I have thought about this post so many times in the last eight months and how I wanted to say the right words. I’ve started/restarted/scrapped so many attempts in my head. But here we are. In keeping with the theme of my page here, this will be my perspective and my story.
(Disclaimer: I have permission to post from my kiddo)
My son came out to me last year.
I thought I knew how I would react. I thought I knew what to expect. I thought there would be a moment of trumpets and confetti and tears and hugs.
I’m very much in support of loving your humans, regardless of who they love. I’m all for supporting LGBTQ+ rights. My kids and I have had many conversations throughout their lives about acceptance and equality and respecting human beings. About how things weren’t always “this way” for women, black people, interracial couples, gay people, transgender people. We’ve talked at length about people who are not accepted – for whatever reasons- by their families and how that is not our family. When my son came out to me, it was very quick, concise and to the point. I hugged and kissed him and told him I love him and am so proud of him alwayS.
There were no trumpets or confetti or crowns. I figured I hug him, I tell him I love and support him and we move on.
Big Fake News
When a kid, my kid, came out at 14 during Covid, it was a little out of the blue. The kid hasn’t even been around other human beings, let alone peers, so how are we going to guide him through the real world. He’s only had online contact with people for the last year. What does any of this mean?!
I found myself floundering a lot. Mostly, I was just confused as to why the general consensus of having your kid come out to you is simply, “Ok, I love you, I’m proud of you, what do you want for dinner?”
It’s so much more than that! My kid has questions about who he is and where does he find answers? His straight parents? Where does he safely ask about experiences and share feelings, straight friends? Or does he go to a closeted friend who trusts him, but is possibly living out his own expression through my Out kid?
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much to navigate! There are so many feelings for me as the parent. Top of the list is his safety. How do you encourage your child to be true to himself, and own who he is, but to be careful who he tells? How do you support all of the questions when you’ve got no answers?
I 100% support my kid, but this means letting go of the idea of who I thought my son would be. I had to take a minute – or ten – one afternoon during a conversation I never anticipated happening with my son just last month. 7 months after he came out. It doesn’t mean I’m not proud of him, or I don’t accept him. It means I’m human and as a parent you have to pivot so much. The conversations that exist around sexuality, sexual identity, personal expression are so much more precarious with a teen. You cannot for an instant allow a crack in your voice that shows any possible interpretation of judgment or criticism. You can’t allow anything that might shut down them coming to you with the next set of questions.
My son and I went to our first Pride celebration today. A small- and totally conservative- nearby town held their first annual Pride. We had all of our appropriate rainbows on and despite the sweltering 100 degree weather, we were both so glad we went. My kid is not a talker. He’s a processor. Once he has figured it out, then you can’t shut him up, but the process takes quite a while. Neither of us knew what to expect, would there be a parade? Food? Protestors? Performers? Speedos? How much glitter should we expect?
It was a relatively small shindig … but to be honest I’ve nothing to compare it to. It was great to see so much support for this community near our own town. There was no parade or thongs and the only glitter was on the free rainbow cupcakes, but there was a podium. We heard a lesbian church pastor speak about her experience living right in that town for the last 20 years and how much things had changed for the better towards acceptance.
My kid was listening. The pastor talked about the discrimination from her own church, she spoke about criticism of her children, but she also spoke about great schools supporting their family and her current congregation and all of the support they did find by staying. She talked about how important it was for folks, allies or LGBTQ+ folks, flying their pride flags. Businesses that proudly display their support with Pride flags. At the end of her talk, she gave a blessing. She spoke about blessing all of the brave kids who come out, and for the kids who have been lost to suicide because they had no support. She blessed the allies for speaking up and always standing up for what’s right. She blessed the parents who do accept with open arms.
I cried, the bearded gays in front of me were crying, and my kid was listening. My teenager was responding to this real life person right in front of him showing her strength and her appreciation and her sorrow. It was all very moving.
We left the area to go mill about and my son asked to go back to the podium after a while. We did, and we listened to a Latina, queer, biracial speaker give kudos to all of the folks at the festival. She called out the bravery and wisdom of the kids that were there and said how needed they are to insist change for communities. I hugged and kissed my kid because I am so proud of him.
I have so much more to say about my boy. I have so many questions about raising him right and not making mistakes in the acceptance of him. I have so many worries about his safety and his path. I have so many feelings about protecting him.
I have found an online community for the big questions, but thanks to Covid, there is no in person meetings until next month. I hope to meet many other families and Moms who can understand and welcome us into their village. And for anyone out there going through this, or a similar big change in their family, know this; Don’t feel like you’re doing something wrong just because things didn’t stop being hard after the hugs and kisses and acceptance. That is just the beginning. But know as long as you always act from love and respect, you can never be wrong.
For those people who don’t understand why they need to know any of this, why I am sharing our family business for anyone to see, I see you. I once felt similar. But that is one of the answers I DO have. It is SO important to make yourself known in a community that is so marginalized, abused, alienated and judged as this one. Those pride flags you see are a beacon to some. It means it’s one of the only safe spaces they might have to go.
If you don’t understand the importance of representation in media, sports, celebrity, please step away from your judgement for a moment and try to see it from the eyes of a queer kid. Someone who has to figure out how to become themself all on their own.
If you don’t understand why people have to make such a “big deal” about coming out, think about the ramifications of silence. Why would you care about a community you do not belong to? Why is it so important to support a group of people you do not identify with? It’s because if you do not know this effects you and your bubble, why would you pay attention to laws and rights of the gay community? If you found out your son/brother/father/teacher/best friend/pastor was a LGBTQ+ person, would you pay closer attention to voting on that Bill or law? Would you be more mindful of the impact you could have?
So there you go. Happy Pride. Thanks for taking the time to read about our little life here in the PNW. Please feel free to leave comments. Support is appreciated more than you know.
****I expect 100% respect from my readers, family, friends. You are welcome to your own opinions, but anything disrespectful is not tolerated here.