The topic of LGBT is not new to me. My second-eldest daughter, K, is gay. When she was little, I always had a feeling because she was what you might call a tomboy and rejected many of the traditional "girly" attributes of her peers.
Even though she had a lot of boys that were friends when she was growing up, it was not until puberty that I started noticing a change in her relationships with girls. There were a lot of sleepovers, and for some reason I could not pinpoint I just felt there was something a bit different. I didn't discourage the sleepovers, but I did keep an eye on the situation. I, of course, thought it was a phase.
I grew up in a time, the ’50s and ’60s, where being gay was not discussed at all. I remember once when I was a child, I made the comment that something was "queer" (gay was not really a term that I heard), and the punishment was swift — just not talked about, period. I had hoped at the time that what I was thinking was not true. Not because I would shun her or disown her or even be disappointed, but I worried how her life and happiness would be impacted.
Time passed through high school and college. She dated guys, went to prom and on dates. In college, she was even engaged to a guy the whole family loved. They had their ups and downs, as most couples do, but all of a sudden she called off the engagement. At this time, she moved into an apartment on her own, the first one where she wasn't sharing with her sister. We would go visit, and the first thing my husband and I noticed was that there were two toothbrushes, but wqhen asked if she had a boyfriend, the answer was no.
K was always very sharing with me about everything. We had Friday phone dates, but I had a feeling she was keeping something from me. I was afraid to ask, not because I feared what I might find out but because I didn't want her to lie and tell me what she thought I wanted to hear. Still, I had an inkling of what was going on. I even had conversations with her sister, with whom she was very close, and while she knew nothing either, she also had thoughts about it. I had to wait until K told me.
Out of the blue, I got a phone call from her, and she told me that she was seeing a girl — and had been for almost a year. She was crying. She only cries when something really bothers her, so I knew this was serious. She shared with me everything that was going on with her emotionally, explaining she had struggled with her feelings for a long time and didn't understand why she felt different with girls than she did with boys.
She was very sure of her orientation after a while, and she loved her girlfriend enough to keep it quiet to let E's parents become used to the situation. And she had to have a lot of patience herself for her girlfriend's mother to accept that K was in her daughter's life. My daughter can be very persuasive, and whatever she did, it worked. She has been welcomed into the family, though don't get me wrong, it didn't happen overnight.
Any disappointment I felt over the situation was not that K was gay but that she had felt she couldn't tell me, and I was sad she was so much in turmoil over saying nothing. I found out it really wasn't her she was keeping quiet for, it was E, who was scared to tell her parents — and rightfully so, as they turned out to be the type that were shocked and upset.
How they felt didn't change my way of thinking, though, I wanted to be the mother who would accept my daughter's girlfriend. Once I met her, I had no problems at all — she is a delightful, smart and successful woman. Plus, I have to say I was a bit selfish. I refused to lose my daughter over this issue. I was totally on board, and if something did go wrong in the relationship, I had to be there for my daughter.
It took many talks with E's parents to finally get them on board. Everyone is different, and people react in different ways. They have since become used to it and treat my daughter very respectfully. E also has a huge family, and they have all welcomed K into their lives.
People react in different ways when they find out their child is gay. I have always been an understanding mother, and the sexual persuasion of my child did not matter to me — I just wanted my children to be happy. I loved K no matter what and would support her in any way I could. My husband didn't say much, and I know at first this was a shock to him. Not that he was unsupportive, it just took him awhile to wrap his mind around it.
My husband is Catholic and was raised with certain beliefs, and in his eyes being gay was just not done. I think that may be where hubby and I differed, in that I am not a religious person. I believe, but I didn't have the hang-ups that go with organized religion. He has always said, Hate the sin and love the sinner, but I don't entirely believe in that. I don't believe being gay is a sin. Over the last eight or nine years, he has come around — maybe not 100 percent, but he does love his daughter and wants what I want for her.
Other family members had different feelings on the subject, and for some, it took a long time to accept. Some still have not. K's siblings had some issues at first, but mainly it was that she'd never said anything. I think they were more upset about that then the fact that she was gay. Some thought maybe it was a phase she was going through. Even after all this time, she has some cousins who just don't get it and are being very homophobic, which to me is so sad. Unfortunately, the relationships between them are strained.
Fortunately, though, when the topic would come up with my coworkers and others I would come into contact with, people were nothing but supportive, so I have never come across any negativity against my daughter. Sadly, I know this is not the case for a lot of people.
That year was very rough for our daughter. She was concerned we as her parents would not understand or that she would be shunned, but she told us because she truly loved her girlfriend. All we could do as parents was to be supportive in any way we could, which we did — and still do.
K and E have been together for nine years now and are fostering children. The best part is they were able to get married and just had their first anniversary. I could not ask for anything better for her and her wife. They're happy and so in love that it is a thing of beauty. Love should not be discriminatory — we want what the heart wants. Everyone deserves to be happy, and as a parent of an LGBT person, I could not be prouder or love her more. She picked a good woman to love.
I never really had a lot of experience in my family with the topic of being LGBT. Like I said, I grew up in a time that this was not cool at all, talking about it was avoided at all costs, and I had often thought of how I would feel if one of my children were gay. Of course, I remember seeing people as I got older that I thought were gay but never really had any interactions with them until my daughter came out.
I think because of the changes in the LGBT movement, it has become easier for people to come out. This is not to say there aren't any issues. As a parent, my advice would be, as with anything your child is going through, to be patient, loving, listen to what they have to say and, above all, remember never to show anger or ridicule. That will distance your child so fast. Love is the key, no matter who you are with.
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