My 8-Year-Old Came Out, And I Need Your Help
The evening was otherwise forgettable. I sat on the living room floor ignoring the last few episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt as I tried to Pinterest my way through a blanket project, oversized yarn sprawled out in front of me on the hardwood floor. My daughter, 8 years of endearing awkwardness, sat down on the chunky cable knit spoils of my labor as I hand-wove the last few rows.
“Mom,” she said, her little face lit by the glow of the TV hung over the fireplace. Her skin still baby soft, her cute upturned nose boasted a small smudge of dirt, “Is he gay?” Her chin motioning towards the extravagantly adorable Titus Andromedon over-acting on screen. Not really looking up I answer, “Yeah, honey, he is.”
She lays down on the not-yet-finished blanket, her thin arms and legs slowly making invisible snow angels. “I think I’m gay, too.” She says matter-of-factly. I smile. I want to jump up, hug her, love on her, make her feel accepted, but I take her lead on this. To her, it’s just a statement, an observation, it’s not a big deal. So I let it stay in the not-a-big-deal category, “I think so too, hun.”
The entire conversation, one she will likely forget by the time her first girlfriend asks about her coming out story, was just 18 words. I’ve known far longer than she has that she’s gay. In the way she relates to boys, the way her larger than life personality is shocked to a halt when a pretty girl walks into the room, the way her gaze lingers on the girls just a year or two older than her, the characters she draws in the margins of her notebook, the valentines cards she writes to the little blonde girl who sits next to her in class, even the way she carries herself. She was born this way as much as she was born with those bright blue eyes, her stunning aptitude for art, and her inability to fall asleep quickly. This is her, it’s who she is and I wouldn’t change one bit of it.
After tucking her in bed that night, extra kisses, tighter than normal hugs, I found my way to the couch. The beer in my hand lit by the glow of the fireplace in a still and quiet house, and then I cried. But not for the reason you think. Even though I’ve known for years this was coming—I was waiting for it—hoping it would be easy and without tears or trauma, it all finally hits me.
Every hate crime I’ve ever heard comes back to me, the statistics stream through my brain. How much more likely my sweet girl is to die by homicide or suicide. How much more likely she is to be denied a job, housing, or the ability to adopt a baby. If you knew her, you’d cry too. She has a huge heart, an infectious laugh, a quick wit. When her teacher went from teaching 2nd grade to 3rd grade between school years, the school allowed the teacher to choose her class to ease the transition: her teacher chose my kid to join the 3rd grade class. “She’s just so kind and well-liked. She’s the dream when you’re a teacher. I’d take 30 of her.” She’d told me when I asked why my kid had the same teacher two years in a row. I thought of her sleeping upstairs in her pug-themed room and her big heart felt so much more vulnerable than ever before.
When she was 3-years-old, I’d use a Sharpie to write my phone number on her arm when we went to a crowded event. I was so worried that she’d dart away and I’d lose her, it was a way to do what I could to protect my sweet girl. This, what I write to you today, is my equivalent of writing my number on her little toddler arm.
I want to protect my girl and I need your help.
You see, you might not have a kid that’ll face what mine will. But you may, one of you reading this, have the kid who will someday be the person who sits next to her on a late night subway. Or walks next to her on the street, or drives by as she walks down the road. And I hope you raise that person to be that type that will stand up for her if that late night subway ride turns dangerous. If your kid sees mine being bullied, abused, or hurt, raise the type of kid who will step in, who will help my sweet girl if she needs it. Because I promise you this, she’s the type of kid that will help yours.
If you have the type of beliefs that don’t encourage you to be an LGBTQ ally, I ask that you focus on the part of your beliefs that encourage you to love others and not to judge. Focus your kids on those, I beg you. Because it won’t be that long before I have to send that sweet kid out into this hateful world.
I know this is in some ways really selfish of me to ask, but I need you to raise up a generation of humans that will help keep my kid safe in a world so full of people who would hurt her if they got the chance. I’ll do the same for you, my kid will stand up for yours if she is ever the one to see your grown-up baby being hurt on that late night subway. I have to believe that this generation of parents is more ally than anger. Please, help me to be right.
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