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Real Life

How I Live: Gay teens need our love

Amanda Aaron is helping fellow parents like her.

By Aroha Awarau
"My husband Gavin and I emigrated to Auckland from South Africa in 2008 with our children, Josh, who was 16, and Danielle, 14.
We moved here becausewe wanted to provide a safer environment for our children. We missed our loved ones back home and felt isolated without them but as a result, we grew closer as a family unit.
We drew upon that closeness when my son came out at 17 – first admitting he was bisexual to test the waters with friends and family, then announcing he was gay a year later.
To be honest, I wasn’t shocked. A mother knows. I knew Josh was gay since he was about two. You just have that feeling. When he came out as bisexual, his father thought he was just experimenting with who he was.
Amanda says she knew Josh was gay since he was about two years old.
His dad was sure it was just a phase, but it wasn’t. Gavin is a more traditional person than me. He encouraged his son to play rugby when he was younger, which he did for two years. Josh also took up other sports, like karate, which he has a black belt in.
But despite his initial misgivings, Gavin has always been a family man who loves his children and nothing was going to stop that. It took him a few months to get his head around everything, but he eventually learned to embrace it.
We, too, had to come out to our family and friends, and let them know we had a gay son. Most of our friends were great about it but there were some who had no idea what to say or do, often choosing a deafening silence.
It was also interesting to note that no-one ever wondered how this impacted on Danielle. She is Josh’s biggest supporter and seems to be wiser and more accepting about these things.
Amanda says her family is richer because of their experience.
Our family continues to navigate this road together and we are all richer for the experience. Josh is a wonderful son and brother. We wouldn’t compromise or change any part of who he is – we are very proud of him. I want Josh to be his true self, so I never wanted him to be straight because he wouldn’t be himself.
Gavin, Danni and I have now walked in or helped with two Pride Parades. This is not just for Josh, it is for us too. We feel the gravity of ensuring a safe world for young adults.
I recently started a support group called Holding Our Own for parents coming to terms with their gay teenager. We’re based at the Auckland premises of Rainbow Youth – a support group for gay, bisexual and transgender children and teens.
Josh belonged to the group and he once said to me it was the only place he could go and be completely normal. We see children who are kicked out of home, children who need support. There are also parents who are scared and can’t face the situation head on.
The group is still in its infancy, but I hope that it will be a space where parents can come and talk about their story. My role is to open that space up and grow those relationships so people can support their children and facilitate changes themselves. I’m also a social worker studying to be a counsellor.
Someone once asked Gavin if he saw Josh marching in a Pride Parade wearing drag, what he would do. He replied he would hold up a banner that said ‘I love you.’”
Quick fire:
One thing I love about NZ... is the feeling of safety for me and for my family.
The most unique gift I’ve received is… a car. My husband just bought me one for my birthday. That was very nice.
The one thing that keeps me up at night… is worrying that people won’t be kind to my children.
As told to Aroha Awarau

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