When my son asked that I write an open letter to gay teens with advice for dealing with parents/adults, I thought: “What in our history together would make you feel that I should or could offer any worthwhile words of wisdom to teens? And, anyway, why would they read it?”
I have little advice to offer, beyond the same old tired bull that you have been hearing for ages, but here goes.
I know that you may be looking for advice on how to relate your gay self to your straight parents.
That’s a tough one.
A long time ago, I told a young man that he was being silly to think that his mother would love him less if he came out to her. Heck, I had heard this particular mom go on and on about her marvelous son. How proud she was of him, how good he was, how smart, how kind, how talented, how handsome. And he was and still is all of those things. I knew this mother, and knew how she doted on her son.
He told her the truth about his sexuality. He told her and his dad at the same time. Two years later I ran into this kid, and his folks still hadn’t spoke to him. He was banned from his home the night he told the truth, and though he would call on occasion or send letters, there was never any response. Mom and dad were die-hard Baptists, and he was no longer their son.
Do I get it? Nope, I don’t. Was I sick to my heart and stomach when he told me? Yes, absolutely. I felt that my advice had caused this young man great pain. Was he angry with me? No, not at all. He was crushed and disappointed by his parents, but he was okay. And although he would continue to carry the hurt, he was living his life and continuing as the same good, smart, kind, talented, handsome guy he was before he told them. Just a bit battered and let down by the two people who he thought he could always count on.
I had a lovely teenage girl ask my advice once about coming out to her parents. I told her the story of this young man. I told her that, if I had a daughter, I would hope she would be as lovely as this girl was, with a beautiful voice and an easy laugh, but I also told her that she must be prepared for anything.
How do you prepare yourself for such a rejection? I don’t know. I don’t have that answer. Having a support system outside of your home probably helps.
It would seem to me that being gay no more defines who you are than being a vegetarian and puking if a waiter mistakenly places a platter of meat in front of you. Now, I am not a lesbian (although I wouldn’t tell Ellen DeGeneres to leave if she slipped her Keds under my bed), but I don’t get what the fuss is all about. When my son told me he was gay, it no more upset me than if he had said he was a geologist. Naturally, I had suspected, but I wanted him to tell me. His stepfather is English, so it didn’t bother him at all. “Oh yes, well, I thought that he might be, didn’t you, luv?”
My son is a professional writer, and he’s good at what he does. I am proud that he has such an amazing brain and imagination and can articulate things in a way that I could only dream of. He can bring tears to my eyes with words that he has written. He is also a musician. I am proud that he is so talented, so funny.
Am I proud that he is gay? Well, no, no more proud of him being gay than my mother was proud of me for being straight. I am proud that he is proud of himself, his achievements, his talents (and well, he is awfully cute). If I had been in charge of mapping out his life, would I have made him a gay writer/musician? Of course not. Not back then. I would have made him a straight surgeon. No, a dentist. They have better hours and they still make loads of money. Plus, I could use the dental work.
Why? Why would I have chosen for him to be a straight guy? Because people are poo. They are unkind. They are unbelievably cruel. I would want my child’s life to be as enjoyable and safe as it could possibly be. I would not want anything or anyone to hurt him.
If your child comes to you and says, “Mom, I simply can’t choose between a career as a social worker or a brain surgeon, I could enjoy either one equally, so please, make the decision for me,” you’re probably not gonna tell your kid to become a social worker. Why not? Because his life is going to a lot more comfortable if he’s a surgeon. Life will be easier. Besides, what can a social worker do for his mom in her old age other than research the less repugnant nursing home?
Now, if that same child comes and states, “Mom, I know my GPA is 4.9 and my teachers say that I am brilliant and have the intelligence to be a cutting edge scientist and I think I could cure acne but all I want, all I really want, all that truly makes me happy is to teach ballroom dancing and to paint billboards on the highways . . .”
How does a mom respond to that?
Me, well, I would want to observe him dancing and painting billboards. If what I saw was pure pleasure and happiness, if I saw that he got up in the morning, excited and filled with anticipation, then I’d be all for him filling the landscape with his brilliant billboards and dancing about with his buckets of paints.
When I was pregnant, did I wish for a gay son? Of course not. I never thought about him being gay, for heaven’s sake. I thought about him being healthy, about me being a good mother. But, if I were to think about it, would I have said, “Gee, wouldn’t I love to give birth to a homosexual?” No! That’s not wrong. It’s normal to desire the best and safest life for your offspring.
It would seem to me that if a child is basically kind, basically happy, basically sensible, and isn’t a rapist or a child molester or an axe-murderer, well, what more can a parent ask for (other than free dental and a cushy retirement home)?
What I am trying to tell you is that we moms want our children to be happy. We want their lives to be easier than ours’ might have been. Making things easier for our kids isn’t necessarily the best thing for them; it’s just naturally what we want to do. But for most, ultimately, whatever it is our child wants, well, we will back them with all that we have.
Unfortunately, people are not required to get a license before having children, and so there is a small minority of parents who will treat their children horribly. They will do this because of religion, or because of stupidity, or because they are just basically mean people.
But truly, I believe that this is a minority. You’ve heard it about a million times before, but please try to remember: If you’re having difficulty with your parents, there is a very good chance that they are only giving you a hard time because they love you. Let them know you’re safe and happy, and that you love them, too, and things will usually work out for the best.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, please feel free to pass it on and share it with anyone you think it may help.
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