Long before I was a gay parent, I was a gay kid. I was in kindergarten when I developed my first crush. She was our student teacher from one of the local colleges. I was totally smitten, and when she left at the end of the semester, I was heartbroken. I barely knew how to spell, but I knew I was gay.
Maybe I didn’t know what gay meant, but I knew the fuzzy feelings of affection for another girl were different. The feelings were wrong, and I knew I could never tell anyone about those feelings. Girls like boys. Boys will eventually like girls. And then they get married.
I struggled through 13 years of school before I went off to college. I played several sports and focused on being a good student. I did everything I could to fit in. I met a lot of people — smart and kind people. But not one of them ever gave me the opportunity to be open or feel safe about my sexuality. Between church and bigotry, my family was not a place for support either. I heard jokes about “faggots” and “queers.” I knew the hatred they held for suspected gay and lesbian neighbors, and I was taught the sins of homosexuality.
I kept what felt like an awful, shameful secret. I was terrified of losing friends and the approval of people I respected. I was scared and sad. That is no way for a kid to feel.
It’s been 33 years since I have been 5 years old, and things are better, but not great. Technology has advanced much faster than human decency. I have been able to ask my phone to dictate directions longer than I have benefited from marriage benefits or parental rights throughout the United States. Kids are still afraid to come out as gay, lesbian, or transgender. And if they do come out, too many are bullied to the point of suicide.
We, as moms, cannot protect our kids from frustration, heartache, or negativity. But we can certainly make them feel safe and loved at home. I’m not suggesting this isn’t already the case. But it is a fact that some of you have gay children, whether they, or you, know it yet. I am asking you to make the possibility of being gay comfortable for your child.
I’m not asking you to swaddle your infant in a rainbow flag, though that would be awesome, or force your son to wear pink, which would be awesome too. I am asking you to remind your child or children that they can tell you anything. Remember to talk about how much you love and respect the courage of any gay friends and family members you know. Read books about different kinds of families, including same-sex parents. Tell your kids you will love them, unconditionally, no matter what.
If this seems too hard, do me the favor of thinking about two things: The next time your child hugs you or smiles at you — assuming they haven’t just done something that makes you want to run away with a passport and bottle of booze — hug them harder and allow yourself to feel the love and pride in your heart. Would that feeling change if you knew your kid was gay?
What if your child came to you needing a hug because they were sad or hurt — again, assuming they haven’t just done something that makes you want to run away with a passport and bottle of booze — would you not comfort them because they might be gay?
Kids should be loved and nurtured, even the gay ones. Kids have enough battles to fight; fighting their sexuality, society’s tolerance, or for your love should not be necessary. You tolerate co-workers. You tolerate certain family members every Thanksgiving. Do more than tolerate your kid or their friend if they turn out to be gay. Accept them and love them. And give them the environment to love and accept themselves.
One of our many jobs as parents is to raise kids with confidence. Confidence comes from happiness, and that should come from home.