Dear Miriam,

Last year, our youngest son told us that he is gay. To be honest, it did not come as a huge shock to me, though it did take his father a bit longer to come to terms with the news.

Since then, we have been introduced to his boyfriend who he met in Dublin, and he seems like a very nice young man. Of course, this is all very new for us, but we are finding our way day by day and once all our children are healthy and happy then that is all we can ask for.

The reason I am writing is that this summer there is going to be a family wedding and all the cousins will be invited with their respective partners, including my son. When my son came out, there was no big family “announcement”, but obviously a lot of the cousins his own age would know by now, as well as the more clued in aunts and uncles. However, there was no big discussion and unless somebody asks me directly, I’m not going around bleating my son’s business.

The one person that I suspect does not know, however, is my own mother. I thought long and hard about whether we should break the news to her, but my son was reluctant to say anything – I suppose for fear that she might not take it well, being of a completely different era.

However, she is obviously going to be at the family wedding, as will my son and his boyfriend, so if we don’t say something to her, it could be very awkward on the day. I know we could try to get away with it by saying something like, “he is just a good friend” but I don’t think that would be fair on my son or his boyfriend. After all, they have nothing to hide.

I have not raised the subject again with my son, but I’m seriously thinking we need to tell his grandmother before the wedding. What do you think?

Confused Mother, Munster

Dear Confused Mother,

Thank you for your letter. Your love and care for your son just radiates from your words, and it is clear that all you wish is that he has the same happiness, acceptance and respect that his siblings and cousins enjoy in their lives and relationships. I know you are still finding your way with it, but I’m sure your son appreciates every ounce of your support and that you have made this journey so much easier for him.

Obviously, the wedding is a new challenge in the sense that it will be the first “public” appearance of your son with his partner in the family circle. And I agree with you: it is important that they are there as a couple, not having to hide behind the label of “friends.” Far too many people have had to hide for far too long.

Of course, I can understand your – and you son’s – reservations about telling his grandmother. But if the alternatives are to keep it secret from her, to let her figure it out herself at the wedding – or let somebody else tell her – well, I don’t fancy them much either.

She might be of a different era, but I’m sure she was aware of the referendum last year and while it is easy to assume she would take it badly, those who have lived a lot longer than we have can often be a lot more tolerant and understanding than others with less life experience.

So, yes, I think you should speak to your son about telling his grandmother before the wedding, but I would suggest you accompany him in doing so to show your solidarity, or – if he gives you permission and if you felt comfortable – that you could even break the ice beforehand by speaking to her yourself. I can’t give you the words, but I think maybe if you spoke about how your son came out to you and how you may have struggled with some aspects, but now you can see how happy he is, that is the most important thing.

That is just my opinion, but if you want a different take on this, it might be worth speaking to other parents to see how they handled a similar situation by contacting a group like the Gay Switchboard on their helpline on 01-872-1055. I hope this has been helpful and at least prompts a conversation with your son on the matter again. I wish you the best of luck.