Life thrusts us into roles we never dreamt of. For me this is being an advisor to, and advocate for, the parents of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) teens or adult children. There are hundreds of sites and blogs for gay people, but very, very few for parents who may have practical concerns or emotional problems of their own – PFLAG’s (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) being an exception.
This is your blog and I’ll do my best to answer your questions. Some of these may be simple such as how to address married same-sex couples. Others, like how to transform your relationship with the girl or woman you treasured for decades into one with the bearded man who takes her place, are complex and difficult. Many of your questions may relate to the mores of the LGBT community. Some gay children may be very forthcoming in explaining these. Others may be more close-mouthed, forcing upset or puzzled parents to seek information elsewhere, like this blog.
During my adult life, an out and proud LGBT community emerged from one that was deeply hidden in closets. The community was marginalized, criminalized, bullied and considered mentally deviant. This state of affairs still exists in many parts of the world, but in the United States matters have changed.
Today we know that being gay is not a matter of choice. Nevertheless it often takes some time for both LGBT children and their parents and friends to accept that their identity is at variance from the majority. Moreover, many parents of gay sons and daughters may accept their children intellectually, but have a harder time emotionally. Such conflicts take a while to resolve.
Here is my personal story. David, my son, was born on February 19, 1956. By the time he was three or four I started to wonder whether he was gay. He wanted to be a girl. Haircuts were a tragedy. He wanted to be called Mary. He preferred his sister’s dresses to his own. He only drew pony-tailed girls, declaring that he simply could not draw boys. After this behavior persisted, my good friend Muriel urged me to seek professional help.
After careful consultation with other experts, I had my bright, delightful child evaluated at a top psychiatric agency. They considered David’s behavior abnormal and worrisome, and prescribed in-depth psychotherapeutic treatment. During the next two years David went four times per week to individual play therapy. My son grew up to be a lovely gay man and came of age at a time when AIDS was totally incurable. We lost him in 1993.
I must have done all right by David. We were always best friends. The unabated sorrow I experienced during his illness and passing was a bit alleviated by the love and support I received from my family, David’s partners and his friends. I treasured the moral support of the emerging liberated gay community that had undergone a baptism of fire during the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Five years before he died, David became an uncle. His twin nieces and his nephew filled him with love, pride, and joy. He was also relieved that I would be a grandmother. He jokingly described his nieces as “the little butch and the little femme,” and he turned out to be correct. Decades later when the girls came out, it was much more socially acceptable to be gay. David had fought some of their battles. Still, problems remain.
I greeted the defeat of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the gradual legalization of same-sex marriages with great joy. These victories not only benefit the gay community but also their straight parents and friends. I remember so well the courage it took for me to tell my close friends that David was gay. When I did, their faces clouded over.
Prejudice, however, does not disappear with the stroke of a pen. Only a little more than half of the population of the US supports same-sex marriage, the other 45% having various objections. Gay people are still considered to be different. When I tell people about my two gay granddaughters, many still cringe and feel sorry for me.
During the dark days of LGBT intolerance, I wished for sympathetic ears and some practical advice. Today my past distress seems to have been ridiculous, and I wish that I had not wasted my time worrying about my delightful child. I know, however, that some parents of LGBT children may still feel lonely and puzzled. I hope that my blog, The Gay World as Navigated by a Straight Mom, will help you attain peace of mind quickly.