A friend yesterday confided to me that her nineteen year old daughter has come out to her as being gay. Believe it or not, I cried as she told me.
I cried even more afterwards.
I was stunned at how much it affected me, and it’s only just now, the day after, that I’m figuring out the multitude of reasons why.
First of all, my tears are because this friend of mine has reacted so beautifully. The relief that her daughter must feel, having such a heartwarming, accepting response from her mother made my heart hurt. Her mother, my friend, sat her down and congratulated her on her new relationship, and they had a big chat about her plans for her life. There was no shouting, or tears, or shame. I was so proud her, for the gift she had given her daughter – her understanding and her blessing. She received the same reaction from her father and siblings – a bit mindblown – but on the whole, very positive.
This young girl will never know the self-loathing, confusion and shame that comes from tearing your own mother’s heart out, and knowing there is nothing you can do or change to fix it. My poor mum found my revelation just too overwhelming. She couldn’t speak to me for weeks, and I’ll never forget the way she looked at me – so differently – like I was now someone she now didn’t know at all. I’m sure she didn’t know that I could feel her looking at me – staring in fact, but I did.
Her eyes bored into me. I was a stranger all of a sudden – an impostor. In her eyes, I had cast off into oblivion the beloved daughter she knew and loved so well. Forever.
I knew she didn’t do it on purpose, and I don’t bear any ill-feeling at all towards her – it was a different time and she coped in the best way she knew how. As a parent myself, I know too well the motherly instinct to protect and nurture, and my dear mother, I think, was at a loss for how she could possibly protect me from the wider world when I was ‘setting myself up’ for such a difficult life. The funny thing is, I wasn’t doing anything to hurt her – this was not my choice at all. I needed my mum more than anything at that point in my life, but she was grieving.
She was grieving the loss of the daughter she knew.
I realise now that my tears yesterday were also partially for my friend’s daughter. I am sure I will upset many gay people by saying this, but I would not choose this path, if it were in any way up to me.
Yes, times are changing, yes we are moving forward, and yes it is now legal to be married here in Australia. But oh my goodness is it still a far more difficult path. The ‘Coming Out’ experience never truly ends – and at the start of this journey you have no true comprehension of the way in which it will affect your life, forever. It can be awkward, difficult and reactions of those around you will vary. Every time there is a change in your life – new job, new house, new sporting team – ‘Coming out’ has to happen all over again.
One thing that was confirmed from the same sex plebiscite is that there is still a large population of people out there in our wider community who don’t actually agree with how gay people live their lives.
In my own ‘protected’ circle, I often forget this.
Most people who know us, embrace us. For this I am eternally grateful. But it is in no way a ‘given’. Deep down you never actually know what attitudes people have, and while times are changing, discrimination DOES still rear its ugly head.
I wouldn’t choose this for my kids.
Call me a hypocrite, but I want all five of my children to have a happy, easy life.
All parents want this for their loved ones. I never fully understood how protective you become when your child’s safety or happiness is threatened. Being straight is easier, it’s that simple. I will embrace and support each of my kids, no matter what – and let’s be real – out of five children, odds are, I am bound to have at least one of my tribe following in my footsteps.
My point is though, I wouldn’t choose it.
Finally, my tears yesterday were for the progress we have made over the past twenty years since I first came out. I am proud of how far we have come, and how much easier it is for young people now than it ever used to be. There is so much more support, and so many options for LGBTQ+ youth now that it very clearly doesn’t have to be such a difficult, traumatic time. Twenty years is not a long time in the grand scheme of things. Yet for me, it’s been half my lifetime.
The amount of change I have seen on my journey is overwhelming.
As I sat and listened to my friend yesterday, this reality dawned on me.
Mine were most definitely happy tears.
Collectively, as a nation, we are growing up.