Cleaning Out My Closet | What Happens When Your Child “Comes Out”

Défilé de PASTT à la Gay Pride à Paris en France
Image via Wikipedia

It’s summer, I’m traveling, I have Marching Band camp and I’m launching a new application at work. Finding myself in this blogging topics dead zone I checked Mamapedia to see if there were any questions that struck a chord. I stumbled upon a Mom whose 18 year old son told her that he is gay.  I thought to myself ” well there’s a topic with teeth “;  why? because I have been there and done that and quite a few years of experience that I can bring to the table.

I don’t recall exactly how long ago it was that my handsome boy came to me and said “Mom, there’s something I have to talk to you about”. I had no idea where the conversation was going to lead when we sat down in my “meditation room” to talk.  He was very straightforward and said “I’m gay”.  I don’t remember my reaction (resignation?), I recall asking a lot of questions and being a little hurt that I was not the FIRST person that he told.

I do remember telling him to never forget that I gave birth to a boy and not a girl and I’d better not catch him being a flamer. In retrospect that was probably a mean thing to say, but he has honored me by respecting that one request. Of course I  worried about him being out there in a world that can be so mean to people who are different – after all as hard as it can be to be a black hip-hop looking kid, how much harder to be a Gay black hip-hop looking kid?

When I told my husband and older son they gave me a “so?” kind of look, they always knew and wanted to know why I didn’t. I think that helped me to get through the process faster than a mother who is on her own with a revelation like this. And, yes, I think that I probably knew all along but was in denial about it. I think Moms know their children better than anyone else and when a child “comes out” they’ve really just voiced what we’ve known for a very long time.

Well back to the Mother on Mamapedia, she’s devastated, upset because she will never have grandchildren from this child (she has others), and has actually removed his pictures from the house because she can’t stand to look at him.  I fully understand how she is feeling. You see as parents we tend to see our children as both an extension of ourselves and the path to  fulfillment of  our unrealized hopes  and dreams. We think our children and their lives are about us, when really it’s about them. And that’s where we go wrong.

Imagine how hard it is to sit down with your mother  (your first love, your lifeline, your shelter in all storms) and tell her something that you hope will not cause her to cast you away. How does the child feel when their Mommy does exactly that? Throws them away, letting them know without words that they are useless and worthless because they’ve made a “bad choice” (yeah like a kid would choose to be a pariah).

My son told me that he’d known since he was young  that he was probably homosexual. He said that when he was 15 he tried to kill himself becaus eof the kids at school and his own confusion. I didn’t hear the whole story because blood rushed to my head and i blacked out with my eyes open at the very idea that I could have lost him and never known why. My children are undeniably the loves of my life, I would never for any reason stop loving them. Being gay is small stuff, being dead … well that’s pretty final.

For some, a child coming out of the closet is  in some small way like a death in the family, you will go through the phases of grieving:

  1. Shock  – you may experience feelings of disbelief or may be momentarily unable to feel anything at all.
  2. Denial – this is where you decide that it’s ” just a phase” and send your teen to counseling or a church “re-training” program.
  3. Bargaining – usually with God, but you may try to bargain with your child too (“I’ll buy you a new car if you promise to stay away from your homosexual friends”)
  4. Guilt – “What did I do wrong?” , “Was he too much of a Mama’s boy?”, “I shouldn’t have let her play sports”
  5. Anger is another totally natural part of the grieving process. Unfortunately, in these cases all of the anger tends to be directed at the child, mainly because parents think this is a choice they made out of defiance or some such.
  6. Depression – this can be alleviated by remembering that your child is still here, they didn’t die, it’s only one of  your expectations for them that died. Remember that Gay men and women do become parents, they go to college, they attend church, they live the same types of lives that we do.
  7. Acceptance  – I have read of parents who refused to speak to or see  their children after they’ve come out. What an absolute waste.

I have never been to a meeting (never thought about it actually) but I hear that PFLAG can help parents through to acceptance. Check their site for a chapter near you.

While having babies doesn’t come with a “contract” like marriage and business relationships, the act of conceiving, birthing, and keeping your baby creates a binding contract. You promise to love that baby unconditionally, treat it fairly, and set it free when it’s time. People who deny their children based on a condition ( sexual orientation, choice of marriage partner, not meeting expectations) did not deserve those children in the first place.

I did not personally go through all of the stages of grieving, I’m a pretty modern woman, have been lucky to have fantastic Gay friends (yes even in the Marine Corps back in the 70s) and was able to get over myself fairly quickly. My son has been with the same person for almost a decade and they plan to make it official some time next year –  and of course I will be there -:)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

One thought on “Cleaning Out My Closet | What Happens When Your Child “Comes Out”

  1. Thank you for a very insightful post on a very personal topic. This is a topic close to my own heart. It’s been about a year since my 14 year old daughter “came out” to me. I have tried so hard to let her know that she is still the same person to me and I don’t love her any less, her dad however is in denial and thinks it’s a stage. Thank you for sharing your family’s experience!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>