As we’ve seen time and again, there’s a wrong way and a right way to react when your child comes out to you. Then there’s this mom’s way, which is not only extra-super-mega right, but sets a high bar for support and pride when it comes to parenting an LGBTQ child.
Joan Wilson was so proud of her son and so adamant that he knew his sexual orientation was not just a thing to be tolerated but a thing to be celebrated that she took out what appears to be a half-page ad in The Houston Chronicle, announcing her son’s exit from the closet to the world:
— The Texas Observer (@TexasObserver) January 20, 2016
The ad is adorable and lovely and heartwarming and a little funny, but the story behind it is what really makes this gesture stand out.
That handsome young man in the picture is Drake Wilson. Last year he posted this hilarious and lighthearted coming-out video, where he quips about being a Christian, going straight for Beyoncé and his one-time childhood dream of being a flowerpot:
Video: Drakey Drake/YouTube
Shortly afterward his mom, who told the Texas Observer that she suspected her son was gay even as a young child, founded the Society of Lucky Mothers for moms who want to go all in when it comes to supporting their LGBTQ kids.
As for the ad, it was placed last Sunday in the Chronicle‘s “Celebrations” section, a spread typically reserved for engagement and wedding announcements. Joan Wilson decided to run the ad in Houston — even though her family lives in Washington state — after the defeat of HERO, or Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, which would have prohibited discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
She explained her reasoning to the Observer, saying, “I couldn’t think of a better place than Houston, out of the entire country, where they needed to hear my message of pride … My announcement was my way of humanizing the issue.”
We’ve come pretty far when it comes to what is still considered the “issue” of extending the rights straight people enjoy to everyone else, even though it took us an embarrassingly long time. Fortunately we (finally) live in a time when folks can marry who they choose and tossing your kid out on the street when they come out to you is considered bad form and not standard operating procedure. That’s all worth celebrating, but there’s still ground to cover.
Joan Wilson believes that moving past seeing your gay child as “other” or “less than desirable” is a crucial step in the process. She’s right: No one says to their straight child “I love you anyway” when they marry an opposite sex partner. Parents of straight kids don’t “accept” or “tolerate” straightness out of parental benevolence.
She also points out on her website that the reason for this less-than-enthused support doesn’t necessarily come from a bad place, just a misguided one:
“Many parents of gay children, while accepting, will still acknowledge it’s not their preference. Why the heck isn’t it their preference? I think it’s because they think their child will have a harder life because of the stigma. So, let’s work on getting rid of the stigma. Because, frankly, I feel blessed and lucky to be the parent of a gay son. My gay son was made perfectly in God’s image and I’m pretty darn sure God is aware of this.”
That’s definitely a message we all can get behind, no matter how our children identify. You can’t guarantee that your child will have an easy life, but some of the things that might make it harder don’t have to be unchangeable or foregone conclusions. You don’t have to accept that your child has to stay closeted because rude jerkholes exist, and you definitely don’t have to facilitate rude jerkholing by insisting that gay kids fly under the radar. Some people resign themselves to “that’s just the way things are,” but if “the way things are” sucks, there’s another option: Change it.
As this mom has shown, you can use humor and grace and love to send a message to the world — and more importantly, to your kid — that you aren’t just OK with a vital part of their identity, but that you celebrate it.