email page    print page

All Topic Reviews
"Intimate" Violence against Women3 NBS of Julian DrewA Little PregnantA Natural History of RapeA Parent's Guide to Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning AutismA Stir of BonesAbout a BoyAdult Children of Emotionally Immature ParentsAgainst MarriageAgainst MarriageAlmost a PsychopathAlone TogetherAnatomy of LoveAngelsAnother CountryAnxious ParentsApples and OrangesBe Honest--You're Not That Into Him EitherBeing the Other OneBetrayed as BoysBeyond AddictionBipolar DisorderBoys Will Put You on a Pedestal (So They Can Look Up Your Skirt)Breaking ApartBrief Adolescent Therapy Homework PlannerBringing Up ParentsBut I Love HimCaring for a Child with AutismCaring in Remembered WaysCherishmentChildren of the Aging Self-AbsorbedChildren of the Self-AbsorbedChildren, Families, and Health Care Decision MakingClawsCloserCold HitCoping With Difficult PeopleCouple SkillsCruddyDancing in My NuddypantsDivorce PoisonDoing ItDone With The CryingEcstasyEmotional ClaustrophobiaEmotional Fitness for IntimacyEmotional Intelligence at WorkEntwined LivesErotic PassionsEssentials of Premarital CounselingEvery Pot Has a CoverFacts About ADHD ChildrenFamilies Like MineFamilyFamily BoundFamily FirstFear of IntimacyFinal JeopardyFind MeFlashpointFor Lesbian ParentsForgive Your Parents, Heal YourselfGandhi's WayGeorgia Under WaterGetting over Getting MadGetting the Love You WantGetting the Love You Want Audio CompanionGirl in the MirrorGirl StuffGoing Home without Going CrazyHandbook of AttachmentHandbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual ClientsHappiness Sold SeparatelyHard to GetHe's Just Not That Into YouHealing ConversationsHollow KidsHot ButtonsHot Chocolate for the Mystical LoverHow Families Still MatterHow to Create Chemistry with AnyoneHow to Give Her Absolute PleasureHow to Handle a Hard-To-Handle KidHow to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble and What to Do If You Can'tI am Not Sick I Don't Need Help!I Don't Know How She Does ItI Hate You-Don't Leave MeI Only Say This Because I Love YouI'm OK, You're My ParentsIn the Mood, AgainInside the American CoupleIntrusive ParentingIt's Called a Breakup Because It's BrokenIt's Love We Don't UnderstandJakarta MissingKeeping Passion AliveKeeping Your Child in MindLet's Get This StraightLiberation's ChildrenLife's WorkLikely to DieLove JunkieLove SickLove Times ThreeLove Works Like ThisLoving Someone With Bipolar DisorderLoving Someone with Borderline Personality DisorderLust in TranslationMaking the RunMaking the RunManic DepressionMars and Venus - Starting Over.Mating in CaptivityMom, Dad, I'm Gay.MotherstylesMurder in the InnMysterious CreaturesNecessary NoiseOdd Girl OutOpenOpening to Love 365 Days a YearOphelia's MomOrgasmsOur Journey Through High Functioning Autism and Asperger SyndromeOut of the DustOvercoming Your Difficult FamilyParenting and the Child's WorldParenting on the GoParenting Your Out-Of-Control TeenagerParents and Digital TechnologyParents Do Make a DifferencePassionate MarriagePlanet JanetPreventing Misbehavior in ChildrenProblem Child or Quirky Kid?Raising AmericaRaising ElijahRaising Kids in an Age of TerrorRaising Kids in the 21st CenturyRaising Resilient ChildrenRay's a LaughRelationship RescueRelax, It's Just SexRespect-Me RulesRomantic IntelligenceRoom For JSecrets of a Passionate MarriageSelf-NurtureSelfish, Shallow, and Self-AbsorbedSex Addiction: The Partner's PerspectiveShidduch CrisisSickenedSingleSlut!Socrates in LoveSomeone Like YouSong for EloiseSpecial SiblingsSpiritually Healing the Indigo Children (and Adult Indigos, Too!)Staying Connected to Your TeenagerStaying Sane When Your Family Comes to VisitStop Arguing with Your KidsStop SignsStop Walking on EggshellsStop Walking on EggshellsStrong, Smart, & BoldSummer of the SkunksSurviving a Borderline ParentTaking Charge of AngerTelling SecretsThank You for Being Such a PainThe Anti-Romantic ChildThe AwakeningThe Bastard on the Couch CDThe Birth of PleasureThe Brief Couples Therapy Homework Planner with DiskThe Bully Action GuideThe Burden of SympathyThe Commercialization of Intimate LifeThe CorrectionsThe Couples Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe DisappearanceThe Dream BearerThe Educated ParentThe Emotional RevolutionThe Employee Assistance Treatment PlannerThe EpidemicThe Ethics of ParenthoodThe Ethics of the FamilyThe Gay Baby BoomThe Good DivorceThe Guide for International Intercultural Couples and Families Intercultural MarriageThe Healing Journey for CouplesThe Hostile HospitalThe Husbands and Wives ClubThe Inside Story on Teen GirlsThe Introvert AdvantageThe Little FriendThe Love HexagonThe Moral Intelligence of ChildrenThe Neuroscience of Human RelationshipsThe New I DoThe Normal OneThe Nurture AssumptionThe OASIS Guide to Asperger SyndromeThe Other ParentThe Philosophical ParentThe Psychology of Parental ControlThe Real Rules for GirlsThe Reflective ParentThe Right to Be ParentsThe Secret Lives of WivesThe Spider and the BeeThe State of AffairsThe StepsThe Story of My FatherThe Velveteen FatherThe Virgin BlueThe Visitation HandbookThe Whole ChildTo Have and To Hurt:Two Is EnoughUnderstanding MarriageUnderstanding the Borderline MotherUnhitchedUntrue Up in FlamesWe've Got IssuesWhat about the KidsWhat Goes UpWhat Is Secular Humanism?What It Means to Love YouWhat Our Children Teach UsWhen a Parent is DepressedWhen Mars Women DateWhen Someone You Love Is BipolarWhen Someone You Love Is DepressedWhy Are You So Sad?Will You, Won't You?WomanWorking With Emotional IntelligenceWorried All the TimeYes, Your Teen Is Crazy!

Related Topics
Mom, Dad, I'm Gay.Review - Mom, Dad, I'm Gay.
How Families Negotiate Coming Out
by Ritch C. Savin-Williams
American Psychological Association, 2001
Review by Glenda M. Russell, Ph.D.
Jun 26th 2002 (Volume 6, Issue 26)

            In a discipline that all too often encourages unidimensional models of complex human phenomena, it is a pleasure to read psychologist Ritch Savin-Williams book, Mom, Dad.  I’m Gay: How Families Negotiate Coming Out.  Savin-Williams offers the reader a generally engrossing report of coming out experiences as seen through the eyes of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youth as well as youths who have been involved in same-sex relationships but who reject these labels for themselves.  The book focuses quite specifically on what happens when LGB youths anticipate telling their parents about their sexual orientation and what actually occurs when they make this revelation.  The stories of these revelations form the core of the book and they are as interesting as reports of lives in movement.  They reflect fears and triumphs, rejection and acceptance, human stupidity and human grace – all the ups and downs that one might expect from the stories of significant events in the lives of virtually any group of adolescents.

            Savin-Williams sets up his book by placing sexual-minority youth and their coming out in the context of adolescent development.  He explicitly invites readers to see the similarities and differences among these youths, and he introduces readers to basic terminology (e.g., sexual orientation, sexual identity, homonegativity).  The author then discusses what is known about coming out processes, especially discrepancies between coming out narratives found in popular literature, on the one hand, and narratives based on empirical studies, on the other.  The next four chapters of the book focus on findings from Savin-Williams’ interviews with 164 sexual-minority youths.  The chapters are divided by dyadic pairs: daughters and mothers, daughters and fathers, sons and mothers, and sons and fathers.  Verbatim segments from the interviews provide lively illustrations that enhance what might otherwise have been a fairly straightforward rendition of interview findings, arranged in a predictable order and without much elaboration or contextualization in other research or theory.  The final two chapters address what is known about optimal ways to negotiate coming out to families and raise open questions that need to be addressed in future research.

            Savin-Williams does an outstanding job of offering observations about LGB youths that counter the trend in both popular and psychological literature to homogenize them. The youth in this book are not of a type; their experiences are as varied as are the lives of any group of adolescents. Further, he gives voice to adolescents who are not white or middle-class.  Even more pointedly, Savin-Williams’ research counters the all-too-frequent presentation of sexual-minority youth as leading painful, oppressed lives that universally cause them misery to the point of self-destruction.  While never failing to recognize the painful coming out experiences that some of these youths face, the author gives full exposition to other coming out experiences, some decidedly positive and many quite unremarkable. This is arguably the greatest strength of this book.

Another strength of Mom, Dad. I’m Gay is its accessibility.  It is well written and straightforward, free of the jargon that stamps books as academic and at the same time presents frequently impossible barriers to any but an academic audience.  Clearly, Savin-Williams set out to write a book that might appeal to a broader base of readers; clearly he has succeeded.  His book offers much to other psychologists certainly, but it also has much to say to intelligent readers outside the discipline.  The chapter, “Negotiating healthy relationships among family members,” is extraordinarily good.  The chapter reviews major findings from the author’s study and then translates them into advice about various issues – for example whether to come out to parents; reasons not to disclose sexual orientation to parents; survival tips for living in the closet; and advice to parents.  This chapter is rich in clinical sensitivity, common sense, and appropriate humility.  It alone is worth the price of the book, and I can easily imagine copies of this chapter being passed from therapists and youth workers to LGB youth, from youths to other youths, and from parents of LGB youth to other parents of LGB youth.

Even as this book’s accessibility is one of its greatest assets, its accessibility also stands as one of its weaknesses.  Savin-Williams’ straightforward approach both to his data and to the stories of his respondents all but ignores some of the complexity and depth that one might expect to find in such a data set.  By staying on the surface of these data, the author provides a solid set of stories presented along a single set of dimensions. The reader is left to wonder what else these youthful respondents might have said.  Relatedly, the author’s exposition of the data offers little in the way of critique or analysis. Savin-Williams appropriately relates his results with other research that is close in terms of subject matter.  But he might have written a better and more interesting book – albeit perhaps a less accessible one – if he had offered greater depth of analysis and critique, using a broader base of research and theory to do so.  For instance, the stories of male sexual-minority youth call out for a feminist analysis that touches on the role of gender transgression and might help make sense of some of the unique pressures experienced by some male sexual-minority adolescents.

This limitation notwithstanding, Savin-Williams has written a book that is both interesting and useful.  It will be valuable to the parents of LGB youth, to those who work with these youths and their parents, and to anyone else who wonders what happens when LGB youth come out to their families.  Many youths might find the book accessible as well.  Whoever owns the book should make several copies of the chapter “Negotiating family relationships . . . .” It is a particularly welcomed gift.


© 2002 Glenda M. Russell


Glenda M. Russell, Ph.D. is a Senior Research Associate and Project Director at the Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies in Amherst, Massachusetts.  A psychologist and an activist, she is the author of Voted Out: Psychological Consequences of Anti-Gay Politics and co-author, with Janis S. Bohan, of Conversations About Psychology and Sexual Orientation.


Welcome to Metapsychology. We feature over 8200 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and perspectives. We update our front page weekly and add more than twenty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.

Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from for purchases through this site, which helps us send review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your purchases through our Amazon links. We thank you for your support!

Join our e-mail list!: Metapsychology New Review Announcements: Sent out monthly, these announcements list our recent reviews. To subscribe, click here.

Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? To apply, write to our editor.

Metapsychology Online Reviews

Promote your Page too

Metapsychology Online Reviews
ISSN 1931-5716