When our youngest son Tom was home from college at the end of his sophomore year he came to me one evening and said he had something to tell us. Dan, my husband, and I had sensed that all was not well during the previous year, even though he was doing well in school and we had our weekly phone calls between visits home. I had even asked his older brother if he had noticed that Tom seemed troubled. Dean affirmed that Tom had confided in him, and not to worry – he would be talking with us soon.
So, when he said he wanted to talk, I was relieved. We would work out whatever problem he had. He needed to tell us that he is gay – he wanted to be honest with us and not live a lie and was worried that if he told us he would lose our love and respect. Family has always been very important to him, and some of his gay friends had not been accepted by some of their family members after telling them. I’m happy to say that Tom is accepted and loved by us. The day after being told, Dan wrote a letter to Tom expressing our love and acceptance.
It would have been nice if, after his announcement, I had immediately jumped up, given him a hug and said “That’s o.k., I’m just glad you don’t have a terminal illness or something.” Instead, I was in shock; my first response being, “So, I guess I won’t be having any grandchildren” (at that time our older son was 30 and just beginning to date his future wife). It took me a while to comes to terms with the “new Tom.”
Before Tom’s announcement I had barely given the gay community a thought. When Ellen DeGeneres announced that she was a lesbian, I was of the opinion that she really didn’t need to tell that to the world – quite happy with the notion of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” As far as I knew, I didn’t know anyone who is gay, had never heard of a parent who had a gay child. And so, after the announcement, I felt very alone.
After Tom returned to college I made a phone call to a TV church ministry, asking for help in dealing with my feelings concerning our gay son. I was assured that if he had been brought up in the church (as he was) and repented, that God would forgive him. My thought then was, “Forgive him for being born with a different sexual orientation?” That simply didn’t seem like the correct response for me.
After a few days I went to a counseling service sponsored by local churches and received some loving support and counseling from a psychiatrist in our area. One of her first questions to me was, “If you had a friend who came to you saying that her child was gay, what would you say?” My immediate response was that I would tell her to love, respect and try to understand her child. That little question started me on the road to understanding. I saw her a few more times as she helped me grasp and deal with the situation. One thing I came to believe is that God loves all of us – totally – that Jesus would be the first one to come to the aid of people who are on the “outside” and that there is a larger group of homosexual men and women that I had realized. Next I joined a support group for parents of gay and lesbian children that was beneficial, in that I had the need to be with people who were experiencing or had experienced the same situation as we were at the time.
Tom graduated this fall with a B.S. in Sociology and invited us to an additional graduation ceremony where he received his Gay and Lesbian Certificate of study. It was a small class (about eight students) and each graduate was given an opportunity to speak after receiving the certificate. They were a bright, articulate, diverse group going into all different areas of society to contribute and make a positive difference. One was going into the ministry. We were impressed with the quality of the professors as well as the graduates.
As far as the church goes, our son attended and was active in music and youth activities in our church, but he doesn’t have a church family now, and I’m not sure when or if he will. In a recent sermon our minister made the point that it is part of the church’s duty to help members have the discipline to correct their faults, that it is important to be honest with a person who is involved in a behavior that is detrimental to him or her rather than going along with them. We can’t take the attitude that “it’s their life, let them lead it as they wish,” while they destroy their lives and those around them. It is a matter of having enough love for the person to care enough to get involved. I believe that is a responsibility too. However, I don’t believe that because a person is born with a different sexual orientation than the rest of us, he or she is acting destructively. My son, as a human being, has the potential for having various sins, just as my husband and I do, but I sincerely believe that being born a gay person is not one of those sins. The sermon I referred to brought out the point that it is important to be loving and honest, and truthful in all things with each other, even when it is hard. We are grateful to our son for having the courage to be honest and tell us about his homosexuality. I hate to think that our church would take the stance that yes, it’s important to tell the truth, but if you wish to share the fact that you are a gay or lesbian person you should keep that experience to yourself.
As a mother, I will do some worrying about both of my sons. We are fortunate to have our older son married to a woman whom we love and who we believe loves us in return. Our hope for Tom is that he finds someone loving and caring to share his life with, that he finds a faith to help him through the inevitable bumps in the road that come with our “human condition” and that his chosen profession enables him to make even a small positive difference in our world. And, as parents, we hope to always have the acceptance and love of our sons.
I don’t understand why people are born with different sexual orientations, but our family knows our son to be a kind, caring and loving person – and we will support him and his friends in their quest for acceptance.