My daughter’s GIRLFRIEND…that phrase would not have flown so easily from my lips or my fingers 8 years ago, as it does now. Saying “my daughter is gay” has taken some years, lots of adjustment, lots of searching, tons of understanding, lots of acceptance, and many tears for me to be able to say it and not feel any negative feelings or sadness. I now am proud to say, “my daughter is gay”, as I am proud of my daughter and the wonderful, amazing, woman she has become.
Looking back, I can only say that I wish I could go back in time to change my reaction to her coming out to me. You see I had no idea my daughter way gay. She had always had boyfriends, although claiming to be a virgin. It wasn’t until after her sophomore year in college that she came home telling me she was pretty sure she was gay. She had recently had a girl from another college track team pursue her and although I knew this was going on, I thought it was merely something she may be exploring as friendship. Little did I know that she was developing feelings for this girl.
During that summer my daughter came home and told me that she was gay. I cried. I screamed. I questioned. I was at a disbelief. Here I was a very involved mother and how did I not see this, how could I have missed it? And yet I was a youth group co-leader for the teenage girls at church, how could I have daughter that was gay…I couldn’t, and in time was asked to step down from my volunteer position. Within the week of her telling me this, I told her Id’ rather be dead than have a daughter that was gay and told her she needed to go stay with her Dad because I couldn’t even look at her. It seemed that when I looked at her, I felt such sadness and felt so overwhelmed by thoughts of her being with a woman that it sickened me. I hate admitting that, but that was my reality during that time.
My daughter’s entrance into the gay community was filled with stuff parents of good kids hope to never see. Lots of drinking, hanging out with friends who were doing drugs, skipping college classes, withdrawing from family and other friends, staying out late hours, and just overall not being who she had always been. I blamed this on that girl and on the gay community, because how could my nearly perfect daughter be anything but that. If she wasn’t that then I had failed as a parent, right? I began to question everything I had done as a parent, where had I gone wrong? I had been the parent that other parents and teachers came up to and said how great I was as a parent as my kid was so wonderful, so polite, so respectful, and just overall a great kid. So how could I now have this kid that was ‘choosing’ to do this to me, to the family, and to herself?
I begged and pleaded with my God to help guide her back. People at church told me they would pray for her, and for her sins to be forgiven. I prayed that she would just stop this nonsense and that I would once again have my good kid, my pretty girl, my best friend back. I even prayed that I would die and not have to face this. I felt ashamed and felt as though I had failed as a parent, as though her saying she was gay was a reflection of me. I worried about what everyone else would think, not only of her, but of me. Not once did I pray for her to be okay, I only prayed for her to not be gay. Because if she wasn’t gay, then we could go back to how great things were before, and I could have my daughter back. Little did I know that my reaction and my behavior was what was driving my once ‘good’ kid to behave so poorly.
You see when she came out, I reacted as I think many parents do in the beginning, poorly. Shortly after she came out, she came home and told me “Mom, out of all the people in my life who I thought would have my back, it was you! Any You…you let me down”! You see our relationship was more than just mother/daughter. We were everything for each other. Having raised her as a single mom since she was 10 months old, she was my world. I was the ‘cool mom’. Our home was where all the kids felt Safe hanging out at. I was the mom who attended everything, volunteered for everything. I was the one whose kid chose to hang out with her instead of going out to high school parties. I was THAT Mom. I was proud of that fact, so surely, she was right in feeling that I would never let her down. It was those words “you let me down” that began my change. I learned that I had to change me, my understanding, and my acceptance, as I was to blame in part for my daughter for my choosing to reach out to others for the acceptance and love she had expected and should’ve gotten from me. A parent’s love isn’t even supposed to let down their children. A parent’s love isn’t even supposed to fail their children. Because when it does, children will look elsewhere, and often it is then that they will become vulnerable to others.
Another young gay woman slightly older than my daughter, had seemingly taken my daughter under her wing, so to speak. She appeared different than many of the other young individuals my daughter was beginning to hang around with. I liked what this young woman stood for. She seemed to be a good person, had her stuff together, and I liked what I knew about her. My daughter gave me her phone number one day and said that she would be available to talk to me if I cared to call her. I was searching for answers to understand how being gay was not a choice, and how to help my daughter, as well as how to repair my relationship with her. This young woman allowed me to talk openly, allowed me to vent, to discuss my fears as well as my ignorance. She explained a bit of the gay community and helped me to see that my lack of acceptance of my daughter is what was driving her to do things she wouldn’t normally do. She suggested I seek out a PFLAG meeting for support. (Parents, and Friends of Lesbians, and Gays). Goodness how could I do that, when even saying the word Lesbian was difficult for me. I just wanted someone to understand me and what I was going through, as I felt like my life as I knew it was over.
Needless to say, I attended a meeting shortly after talking with her and found myself sitting around a group of people, mostly parents, who were talking of walking in the gay pride parade that coming summer in the city. What?! I was definitely, in the wrong place. I intended to leave during the break time as this wasn’t what I thought I needed nor wanted. I was not one of these people, as I still secretly wanted my daughter to ‘change back’. I was still praying for her to be straight again., so surely walking in the Parade was not something I was cool with…like who in their parental right mind, could walk next to men in ass-less chaps, wearing signs saying they loved and supported their gay child? I pretended to get up to go to the bathroom, and once I got up, I began to cry. Why was I crying? I think I cried because I had so wanted support. I had wanted to be around others who understood my anguish, my hurt, my fears, as well as my loss. Yes, we as parents often feel as though we have lost a child…well at least the one we believed we knew and the one we had all these plans and dreams for. You see, no one tells you that, they don’t tell you how to feel when you feel as though you have lost a child, not to death, but to being gay. The parenting books don’t come with details or instructions on that. But that is how I felt. I felt as though I had lost my daughter, and that everything I thought I knew of her was gone. I felt as though she was a stranger, and how could I feel that way, as this was the human that I had always loved more than my own life itself. I cried because I was ashamed of myself, not for her being gay, but for me being a hypocrite. You see, I may have been somewhat ‘judge-y’ at times, but I had always taught her to love everyone and to not be hateful or ignorant of others, and here I was feeling sorry for myself, and sad that no one understood me and what I was going through. I just wanted someone to understand and tell me that what I was feeling was okay, and normal.
Well within a moment, a woman got up from the group and came up to me and simply said “I understand”. She then reached out and hugged me and said it was okay to be crying, and then she said, “we have all been there”. She led me over to a bookshelf and picked out a few books and handed them to me. While she did so, she said please consider reading these and feel free to come back to another meeting. “We are here for you, just like we have learned to be there for our gay family members”.
I went home and sat down to read the books. The first one I opened up made me cry, not out of hurt or anger, but out of relief. I felt as though I wasn’t so terrible, and that my daughter wasn’t so terrible either. What a relief that was! As time went on, I read more and more, I processed as openly as I could with others, even those who didn’t understand, and even those who still said derogatory things about gays. In time I began to develop an understanding of the long drawn out debate of it being ‘a choice’ or how someone is ‘born’. I have struggled with my Faith and even walked away from the church for a period. I have gotten to know my daughters’ friends and once again became a place where her and her friends felt wanted, respected, loved, and accepted. I even at one point ‘Came out’ on my Facebook (with my daughter’s permission). I stated that I was coming out, that I was tired of being asked if my daughter had a boyfriend. Tired of being told just how beautiful she was, and could they set her up with their son, co-worker, etc. So I came out…I stated “My daughter is gay, and I love her just the way she is”.
Time has healed a lot between myself and my daughter, yet I still forever wish I could take back my earlier words, but I can’t. I can only remind her how much she is loved, that she is accepted, and that I am proud of her. I can only show her by being a better person and being more open to all that I don’t understand. I often ask questions in which she sometime may get offended by, but it is simply because I want to understand. When she got engaged, I asked her “who is wearing the dress”? She told me I was Stupid, and that they both were wearing one. And here, I thought this was a legitimate question, lol. You see, my daughter likes to wear what I consider ‘boys’ clothes’ but I have been corrected countless times and am learning to call them ‘gender neutral clothes’.
I have learned that once I found acceptance and was able to show it to my daughter, and for her to feel my sincerity, that she was able to become the woman she was intended to be. The way My God intended her to be. I have watched her change into a woman who is learning to trust in herself, learning to be comfortable in her own skin, and is taking her and owning it. I am so proud of the young girl she was, the young woman she became, and the amazing partner, boss, daughter, friend, and Human that she is. I now don’t whisper the word ‘gay’ like I use to. I now have attended gay bars, and gay events with my daughter, and hope to attend the Pride Parade with her soon. Honestly, though I still don’t ‘get’ the reason for ass-less chaps in a parade, but then again, it’s not the like the old Macy’s Thanksgiving parade of our parent’s, right? I no longer feel ashamed or worried to say my daughter is gay, and once again I am her biggest cheerleader. I no longer fear what others will think, although I fear the hatred that still plagues our society. I enjoy my daughter’s friends and am grateful that she has an amazing group of Humans in her life. I am now comfortable seeing my daughter kiss her wife. Saying “my daughter has a girlfriend” now rolls off my tongue easily without a thought. I now dream of becoming a grandparent and can’t wait for my daughter to build a family.
For those of you who struggle with acceptance, please just remember to be true to yourself. I know that when my attitude changed a bit, my daughters did too, and therefore I was able to see that she was still the daughter I had raised. She was smart, funny, kind, caring, loving, honest, and good. She was all that and more, and I had indeed failed her as a parent and chose to only see that she was gay, and therefore I couldn’t see the rest. Please just go out there, be Authentically you, be a Good Human, and hopefully your loved ones, parents, friends, society, will all see you for YOU, not just Gay, Straight, White, Black, Man, Woman…We are all so much more than a label, and I pray to My God, who is a Loving and Accepting God, that Y’all have family that will not let you down, and if you do….Just keep on Shining, be your best self, and Remember we all are Only Human, some of us just take a little longer to figure things out. <3