Today is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia and IndiGo is proud to participate in the Hop Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (HAHABT).
When deciding what to write about in today’s HAHABT post, I started thinking about what it meant to be an ally, an activist and the mother of a gay son. You might think that the gay son came first, and the activism came second, but it was the other way around for me. I was already performing with an LGBT friendly community chorus, attending Pride events and helping to build a community of allies in the Goodreads M/M Romance group before I knew my son was gay.
My son and I have always been extremely close. I raised him alone, made him my priority and fostered a sense of “we got this” and a “let’s get er’ done” attitude that served us both well over the years. We joined a water ski show team when he was 12 and found a second family that included great male role models who helped teach him to be fearless when skimming over the water on bare feet at 40 miles an hour or doing flips over a jump with only inches between you and the skier next to you. He loved cars and music and going camping. He had a lot of friends and was a loving, kind person. I never suspected he was gay. Not even when a gay friend of ours suggested that he probably was. I just figured he was a late bloomer and he’d eventually discover girls.
When he was 15, I finally worked up the nerve to ask him if he was gay and he admitted that he thought he might be. That night I cried myself to sleep. I was so surprised at my reaction. It shouldn’t have upset me. I was an outspoken, button wearing, card carrying member of the gay rights movement. And the next day when he came home from school and said that after thinking about it, he had decided he wasn’t gay, I was ashamed at the feelings of immense relief that I felt.
We didn’t talk about it again until three years later, right before he was going to be leaving for college. I knew in my heart that he was gay and I knew that going away to school would afford him the freedom to be who he really was. So I sat him down and had the ‘honey, I think you’re gay” talk. He cried, I cried and he said the words that echoed the thoughts that had so upset me years before “this is not how I imagined my life would be”. He wanted to get married, have children and the proverbial white picket fence. I wanted those things for him too and as he said them, I realized that someday, he could have all of those things.
His coming out was a very slow process and even after three years of college, some of his closest friends still didn’t know he was gay. How and when a person comes out is a very personal decision and while I truly believe that, it was hard for me as a parent to watch him struggle so much. I felt strongly that his friends would be supportive and that it would be a non-issue, but he was so afraid that it would change things that even his best friend didn’t know. I did my best not to push but I could see how much suffering it was causing him. Keeping a secret, whether it’s anyone’s business or not, is stressful and exhausting. The immense relief he felt when he finally sat the best friend down and told him was immediate and emotional for both of them. He suspected of course. Here’s a good looking guy, outgoing, lots of fun, lots of friends…but no girlfriend. No midnight bootie calls, no hooking up at parties, none of the typical behavior of a “life of the party” college kid. I would have been more shocked if he hadn’t suspected. But, most importantly, he reassured him that it didn’t matter, didn’t change anything and that he loved him the same, no matter what.
As a parent, isn’t that what we want for all of our kids? To be loved, respected and accepted for exactly who they are…no matter what? Unfortunately, that’s not the reality for a lot of kids. I started a parent’s support group a few years ago at the local LGBT youth center. I had a woman in one of my meetings who had recently found out that her son was gay. He was a great kid, full ride scholarship to Yale, plans on becoming a doctor…and she wished he’d never been born. i struggled to find any compassion for this woman who sat across from me, the mother of a gay son, and told me that she would have had an abortion if she had known her son was going to turn out to be gay. All I could do was encourage her to get some professional counseling because obviously her homophobia was far more serious than I was equipped to deal with.
So today, International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, I want to encourage everyone to reach out to those that are struggling, either with their own journey or the journey of a loved one, and offer support and encouragement. I will never understand, or be able to relate to the parents who turn away from their own children, but I will always be there to encourage them to get help, get support and find it in their heart to love their children just the way they are.
In an effort to help those that need support find it, I’ll be donating $25.00 to PFLAG, the nation’s largest organization uniting people who are LGBTQ with parents, families, friends, and allies. If you’d like the chance to have the donation made in YOUR name, leave a comment and you’ll be entered into a random drawing.