I found a book at the library the other day called When Your Child Is Gay, and brought it home for my mum. I showed it to her, said I’d really like her to read it, and left it on the counter for her. To my knowledge, she hasn’t picked it up since.
I came out to my parents just over two years ago, and while there have been ups and downs, they’ve each adapted in their own way. My mum struggled the most, which broke my heart. She battled with it silently and got through it on her own as she’s always seemed to handle difficulties. She never felt the need to talk about it; she came to deal with my sexuality on her own terms.
My parents, in general, don’t feel the need to talk about much. They are British, practical, and very family-oriented. If our little community of five is healthy and safe, then all is right with the world. And I love them for that.
But for someone like me, an overly sensitive, often dramatic person obsessed with connection and the search for meaning, sometimes it can be hard to feel understood or heard. My mum doesn’t see the benefit in reading a book about having an LGBT daughter, so she won’t. That’s the simple truth, and I sort of knew that. So why did I give it to her? What do I see as the benefit of it?
I wished that it would normalize LGBT people and culture for her. That she would talk freely with her friends and our extended family about me without avoiding the subject of dating. That she would come with me to pride parades. That she would be proud to have a lesbian daughter, not proud of her daughter in spite of the fact I’m a lesbian.
As lovely as all this would be, is it necessary right now? Even if it is, it’s not within my control. I know without a shadow of a doubt my parents love me, they accept my sexuality, they would both come to my wedding and welcome my future partner into our family. One of the most touching things my parents have done in support of me is get up and hug my former girlfriend when I brought her home for the weekend. They even let her sleep in my bed.
Now folks, these people are old school, and very much creatures of routine. They watch one episode of the Waltons every Saturday at 8 (and they have it on DVD so that’s a schedule of their own devising) and place ducks and roosters to compete in the local summer fair. My dad got upset with me during the summer for allowing my fourteen year old brother to sleep in till 9am…on a Sunday. Coming to our house is like going back to the thirties, complete with a renovated Ford Model AA in the garage.
Yet when we walked in the door, they greeted us so warmly and treated my ex like a member of the family. So does it really matter if they aren’t donning rainbow shirts and don’t understand the need to come out publicly or identify as LGBT supporters? That’s not who they are, anymore than being straight is who I am.
And just as I want them to accept me, I need to accept them for exactly who they are. And not just accept them as I have been, tolerating but secretly wishing they were different. When I get right down to it, in giving my mum the book I was hoping she would be able to move from accepting to celebrating me, although I haven’t been celebrating them. And I should. I am incredibly lucky. My parents are eternally loyal and unquestioningly generous. They have created the most beautiful safe hub for themselves and their children where, even when I first came out and we were all trying to adapt, I still felt I belonged and had a place to go.
So I want to take a moment to applaud everything my parents are and all they’ve done for me. Love isn’t about picking the people in our lives apart, trying to reassemble them into our personal ideals of them. It’s recognizing all they do for us, why we’re so grateful to have them, seeing them for the Divine in disguise that they are.