2017

What are the best ways to test if my son is gay? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Mike Leary, psychotherapist in private practice, on Quora:

If you want to know if your son is gay, ask who he's involved with.

One of our sons called before coming home a couple of months into his freshman year at college saying he had something really important to tell us. My wife and I went through the list of possibilities, sorting out what it might be. After discussing the likelihood of certain things, we put "gay" at the top of the list.

When he came home and the three of us sat in the living room, he said, "Well, your baby bird is gay." Bingo! I said, "Just tell me you aren't involved with the insect?" (The insect was our nickname for a creepy kid in his class from high school who we suspected was gay too.)

He screwed up his face in disgust and emphatically said, "Ew, no!"

Okay then, he passed the "not crazy, just gay" test. He'd dated some girls in high school and even had sex with one. But he said he'd felt this way since he was seven; he just didn't understand it until recently, and only acted on it in college.

After telling us, he went through the same naᅢᆵve confusion and heartbreak our other straight kids did as he searched for true love.

The best way to tell if your son is gay is to find out if you are trustworthy enough for him to risk telling. That trust will need to have been established long before the confessing event. Have you taught your kids to be open and honest, or have they seen you be judgmental and fearful of differences or change? Are you empathetic and open-minded, or closed-minded and controlling?

Wanting your child to find happiness and contentment should be a parent's priority. Kids have to discover who they truly are to do so. That means they have to have examples of their parents going through life's confusions and problems in a way that demonstrates integrity and acceptance. Offspring need to know they can trust the parent with potentially embarrassing and disappointing information.

Trust on this level requires a bond that is established by how other failures and disagreements were handled in the past. You are really the one being tested and judged, not your child. This is just another predicament in the stream of life. If you make it the issue, you have flunked the life test.

As a therapist, I hear things people wanted to tell their parents but felt they couldn't, all the time. Rapes, molestations, being bullied, failures, humiliations, beatings, and being lied to and betrayed are but a few. We need to trust that our parents will accept our life issue and help, not judge and complain. Your job is to create a climate where the child can come to you openly; that is a test you must pass over and over as life issues become more complicated. Then your child will feel secure responding with the truth because you showed that you can accept it.

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