Saturday, May 14, 2016
Things have changed tremendously for our family since our daughter, Heather, came out gay ten years ago. Up until then, Derick and I were secretly homophobic. However, on the surface, homosexuality appeared to be a non-issue because it hadn’t impacted us yet. But then it became about a person, a person we loved and adored. And over the years, it has taken center stage in our lives.
From the moment Heather was born, Derick and I made a promise to always love and protect her. And now here we were, on this difficult road of emotional angst, keeping silent while she was being persecuted and discriminated against. Our hearts felt burden in ways we couldn’t put into words, and it was gripping us to do the thing we feared the most: to speak out in support of our daughter.
I write my families story not to debate who’s right or wrong, nor am I forcing my views upon anyone. After much time to heal, I write about our journey not only because it has lead us to appreciate the other side but because people’s lives are held in the balance of our reactions.
Over the past ten years, I have heard many stories about children coming out and how their parents had reacted. Everyone’s journey was unique to them. Not all had to deal with faith issues from a mainstream Christian perspective, like our family did. Not all parents were accepting of their child’s sexual orientation, and, sadly, many still aren’t. And not all went into the closet, so to speak, like Derick and me, which is something we can joke about today.
But, with all joking aside, it wasn’t easy hearing, “Mom and Dad, I am gay.” And even though it was the beginning of a long and desolate road for us as parents, this wasn’t so for our daughter. For years, she had lived a secret life of turmoil, a turmoil that lead her down a difficult road including struggles with an eating disorder. She feared coming out to the two people she loved the most, other than her brother, because she couldn’t bear the thought of losing their love and acceptance.
Although we didn’t sever ties with our daughter, we did put conditions on our love. And acceptance didn’t come until many years later. During those earlier years, we tried to pray the gay away. We tried to threaten the gay away. We tried to fix her.
Grief also became our best friend. We grieved the perfect world we once held for our child. We grieved the fact that the life she had chosen would be a difficult one to travel. But she assured us it’d be nothing compared to hiding her true self, which had already shown unhealthy consequences. After all, if you can’t be yourself, it becomes a mental impairment for helping others.
Through Heather’s coming out, we began to see the disdain many showed towards the LGBT community, especially by some in the Christian realm. And because of our faith, it left us feeling trapped in a maze of confusion, like an elastic band that was being stretch in both directions.
But today, fear no longer causes us to remain silent. Derick and I no longer stand on the sidelines and accept what the masses deemed unacceptable and dehumanizing, because in our heart of hearts, we know that our child, or anyone else’s child, wouldn’t choose this unjust path for themselves or their family if they weren’t truly gay.
Fortunately, for us, we have become a stronger more compassionate family through the humbling experience of having a gay daughter.
It's up to us to flip the coin and take a deeper look at what lies on the other side of this issue. Sadly, though, some never do.