After we got used to the fact that our son was gay, Mark and I would slowly reveal it. Much depended on the circumstances and the people. To be honest, it is one of those things that seems hard to work into a conversation. Imagine saying to a friend over dinner, "By the way, our kid is gay. More wine?"
The sentence itself seemed to hang like an unmoving cloud over the the dinner table.
When we told one friend how hard the whole thing was for us he asked why. "I am always afraid for him," I said.
"Really? Because you think somebody might actually do something to him?"
"Well, yeah. We are in the Midwest after all and those kinds of things happen regularly."
"Huh," he replied. "I had no idea that went on any more."
I didn't know whether to laugh or hit him in the head.
These many years later I don't care so much who knows and who doesn't. It is hardly breaking news anymore.
I do, however, still flinch at stories of cruelty to others due to their sexual orientation. When I read of a kid who committed suicide because they were bullied I would bet the farm they were labeled "gay" by the time they were eight years old. When a report surfaces that a mob humiliates and taunts someone who is transgender I feel physically ill. When the Westboro Baptist Church smells publicity and decides to hold its God Hates Fags posters at the latest funeral, I shake my fists at the God-who-alledgedly-hates-fags and shout, "They're in Topeka, Kansas, for You's sake. Smack dab in the bullseye of tornado alley. Do something big."
Recently, I was having a conversation with someone I really like and we were talking about Neil Patrick Harris. "I was so disappointed when I found out he was gay," she said. I was taken aback for many reasons, but mostly because it's hard to be disappointed in someone you have personally invested nothing in.
When Michael Sam was drafted by the Rams somebody commented on Facebook that the whole thing was a publicity stunt. "I don't go around announcing I'm straight so why would he announce he was gay."
Fear is the great announcer.
Being in control of your fear is the great empowerment.
Time and again I have been made aware of kids who are on the cusp of discovering who they are and who they are attracted to. They, like my own son was, are terrified of their feelings and what they mean so when Michael Sam or Ellen Page or Jim Parsons say, "Look at me. I'm just like you," it is a victory for every single kid who is trying to be brave and tell one person.
When the Pope was asked about gays and the Catholic Church he said "Who am I to judge?" It made world news and was deemed a giant step forward in acceptance, but I flinched at that one, too. For moms like me disappointment and judging is our middle name. We've
had plenty, thank you very much and it has everything to do with religion rather than our gay kids.
Regardless of what box any of us check when it comes to sexual orientation, the real question is "Who am I not to love?"
When that happens we can collectively say that we prayed the fear away.