National Coming Out Day

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I think one of the biggest misconceptions about coming out is that it only happens once, when in actuality it’s something that is done over and over again throughout your life.  This is especially true once kids are in the picture – those buggers out me on a daily basis!

But there is one “coming out” that is particularly memorable for me.  It was simple and brief, but the response I got was so perfect it has stuck with me.  It was October 11, 2006 and I was in grad school.  I had made friends with another girl in my program and we got together regularly for dinner and study sessions.  It had gotten to that point where we were close enough for it to be weird that she didn’t know, but with our focus on school, it just never came up organically.  So on Coming Out Day of that year I decided I’d let her know.  I was ridiculously awkward about it and probably said something dumb like, “Oh hey, you might not know but it’s actually ummm ::cough::comingoutday::cough:: so I’d figured I’d ummm, well, let you know that I’m, well, gay.”

“Oh,” she said before pausing to process it for a minute. Then, “Cool. I’m glad you told me. Are you coming out to anyone else today? Do you need any help?”

Because clearly I was no good at it and, going forward, could use some assistance. 

In all seriousness, I was so touched by her thoughtful response.  Not only was she unphased by the news, but she immediately jumped into a position of support. An instant ally.  “How can I help?” are words of gold to those of us in the GLBT community.

Another example of a great coming out response is in this father’s letter to his hypothetically gay son.  Seriously, its wonderful. Go read it now – I’ll wait.

As in my coming out experience with my classmate, the part that struck me and brought tears to my eyes was #2.  It’s nice to have a parent “accept” you upon coming out, but a parent that will support you, advocate for you, and go to war for you? That is just so much more.

So on this National Coming Out Day, even if you don’t experience the honor of  having someone come out to you, I’d encourage you to think about what you would say, and how you would feel, if someone did.  What if one day that person was your child?

I often hear from parents of gay children that there is a mourning period.  They mourn the life they had pictured for their child and they are sad for the extra struggles they will now face.  Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s okay.  Mourn if you must (all feelings are valid feelings), but being gay does not bring you an alternative life full of doom and gloom.  I married my highschool sweetheart in a beautiful white wedding in which my father walked me down the aisle.  We now live in suburbia with our 3 children, dogs and a cat and do super gay things like grocery shopping, playdates, and soccer practice.  I’m happy, fulfilled, and glad to be who I am.

If you read that and still feel a little sad at the thought, I understand.  Discrimination, and worse, does remain and surely no one wants that for their child.  The good news is that there is a solution.  A solution that my friend and that father immediately clued in on – advocacy, support, and change. 

Why not start now?  Statistics show that a good number of you reading this may have a child with a coming out story of their own one day and you have a hand in deciding what that story will be.

Resources:

HRC Guide on being a straight supporter:

http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/straight-guide-to-lgbt-americans

Listing of CT PFLAG chapters:

http://community.pflag.org/page.aspx?pid=803

10 thoughts on “National Coming Out Day

  1. Awesome and thoughtful post! I don’t think I would go through a mourning period, but I think this is something that a lot of other parents — perhaps in older generations especially — would feel.

  2. Elise what a great post! I literally laughed when you pointed out the “gay” things you do differently like grocery shopping, play dates etc. I continue to hope the discrimination will change. The hubby and I have discussed this before even having children that we do not care. We have been blessed with many straight, gay and transgender friends that we realize love is love. (p.s one of my best friends came out in highs school, and I looked at her and said “Yeahhh I am glad you felt comfortable to tell me but I knew years ago and never or ever will care. You are you and love is love.) Now go back to your “gay” things like working a job, being married and raising children 🙂

  3. That being said, I have had LGBT friends and both of my children have gotten to know them. Guess what: They are not poison. They are not degenerates. They are wonderful, caring people with the ONLY difference being their preference in partners. I’ve taught my children to respect all walks of life and embrace the differences between us all. I’m glad that my children will most likely say to their friends who might come out, “OK, cool. Do you need help coming out to the someone else? I’m there for you.”

    Great post by the way, and yes I did take the time to read the letter. It was good too.

  4. I remember when my son was an infant and I was watching “Dead Poet’s Society”. The part that impacted me the most was the boy who wanted to be an actor but his father had different plans for him. The boy ended up killing himself because he saw no way out. I wept uncontrollably and went into my sleeping son’s room. I promised him right then and there that I would accept whoever he wanted to be and whatever he wanted to do. Although he is not LGBT, I just thought I would share that story. It’s better to have your child be a part of your life then lose your child because they do not meet up to your goals in life. They may just open you up to a whole new world. Embrace their paths. You won’t regret it.

  5. What a great post (as always!) and such a great letter! Sooo…I had this secret hope that my 3rd son MIGHT be gay. My mourning period happened last week when he discovered trucks and trains, perhaps showing that he’s not (in my words) “Fabulous.” Is this strange? I don’t know! But yes, I was actually hoping my 3rd son was gay. Maybe the world is ready to embrace, accept, and even hope for differences like that in our families. What do you think about that?

    1. Thanks Kate! I don’t think its terribly rare for moms to hope their son’s are gay in that “Yay! Someone to go shopping with me!” kind of way (not assuming that’s where your feelings were stemming from). And I can also appreciate valuing difference. I’ve gotten a lot of good things out of being gay including a very solid sense of identity. Its far from all bad…I can see things mothers would hope for their children in there.

      Mostly, though, I encourage us to love, accept, and stand by our children for whatever it is they turn out to be – without expectations, labels, or boxes. You just may have a truck, train, and dirt loving, all-boy, gay son on your hands – time will tell! Whatever it is that he grows to be, I have a feeling he’s going to be pretty fabulous 😉

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