I spoke today with a friend whose son recently came out. Her son is in his early teens, and the announcement was not a surprise to her or her husband. They love and support their son completely, and want, like all of good parents, to spare their child hurt and pain.  Just that fact puts the three of them on a strong and steady path.

I was honored to be confided in, and even more honored to be asked to share my experiences in going through this same experience with our son.

Children give us many hints about who they are.  So many hints that, if we have our eyes open at all, we shouldn’t be surprised to be learn what their sexual orientation is.  But the lack of surprise doesn’t change – can’t change – the emotional roller coaster we find ourselves on.

The fact is, that from the moment you learn you’re having a baby, you start to have dreams about that child’s future.

We can’t help it. We want the best for our children, and we want them to have happy and fulfilled lives. And we visualize happiness through our own experience.

  • If you’re a professional and love being a professional, you think that perhaps that would be good for your child.
  • If you’re religious and find great comfort in your faith, you think that your child will likewise find joy in religion.
  • If you’re hooked on sports and exercise, you think your child will naturally be active and even athletic.
  • And if you’re straight, you think that your child will be straight. Of course.

Except it doesn’t work that way.

I shared with my friend the best story I ever heard as a way to grasp what you, as a parent, go through when you learn the truth. I read about this years ago in an Ann Landers column, in a letter written by a woman who had just given birth to a Down’s Syndrome baby.

Suppose, she wrote, you’re planning a wonderful vacation to Italy.  You spend nine months thinking about what you’ll do and what you’ll see.  You think about the delicious pasta, about the fabulous artwork, about the canals of Venice. You’re so excited when you get on the plane, ready to land in Rome. But when the plane lands, you find yourself…in Holland. Now there’s nothing wrong with Holland.  But it’s not where you thought you were going. It takes you a little while to adjust and open your eyes to the beauty there – the Van Goghs, the tulips, the windmills – and yes, the canals of the Netherlands.

When our son confirmed that he was gay, I had to come to grips with the fact that my son’s life would be very different from what I imagined. Worse, I had a whole new world of fears to contend with – AIDS, bullying, hate, discrimination. And if you don’t think that took a little while to adjust to, well, you’ve never been a parent.

None of this changed the fact that we adored (and adore) our son, and we fully support him. But we did have to go through some change ourselves. I learned how to stand up proudly and say, “My son is gay.” I learned to tell people who were telling gay jokes that I found that humor distasteful and not funny. Oh, and did you know my son is gay? I learned that some people are judgmental, and nothing you say will open their eyes to the biological facts of life.

And I learned that knowing my son, for who he is and who he will be, is an incredible gift.

If you find out your child is gay, I can almost promise it will be an adjustment for you. Our dreams are changed, and we must build new ones. But the new ones can be glorious, and the future bright.  If your heart is open to it.


2 Responses

  1. With an open heart, anything is possible. My cousin came out in late ’80s — passed away from AIDS related complications in the early ’90s when he was 27, I was 24. The entire family, except my mom and I, couldn’t understand, but the two of us always seemed to know that he was special. To this day, I still feel some guilt/shame for the rest of my family that couldn’t accept the life that he was meant to live. The good news is that he pursued the opportunities he loved and wanted to experience– was in Rocky Horror off of Broadway and lived an actors dream in NYC. For that, I’m happy that I was alway there (even if just by phone)to support him.

    • Things have changed so much in the past 20 to 30 years, Sandy. It’s like a new world. I’m glad your cousin lived the life he wanted to live. I’m sorry his life ended prematurely. And I really appreciate you sharing his story with me.

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