After finding out that our beloved son was gay, my husband and I each retreated into our own little worlds to try and make sense of it all. It seemed the only way to sort things out. For days, we would get our children off to school, and then proceed to walk around the house like zombies completely incapable of comforting ourselves or each other. When the pain would get to be too much, I would just crawl off to some dark corner of the house and sob. Neither of us had energy to do anything. I was so numb and so close to comatose that I wonder now if I even had a pulse. I dreaded going to bed at night, being alone with my thoughts was torture, but I dreaded the daytime even more. Trying to carry on with some sense of routine and normalcy took more energy than I had. I felt completely crippled by it all. But somehow through all of this we managed to carry on around our son without revealing the frightening depths of our pain, fear and confusion.
During those first few weeks my mind was cluttered with crazy, frightening, and sometimes incoherent thoughts. I could not shake the feeling of doom. All of a sudden my son’s once bright future looked like a foreboding minefield of danger. A heavy, suffocating fear enveloped me. I was overwhelmed thinking about the challenges that he would face simply because of who he might choose to love. All I could think about was Mathew Sheppard’s tragic story which played in an unending loop in my head. HIV and AIDS moved to the top of my list of must have conversations (and I mentally scratched the “you don’t want to ruin your future by getting a girl pregnant” talk from the list). Any peace or contentment in my life was gone and fear and paranoia had moved in.
Thankfully the initial doom, gloom, and paranoia did not last too long, but they were replaced with a festering, just below the surface anger. I was taken aback by its intensity and the ease with which it reared its ugly head. Now don’t get me wrong, I was not angry that my son was gay. I was angry that my son was gay in an intolerant, hateful, and judgmental society in a country built on tolerance, acceptance, and diversity. I was angry that people I had always known to be kind and loving could tell cruel gay jokes and think nothing of it. I was angry that a third grade literal interpretation of the bible was being used to justify hatred and denial of basic civil rights and protections for gays, the constitution be damned. I was angry that words like “Family Values” and “Protecting Marriage” had become twisted Religious Right buzzwords for hate, oppression, and send me money. I was angry that there were actually people dumb enough to believe that gays were the reason for their failed marriages. I was angry that groups like Focus on the Family could claim to be advocates for the family, but were my family’s worst enemy. I was angry that in 2006 there were only 16 states that had laws banning discrimination in housing, employment and insurance on the basis of sexual orientation.
I was angry that some kids choose to kill themselves rather than face life as a gay person. I was angry that my son chose not to tell us he was gay because he did want us to stop loving him. I was angry that he could even think that. I was angry that he felt so much shame at being gay that he could not see what a wonderful, kind, and compassionate human being he was. I was angry that he struggled and agonized alone for so long because he had seen others disowned and thrown away like trash for being gay. I was angry that there were people who could make ludicrous claims like “people choose to be gay” and there were people who’d actually believe it.
And most of all I was angry that the very people who should have been at the forefront of changing hearts and minds were actually the ones fanning the flames of hatred and ignorance, while claiming to be good Christians and good Americans. I was angry that so many religious leaders make it their lifelong mission to demonize and marginalize anyone that does not fit their narrow definition of normal. I was angry that preaching fear, hatred, and intolerance had become so financially and politically advantageous. I was angry that a “compassionate conservative” named George W. Bush uncompassionately and cruelly used homophobia, ignorance and hate to barely eek his way into the highest office of the
And unfortunately I am still angry, in fact I am seething. Our lives have dramatically changed and they will never go back to the way they used to be. So much that had felt right before we had a gay son now feels so wrong. Things just don’t fit anymore, not our religion, not our politics, and not even some of our friends and family. But the one thing that has not changed throughout this ordeal is our intense love for our son. We are different people now, but in a better way. Our family is much closer, stronger, and more resilient. So many wonderful and positive things have come from something that at first seemed so devastating.
I often ask myself, would I change my son’s sexual orientation if I had the power to do so? And I always shock myself with my heartfelt answer --- no way. To choose to change him would be to say that I do not like who he is. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love and adore him just the way he is. How could I ever be sure that the very things that make him so special would not disappear if I changed such a fundamental part of who he is? His sexual orientation is only one aspect of his personhood, but what if it is tied into some of the very things that have made him such a unique and loving human being? I don’t know the answer to that, but I’m damn sure I don’t ever want to find out.