A gay friend’s story from years ago helps a mother respond positively
A single statement, then months of silence, gives mother a chance to cope.
Briefly describe how your child first came out to you and your initial reactions.
During an evening event at the preschool where I teach, my daughter (11 at the time), walked past me and said, “Mom, I’m a lesbian.” I thought I was a very liberal, inclusive, modern parent. I had taught her the words “vagina” and “penis” along with “elbow” and “chin.” I hung out with a diverse crowd in college and never judged other people’s choices. (And prayed fervently that they weren’t judging mine.) Still, my first thought when she said this to me was, “I can’t handle this right now.” I did NOT say that out loud. I said, “Okay. There’s cookies and punch over there – you wanna go get some?” Inside, I was stressing in a way that I now look back on and say, “Small town Indiana upbringing biting you in the ass much?”
What concerns did you experience over the first weeks or months? How did you deal with them?
I’ll be totally honest. She didn’t say anything else about it for a few months, and I didn’t ask. I kind of thought, “She’s only 11, maybe she’ll grow out of it.” I know better, but I thought it anyway. I had a friend in college, a gay man, and we were really close for a while. He told me about the drama and pain of coming out to his family, and his story broke my heart. Eventually, we drifted apart because his boyfriend was afraid I was trying to seduce him to the “other side.” I know this isn’t about me, it’s about my kid, but this is important, because my memory of him was what made me scared of scarring my kid with my reaction. That made me afraid to bring it up until she did again. When she did, I had had a lot of time to decide how to support her. I told her I love her and when she is old enough to date I want to meet her girlfriend before they go out.
Has your child come out to other family members over time?
If yes, who, when, and what was their reaction?
My sister, who was way more chill than I was. I told my mom (daughter’s grandma). Maybe that was wrong, but whenever I have something big on my mind, I always need my mom. Anyway, she was supportive. She probably doesn’t actually approve, but she will never say that to me or to my daughter, and she is great a disapproving and still loving. I know she was disappointed in me a few times, but I never doubted her love and support.
What is the hardest thing about knowing their LGBTQ identity?
My own prejudice. I didn’t think I had any till it was my kid. I’m mostly over it now, and I’m proud of her for being openly and unashamedly herself.
What are some challenges have you faced concerning your LGBTQ child? How did you deal with these?
I think I pretty much already described them. We live in Texas, so I’m pretty sure she’s going to encounter some negative stereotypes, so I’m a little worried for her but not for me. When she was little, she believed strongly in unicorns. Her 2nd grade teacher told me she needed to learn to tell fantasy from reality. I told the teacher to let her have her unicorns while she could. I wish I had been more forceful. I hated that teacher. This is another unicorn. I don’t mean it’s not real, just that she will encounter bigots who don’t believe in her. I hope to deal with them better than I did the 2nd grade teacher.
What is the best thing about knowing your child's LGBTQ identity?
There are 2 best things.
1. She felt secure enough to casually announce her LGBTQ identity to me.
2. She runs a lower risk of date rape and teen pregnancy if she dates other girls.
Knowing what you know today, would you want your child to “stay in the closet”? Why?
Absolutely not. Why? Secrets cause stress and pain, not because of what they are about, but because they are secrets. If you have to hide who you are and pretend to be something you’re not, you never feel like you are good enough. I was sexually abused as a young teen, and I swore that when I had my own kids we would live in a house where windows could open because there would be nothing shameful that had to be hidden. It is MUCH better to have the truth out there and deal with it than to hide and hope nobody notices you are different. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, certainly not my own child!!!!
What would you say to other parents learning the LGBTQ identity of their child?
Love them unconditionally. Be the one they can tell things to without fear that you will think less of them. Overcome your own prejudices, because every child needs a safe place to be who they are.
What would you say to youth coming out to their families?
God, it depends on the family. I would say, come out first to someone you know, absolutely and without a doubt will be supportive. If that’s your family, awesome! If it’s not, start with someone you trust.
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