This past month alone my husband and I have “come out” to probably 10 people about our son. The people with whom we are sharing this news are for the most part friends who have known us and our kids for decades. They are people we care deeply about and who care deeply about us.
In the beginning, this whole “coming out” thing was quite a process for us. First my husband and I had to agree that we were both emotionally ready to tell a particular person and then we had to be emotionally prepared for the possibility that their response might not be what we had expected, which would mean we also had to be prepared to say good bye to the friendship if said person reacted in a way that would make continuation of the friendship impossible. We also had to agree that it was the right time to tell that particular person and then think about the other people that we would need to tell as a result of telling that person so that we would not be ushering anyone else into the burden of keeping a secret. And then we had to agree on who would be the best one to tell the person (was this originally my husband’s friend or mine?), when would be the best time to tell the person (before dinner? after dinner? after a few beers? right before we say good bye?), and where would be the best place to tell the person (in the restaurant? in the parking lot? in the bathroom?).
The first few times were definitely heart-thumping, sweaty-palm, quivery-voice experiences. But thankfully, with each “coming out” those side affects mellowed a little more and it got little easier each time we did it. And after we’d get through the “ordeal” of coming out to someone we’d always feel this kind of exhausted euphoria, not unlike the high you get after a good hard workout. (And who wouldn’t be exhausted after going through what we’d go through to get to the point where we were actually ready to tell someone?)
Coming out for us has been a most cathartic and freeing experience. Each person we tell is one more person with whom we can finally be ourselves again. We hated those first few years of having this secret hanging over our heads. We hated worrying about people finding out accidentally. We hated feeling like we were always navigating a minefield each time we had a conversation with someone who didn’t know because we had to constantly and skillfully guide the conversation away from anything that might get close to our secret. And we hated having this thing always lingering in the not so distant recesses of our mind, keeping us from dedicating ourselves exclusively to anything else. And OMG we hated when we knew a gay joke or a nasty gay comment was coming because we had to keep up “the appearance” with these fake smiles frozen on our otherwise expressionless faces while we died a thousand deaths inside.
It was a terrible period. Secrets are awful. Feeling a shame you don’t even understand is horrendous. And knowing that shame is connected to a child you love and adore rocks you to your core with guilt. And after a while you just get to a point where you crack from it all. And for us it was the point at which we finally said screw this, we’ve had enough! Why should we be ashamed of anything? Why should we be afraid to tell someone our wonderful son is gay? Why is this even a god d*mn issue? Why have we allowed ignorant, intolerant people to use the Holy Bible to justify and excuse their hate? And why the hell are we playing into their hands?
And so we finally GOT IT, but not before we’d had three years of suffering under our belts. By staying in the closet we were doing exactly what the Dobson, Falwell, Robertson crowd wanted us to do. By coming out into the open we were their worst nightmare. Oh my god! It was wonderful realizing that we could be these hateful men’s worst nightmare? It was truly an epiphany! The last thing in the world that James Dobson wants is for a normal, loving, happy family like ours to be out in the open about our gay son. And god forbid we should proudly embrace and love him with no shame and no guilt. By putting the face of our son and our family on the Dobson, Robertson, Falwell gay boogieman, we strip these hateful preachers of their most potent weapon – fear of the unkown. It is much harder for people to buy into the garbage that these pulpit bullies are preaching when they actually know someone who is gay.
When I think of the years that our son struggled alone because he was afraid we wouldn’t love him anymore if we found out he was gay, I become enraged. And I blame the Dobson crowd. When I think of the years of pain and confusion that we spent trying to define our new normal after finding out we had a gay son, I become enraged. And I blame the Dobson crowd. When I fear for my son’s safety because he is gay, I become enraged. And I blame the Dobson crowd. When I think of the kids who are bullied mercilessly because they are gay, I become enraged. And I blame the Dobson crowd. When I think of the kids whose families have disowned them because they are gay, I become enraged. And I blame the Dobson crowd. When I think of the kids who have killed themselves because they cannot bear to live a life as a gay person stripped of all dignity, I become enraged. And I blame the Dobson crowd. And until sexual orientation is no longer an issue, I will continue to be enraged and blame the Dobson Crowd.
But we have the power to disarm these people who preach hate for our gay children. All we need to do is come out. By doing so, we free ourselves from a place we never should have been in the first place.