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Monday, March 21, 2011

What is Love?

I suppose I should have seen it coming, but parents tend to see their children in all their amazing pieces and sometimes the big picture eludes me in all my endeavors... so it came as a complete suprise to me when my eighteen-year-old son "came out" late Saturday night.

I was just heading to bed and he stopped me. He had been home for a week for Spring break and had apparently been planning to telling us all week and suddenly the week was up and he realized he was about to lose his chance.

My husband and I both looked at him and waited.

My son said, "You guys know I'm gay, right?"

Well... no. We did not know. If we had an inkling it was buried inside somewhere and we had not really looked at it.

We said no, we did not know. My husband hurried from the room and I followed him pretty quickly after giving my son a hug and telling him I loved him.

Upstairs my husband broke down and I got really scared. Of course I knew I would always accept my children no matter what, that they could never do anything or be anything that would change that, but the way my husband was sobbing I suddenly became terrified that he was not going to be able to accept this. I imagined a big rift in the family forming and I felt like I was going to fall in it.

It was a bad night. I was awake until five, long after my husband had managed to fall asleep. When the alarm went off at eight, there were jack-hammers in my head and my stomach was rolling like a pro-bowler's ball.

I came downstairs to find my son packing up the last of his things. My husband was bleary-eyed, but he didn't look as bad as I felt. Still, he was quieter than usual as he poured coffee into a travel mug in preparation to make the three hour drive to the university.

As I helped my son fold the last of his laundry, I was wondering if the fraternity he had joined in the fall was all gay. Does such a thing even exist? How would I feel about it if it was?

"So, how do the kids in your fraternity feel about this?" Right or not, I wasn't ready to put the label on him. I figured he'd know what I meant.

He said, "They're fine with it."

"What about your roommate?"

"He's fine."

"Is he gay?"


"Are you seeing anyone?"


It was starting to feel like an interrogation. I let it drop.

"Do you have your phone, computer, chargers?"

"Yes, yes, and... yes," he said as he checked.

"Your room key? Your wallet?" I asked, trying to remember all the things our kids have left behind on previous trips back to school.

He affirmed that he had everything and slung the big duffle bag over his broad shoulder. He is so tall and strong and clean-cut looking, so handsome, so easy-going and lovable... I tried to wrap my mind around the idea that there would never be any other women in his life. No children to smile up at me with his amazing smile... so many things he would never experience on the path he was on.

I hugged him tight and told him I loved him. "I'm so glad you told us. I'm so glad you are including us in your life."

He just smiled and nodded.

I watched the van back out of the garage - my husband and son sitting side-by-side, alike in so many ways.

A few hours later, my husband called.

"So, you dropped him off?"

"I took him out to eat first, but yeah. He's back at the frat."

"How was it?"

There was a long pause.

"It was okay. We had a chance to talk."

"I told him that we would love him no matter what. He said he never doubted that. Then I said I was going to give him one piece of unwarrented advice. I said, Don't pay so much attention to labels. Just be who you are."

For the first time since this whole thing had begun, my eyes teared up. I was blown away. I'm not sure I ever loved my husband more than in that moment.

Last night, I saw on facebook that my son changed his status to "In a relationship with...".

I clicked on the name of other boy. My son's face was there, on the profile picture, along with that of another kid.

Two boy-men trying to find their way...

The expressions on their faces were undeniably . They looked like any other eighteen-year-old boys who were in love for the first time....

It's a lot to take in.

Since this happened, I've told a few people and invariably I hear, I have gay friends, a gay cousin, an uncle... I've said this myself. I do have gay friends. My CoDA sponsor is gay. I have a cousin one year older than me who is gay. I have to say this is entirely different. This is my son, my wonderful amazing son and when I laid in bed awake all Saturday night I saw a million moments of him as a baby, a toddler, his first day of school, his little league games and I felt really angry that this new thing, this undeniable thing, was going to be a part of him forever. How many gay jokes have I heard in my lifetime? How many snickers and sneers? Damn it, I don't want anyone to judge him, ever!

It will be a harder path, for sure, with pitfalls and obstacles and difficult moments... but then again I haven't heard of any truly smooth life paths. All I've ever wanted was for my children to be happy, and at this moment in his life he does seem to be happy. He's in love and he is so very loved and seeing his father accept him exactly as he is has brought up a lot of loving feelings between us and really is there a bad kind of love?


  1. Thank you for sharing this big moment, Shen (I had wondered what the 'matter' was, as I'd come to see what you had for us as Exercise 3...yep, you've got me hooked!).

    It's really wonderful you've both maintained your composure, focussing on what is truly important...he's your son...you love him...you are proud of him...you always will love him and be proud of him. He's still the same person he was before you knew he's Gay. That he felt able to confide in you both is a mark of his love, faith and trust in his parents.

    Hopefully things will be a lot easier for him with attitudes having changed in the last while. Here in SA, Gay Rights are protected and enshrined in the constitution and Gay Marriages are openly and freely conducted. There will always be prejudiced people in the world. That is just a simple statement of fact, but I like to believe the majority are accepting of personal differences, tolerant of personal preferences and see far beyond labels. I think your son is going to be just fine!!!

  2. Thank you Desiree,

    I will have another writing exercise next week. Yesterday was a day of regrouping, so I didn't even think about it until today when I got an email from someone asking me what happened.

    It sounds as if you are ahead of us in South Africa as far as gay rights. Sadly, there are few places in the states where gay marriage is legal.

  3. "Don't pay so much attention to labels. Just be who you are." ... probably the best advice you can give anyone, ever.

    Like Desiree I can see the mutual love, trust and respect coming through.

    Take care,

  4. I hope you have some people you can talk with and who will listen to you. I don't have children so don't really know what this is like.

    It sounds like it is going about as positively as possible at the moment. I hope it continues positively too.

  5. I cried so hard reading this. Can I adopt your husband as my dad? What amazing parents you both seem like. I guess there us hope for us humans after all.

  6. Just popped by (it's Thursday, here) to say Hi, and see how you're doing.

  7. Castor girl, Evan, Campbell - thank you for your supportive comments. I'm really glad if this is helpful to anyone.

    Desiree, thank you for checking up on me. I'm not quite with the program yet. I realized, during yoga this morning, that I have been focused very much on the feelings of everyone else - my husband, my son, my daughter, the projection of what others might think and feel as the news spreads - and very little on my own feelings. It is a process and I need to allow myself to go through it, to let go of the dream and move to complete acceptance. I've had some pretty intense sadness that I've been pushing aside, thinking I'm not allowed to feel that, or I shouldn't feel that, or whatever.

    I'll get there...

  8. I have a good feeling your darling boy will be fine, regardless of whomsoever he may fall in love with.. with the solid love and support of both his parents, he is free to be who he is, secure and confident in the knowledge you will always be there for him.

    I doubt he has "chosen" to be gay, it's not a lifestyle choice hon, and I am guessing he has had a lot more time to digest this than you have yet have. Hopefully, he is also surrounded by a wider and totally accepting circle of friends who care not a jot about who he loves. Yes, I hear your fear for him, bigotry is an evil gauntlet to run, but he sounds grounded and wise enough to weather what ever any occassional idiot may try to throw his way.

    Give yourself a break, of course you need time to get your head around this, since it's come completely out of the blue for you, you need to catch up first with your emotions. And who can say about grandchidren? Things are very different today from what they were a few generations ago! (Hugs)

  9. Hi Shen!

    Shrinky makes some very good points. And, of course you need time to process all of this in your own way. It's one thing for others to see the positives and tell you it's all going to be OK...but it's obviously quite different when it's you going through this transition yourself. Allowing yourself to feel all of your feelings is important.

  10. Thanks Shrinky, for your comments. You're right, it isn't a choice. It's a matter of accepting who he really is and he seems to have done that beautifully. I think many of us have aspects in our lives where total acceptance is difficult... it's a process.

    Desiree, thanks for checking up on me again. I'm afraid everything in my life has looked like my blog, this past week - blank and neglected. I was spinning out for several days and then, once I faced my own feelings, I began the "spinning back in" part of the program. I'm getting to a place of being able to put this aside for short times and deal with life - so that's progress and that's all I can expect. It's a process...

  11. Wow. That's a big WOW. As the mother of a 23 year old son I can truly say that's a really big WOW. One it sounds like you didn't see coming.

    I always think it's interesting how when we're hit with news such as this that we sort of force ourselves to say the 'right' thing and to be sure you don't instantly stop loving your son no matter what. If my son was a killer I don't think it could make me stop loving him.

    This is a big piece of news and shoulda, woulda, coulda, it doesn't change the impact. It sure is a wow moment. Kudos to your son for telling you so soon in his young life, kudos to your husband for 'manning' up and kudos to you for handling it so gracefully. Big news and a lasting 'moment' in your life. Maybe it "shouldn't" be a wow moment but it is for a parent.

    And who says you won't have grandchildren?

  12. Shen,
    Coming out in a healthy way begins at home. You and your husband are amazing!

    Every child I have ever met who has experienced telling their parents, who have parents respond the way you guys did, tend to have much healthier journeys and lives than those who don't get that acceptance.

    This post is a breath of fresh air and leads me to believe, 'It Does Get Better'.

    Thank you.


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