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My Son – Who Happens to be Gay November 22, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Life, Parenting, Politics.
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I have two sons. My younger son, Ian, happens to be gay. I didn’t set out to have a gay son. But then Ian didn’t set out to be gay, and to be honest, it came as a shock to him as well. He was confused about why he felt “different.” And he struggled alone. Even now, I can’t imagine what that was like for him when he was only nine and had a crush on a boy in the fourth grade.

When Ian was 14 and a half, we were sitting in the doctor’s office, and he announced he was gay. We laugh now remembering what happened next. I blurted out, “Oh my god, I hope my parents die soon!” This was because my parents had left their church in the Midwest over the issue of gay unions. My head was spinning. Driving home, I was in a fog. I’ve always had gay friends, but my son? My eyes brimmed with tears. Why me?  What I remember most is what my son said next. “Mom, I’m the same person I was before – it’s just that now you know.”

“Please don’t tell Dad,” Ian asked. My response? “That’s like asking me not to tell your father the house is on fire!” So he told his dad who was surprised, but ultimately okay with it. Then he told his older brother who shrugged. “Just don’t expect me to go riding around in one of those gay pride parades.”

Ian felt such a sense of relief to be able to be honest about who he was. This was the same kid who had written “I’m gay” in Sharpie on the back of another boy’s jacket in middle school. Talk about confused self-loathing. It wasn’t easy for him though.

Ian, who’s outgoing and always had lots of friends, thought once he came out, other students at his high school would come out as well. He waited…and waited. There was one other boy who was extremely flamboyant, who Ian wanted nothing to do with. Ian had played Little League baseball and considered himself a jock. His attitude was, “If I want to hang out with a girl, I’ll hang out with a real girl.”

Looking back, I can’t believe how brave my son was. Yes, he took a boy as a date to the prom. He was confident no one would give them a problem as Ian is infinitely likable and has a wicked sense of humor. No one did, but I held my breath. As a parent, I was frightened that someone would lash out at my son, verbally or physically. But being young, Ian was convinced he could change the world – or at least people’s opinions – one at a time.  And to his credit, he did and continues to do so.

Meanwhile, my husband and I found PFLAG ,Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians And Gays. (I should note that at the meetings I attended there were also families with transgender children.) We met so many incredible people at those meetings. People came because they too had family members and friends who were gay. Those who’d been attending for awhile always described being able to acknowledge their child’s sexual orientation as an amazing “journey.” It was painful though when parents who’d just found out their child was gay came to a meeting. Some were still in such a state of shock or denial they couldn’t speak. But the important thing was they showed up. It was the first step on their journey.

There was a Chinese woman who wanted to know if there were herbs that could turn her son, who was in his 30s and a doctor, back to “normal.”  There were African Americans whose childhoods were so interwoven with the church, they felt ostracized in their own community. And there were people who’d gotten married because, “I thought if I got married and had a family, it might make IT go away.” They’d come to the conclusion that telling a lie is easy, but living a lie takes a toll on one’s soul.

Eventually, I couldn’t keep The Secret any longer. After a year, I broke down and told my parents their grandson was gay. They were in shock, but they love Ian. Several years later when they were visiting, my father said to Ian, “Someday when you meet the perfect woman…”  He caught himself. “I mean man,” he said. Ian was overjoyed as he adores his grandparents.

My son has never been interested in the club scene. “That’s not the way you and dad raised me,” he said with such earnestness, that my heart ached for him. He talks about “when I have a kid.” He has that optimism that comes with youth. It helps that we live in Southern California. Ian is still put off by “girlie” guys and was critical of people who are transgender until he saw the movie Transamerica.  He watched it again the other night and said it made him cry. So even he has been on his own journey of understanding.

My son is now 22. He goes to college and he, and his boyfriend of a year, live with us. The other day he asked, “Mom, at what age are you considered a loser if you still live at home with your parents?” I told him with the economy the way it is, this might be as good as it gets.  But we’re all okay with that.

I really don’t give much thought to my son being gay anymore. It’s just one part of who he is, but certainly doesn’t define him as a human being. I was disturbed though when he came to me last night and told me how upsetting it was when several young men chanted, “Yes on 8!” when he and his boyfriend walked by. Ian is a peaceful person, and it was all he could do to not say something. And of course, you always think of just the right thing to say afterwards. But hate, even though Ian knows it stems from ignorance, still hurts.

So when my friend TIna, who also has a gay son, emailed this morning that she’s going to attend a peaceful march tonight to protest the passage of “Yes on 8,” I said count me in. She and some of our friends marched last weekend. They sent me pictures of them holding their placards. What impressed me most was that most of those who showed up didn’t have a gay child. They were there because they thought it was the right thing to do. They believe in equal rights for all Americans.

So now it looks like it’s going to be a gay day. I can think of a lot of things I’d rather be doing on a Saturday night. But the stakes are just too high. We’re not talking about one of THOSE people. We’re talking about my son.

One of the most eloquent and impassioned commentaries I’ve seen on this issue is “Keith Olbermann’s Response to Prop. 8.”  To view his commentary, please press the following link. Peace.

Comments»

1. futiledemocracy - November 22, 2008

If I have a son who happens to be gay, my main concern would be finding him a rich boyfriend, to buy me that lovely new Aston Martin i’ve always wanted.

I have just done a blog over at futiledemocracy, about the very subject of homosexuality. I’d be interested to hear your views.

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2. Deb Estep - November 23, 2008

Well over 30 years ago a dear friend Ann’s brother was gay. In those times you would not dare openly come out during your high school days.
Many years later at Ann’s wedding, Joe was still with the same partner.
I have always been thankful for knowing Joe, because it brought me an understanding that I don’t know I would have had any other way.

I was sad to see the passage of 8 out there in CA. I thought with
CA allowing same sex marriage, it was a barrier that might soon
fall in other places.

Thanks Jan for sharing about your family. I was touched
by the love and acceptance.

xo xo
Deb-in-Ohio

Deb-
Thanks you for your comment. It’s amazing because if you actually know someone who is gay (or different in any other way from what you think of as the “norm”), they cease to become one of THOSE PEOPLE – They’re simply human. And it’s hard to hate something that has a human face.
Thanks for your kind comment. I’m sending warm thoughts to not-so-warm Ohio. Jan

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3. Catherine Sherman - November 24, 2008

I’ve known Ian since babyhood, and he’s one of the most adorable young men I’ve ever known. He certainly didn’t change in my eyes when he said he was gay. Still wonderful, still adorable! I think society puts way too much emphasis on whom we should love and not enough on love itself. Love is infinite. You can’t confine it!

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4. Ginger - November 26, 2008

Jan, your posts always manage to touch me. This one even more so. How thoughtful, and brave you are. Thank you for being so forthright about a difficult subject. One of my dearest and most precious friends, that I have ever been priviledged to know, is gay. He is also African American, living in the Baptist South and in his fifties. He has shared some of his struggles with me, and taught me more about what it’s like to be different than anything or anyone else ever has. Amazing what the combination of love and honesty can do to break down walls and build understanding.

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5. Bev from england - December 1, 2008

Oh jan…this made me cry… your ian sounds like a son to be proud of. Im sooo sad that anyone ever has to feel bad about who they are…

i long for the day everyone is accepted for who they are and we all appreciate and learn from each others differences instead of feeling threatened by them.

In the words of one of my all time favorite songs….”we may be different but deep inside us were not that different at all.”

HUGS

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