A PARENT'S MESSAGE:
My son knew from a young age that he was not your “typical” kid. Although he didn’t know or really understand the term gay at the time, he knew there was something different about him. He had a hard time feeling like he fit in during his elementary school and middle school years. At age 15, with much worry and anxiety, he shared with my husband and me that he was gay. When he was younger, we had some suspicions now and then, but we always dismissed it. Coming out to us unloaded a large and visible burden that he had shouldered alone for way too long. We continued to support him, and communicate our love for him, but that didn’t mean the road was going to be easy for any of us. Being an LGBTQ+ youth is not easy, and it can be very isolating. As a parent of one such youth, I feel worry and fear for my son. The world can be a very unaccepting and cruel place for those that don’t fit the normal molds of society. There were lots of conversations, questions, learning, and some tears as we navigated through the next chapter of our lives. Now, almost five years later, I still ask lots of questions, and am still learning about the LGBTQ+ community.
For a few years my husband and I only shared with those our son had given us permission to share with. As he has become a young adult and a little more comfortable, he gave permission for us to share openly with people. When I began telling people that I have a gay son, there was some anxiety of what reactions or judgement may come, but surprisingly it has been a positive and empowering experience. In moments of sharing, I’ve had others share their own stories of LGBTQ+ friends and loved ones. The connections and support exchanged has made the journey easier. I still feel guilt and sadness when I think about the years that my son kept his orientation hidden, for the anxiety and depression this caused, but I am glad that he shared it with us when he did, so we could understand and most importantly love and support him in his journey. Having an LGBTQ+ son was never something I planned for or expected, but it has become such a gift.
My son is one of the most loving, caring, and non-judgmental people I know. He’s such an example to me. He’s the first person to remind me to take a step back, to give people a second chance, and to be open minded to all people, situations, and ideas I may not totally understand. It’s thanks to him that I now know that the LGBTQ+ community is full of some of the most amazing and genuine people you’ll meet. As the mother of an LGBTQ+ young adult, I feel a special love for this community, and a passion for fostering more acceptance, kindness and understanding. I often joke that I want to shout from the rooftops that “I see, hear, and love them all!” Yet it’s saddening to see that so many will not even give them the light of day, to even try to understand. Not long ago my son said to me, “Mom, you don’t understand what it feels like to be hated because of who you are.” As a mother, these words pierced my soul. My hope is that with education and awareness, this will change.
This is why I’m a proud ally, this is why I share my son’s story, this is why I wear my Pride shirt, this is why I will walk in the Pride Parade with the YMCA. I hope that you will join me as an ally. I’m grateful that the YMCA has opened the door for more discussion, communication, and understanding. I feel excitement and hope as the community moves forward in acceptance and support for our LGBTQ+ friends and family.
Anne T., YMCA Staff and Proud Parent