Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Hell We Create

I have been thinking a lot about a phone call I had at the beginning of this week with a person whose child had come out as gay.  These types of phone sessions are fairly common it seems for me as the head of our local PFLAG chapter.  And often times, the stories are the same: parent is calling me after agonizing for days, weeks, months about their child who just came out.  Their agony comes from (fill-in-blank-of any-number-of-bad-scenarios-they've-heard-about-or-imagined) for their child.  And ultimately, there is a broken heart.  This child is shattering all the dreams that they'd had for their kid.  No white wedding.  No opposite-gender-in-law.  And (usually the most gut-wrenching) no grandchildren.

And the biggest agony of them all:  "I don't know how to talk to my child about this!"

Of course they don't.  Because they aren't gay.  And you have to be gay to talk about being gay to a gay person, right?

These discussions by phone, or sometimes by email, are among the most important contacts I make as a PFLAG leader.  Many people have wondered if it is hard for me to listen to a parent who isn't all A-OK with their kid's sexual orientation.   It isn't hard for me to listen to these parents; I hear in their voices the hurt and the struggle to unlearn the misguided ideas they've had about sexual orientation or about their influences on their children and did they "do something wrong."   I don't take any of it personally because it isn't about me; this is about them.   And for me, it all comes back to the fact that so many of things that torment all of us when faced with change or difference stem from our ego and the hell we create when we think we are the center of all things.

And for a parent, this is the most important conversation they're going to have about their kid.  For many of the parents I talk to, they haven't shared this earth-shaking news with anyone else because they are afraid.   They know what is said about gay people when folks think they don't have to be polite because "we're all among friends here."   Maybe they've even participated in a little good ol' fashioned gay-bashing at one time in their lives.  Sometimes, they'll admit to that in the conversation.  And the tears begin to flow and this call becomes the confession of sin, those things done or left undone.   How they are met during this phone call could make a huge difference in how they treat their gay child from here on out.  That's why I think it's important to listen, listen and listen some more to what the parent is saying and gently steer them out of the waters of fear and back to the sea of love.  And get them to come to a PFLAG meeting. Once there, they'll meet other parents who have been through the same hell, and found their way to the light.

People have asked if I reveal to the parent that I am a lesbian.  Not usually.  Again, this phone call isn't about me; it's about them and the hell they've created.  The last thing they'd need is for me to tell them, "I'm here; I'm queer; and so is your kid so get used to it!"

So how do we get people from creating this type of homophobic hell?   I think it can come with the continued advancement of equality and acceptance, both goals of PFLAG.  The more we can shift the societal thinking in a direction that doesn't view a person's sexual orientation as somehow limiting or wrong, the less power that hell will have to draw parents into a whirlwind of torment.  The more we can have self-assured parents who stay out of that pit, the better it will be for all gay people.

If you are coming out to your parents or guardians, make sure you have the contact information for PFLAG ( readily available.  We are there to help keep your relationship with your loved ones in tact... and encourage them to become the fierce advocate for equal rights that they were meant to be!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

National should read this blog, Sue and hire you for National.

Love 'n kisses,