Cantwell related her own experiences as a mother and teacher and shared the results of her informal study of other parents in this book. She employed informal interviews and questionnaires of lesbians, gays, and their parents in order to explore the effects of coming out on family relationships. The inquiry provided a peek into the experiences of boys who realized their same gender attraction at the average age of 6 years, 4 months and girls who made the same realization at the average age of 6 years, 8 months, yet kept this secret from their parents until they were an average of 22 years and 17 years, respectively. This mirrored research and anecdotal reports that gay men, bisexuals, and lesbian women were aware of their differentness at a very early age but spent their formative years at risk and in anguish before coming to terms with their sexuality.
Cantwell used these results to explore the difficulties her own son had as a child and to speculate about the origins of the behaviors of disturbed six- and seven-year-olds she taught at the time. She regarded the gap between the time her struggling, pre-adolescent son tried to tell her he was "different" and the time he finally came out to her as twenty years of lost opportunities for nurturing, support, and intimacy.
Her insights suggest that there is much more that parents can do to provide a safe and nurturing environment for their sons and daughters when they are very young. Pretending is not only difficult for children, but parents who do not truly know their closeted children face an invisible barrier that blocks genuine intimacy. A hug from a parent who is the object of this deceit can seem hollow and meaningless to a craving child, and provides a glimpse into how this could lead one to search out less healthy sources for intimacy. The invisible barrier between parents and children keeping secrets by hiding their sexuality has been reported by other parents and supported by popular and research literature on family secrets.
This book is a must-read for any parent, and the younger their child, the better.