I am the mother of a young man who happens to be gay. And I want just 15 seconds of fame to speak for all those parents and siblings who unconditionally love their LGBT family members. Since our son told us he was gay four years ago, my husband and I have found that openness about his sexual orientation has changed people’s hearts and minds. We freely talk about him being gay with family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers.
My husband and I believe parents have the power to bring full acceptance of LGBT people to the finish line, not through lobbying or parades but through conversations with people in their social and work circles. Our own experiences have shown us that too many parents stand silently by when religious zealots, misguided politicians; and uninformed individuals dehumanize their children.
After our son came out, a new journey began for us as parents, as well as for him. We chose not to let homophobic comments go unchallenged. For example, I told a female physician I work with that she was misguided when she said she did not want to see lesbian characters portrayed on television. I knew it could fracture our work relationship, but I was willing to take the risk.
We were not always prepared for the comments and questions that followed our openness about our son being gay. For example, one friend asked me if my son’s personality had changed when I told her he was gay, as though his coming out was a Jekyll and Hyde-sort of transformation. I informed her that was hardly the case. The character traits my husband and I admire in our son have not changed because he is gay. And neither have the things he does that drive us crazy.
Another perplexing comment I’ve heard is: “Well, I like you, so maybe your son isn’t so bad.” I’m still not sure of the logic behind that. And when a woman objected to my husband’s vociferous support for allowing gay Scouts and adult leaders in Boy Scouts, he pointed out that our son was gay, not a pedophile. These are just a few of the difficult conversations we have had with people.
The workplace can create difficult situations as well. A coworker of mine, who knew my son was gay, said she was taught to love the sinner, but not the sin. Calling my son a sinner could not go unanswered. We ended up verbally sparring in the middle of the clinic, neither willing to cede ground, while stunned colleagues looked on. We still work well together, but something is lost when the character of those you love is attacked because of their sexuality.
Surprisingly, religious beliefs do not always drive how people respond when they find out our son is gay. My mother-in-law, who goes to church every morning, was with us when our son came out. Her response? “I just want my grandchildren to be happy.”
The devout woman who objected to my husband’s stance on gays in Boy Scouts? She thanked my husband for opening her eyes, saying she “had never thought of (homosexuality) like that.” Until then, she just assumed being gay equaled being a pedophile.
When we told our long-time, deeply devout Catholic friends, they said they wanted to give our son a hug. This was even before Pope Frances called for a more accepting attitude toward LGBT people.
On the other hand, our Mormon friends said if our son should “change his mind” about being gay, they had programs to “help.” These friends still ask how our son is doing – they have known him since he was five and he spent many hours playing with their son. Still, it remains difficult for us. Hopefully, soon they will realize there is nothing our son needs to change.
Because we continue to speak up, others have been forced to rethink their hateful beliefs about LGBT people. Yes, they may still see it as a sin…for now. But they are beginning to wrestle with the idea that a wonderful boy they knew turned out to be a wonderful gay man, and how could that be a sin? There is nothing to fix, except for maybe other parents of gay children speaking up more often. Changing the world, one difficult conversation at a time.
Surely, a parent of a gay child in Kentucky is willing to have a conversation with Kim Davis.