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Rise above pain of gay disclosure
By Deb Price, The Detroit News       

 Like an S.O.S. message in a bottle, the letter from the lost, lonely mother washed up on my desk:
       "My son has just told me that he is gay.  I know you do not usually write these kind of articles, but could you please do an article on what causes this?  Is a person born like this, is it how they are raised, will counseling help?
       "... I want to understand.  I am scared for my son.  I have no one I would feel comfortable talking to at this time."
       No name.  No address.  Just a Royal Oak, Mich., postmark.
       The woman's pain and confusion swept over me as I read her desperate plea, reminding me why I've dedicated myself to trying to build bridges of understanding.  Even though the world has changed so much in recent years -- with gay celebrities everywhere, with gay topics no longer taboo, with countless gay men and lesbians living openly -- the journey to accepting oneself or a loved one as gay remains terrifying for many people.
       The hurting mother surely wants to hear that she didn't somehow make her son gay.  And, in fact, she didn't.  Sexual orientation appears to be fixed at a very early age, probably largely or entirely before birth.  Being gay is not a matter of choice any more than being left-handed or have perfect pitch is chosen.  As the American Psychological Association explains, being homosexual is simply a natural human variation that has occurred throughout history.
       By reaching out to me, that Michigan mom took the first step toward truly accepting her son.  If she'll next reach out -- even anonymously -- to PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), she'll likely discover that what's now a source of suffering can evolve into a source of pride, even joy.  (Contact PFLAG at 202-638-4200 orwww.pflag.org for information and local chapters.)
       "I've seen parents crying their hearts out and a year later marching in a gay-pride parade," says Robert Bernstein, the father of a lesbian and author of Straight Parents/Gay Children.
       Now That You Know by Betty Fairchild and Nancy Hayward and Beyond Acceptance by Carolyn Griffin and Marian and Arthur Wirth are also tremendous resources for parents who have just learned that their 14- or 44-year-old child is gay.
       Though she probably feels anything but lucky, that frightened mother should count her blessings.  She's been given two precious gems:
       The Gift of Honesty: By sharing the truth of his sexual orientation with her, her son is saying he loves her, he values integrity and he wants a closer, richer relationship with her than had been possible when his secret was an invisible wall between them.
       As lesbian writer Adrienne Rich says in On Lies, Secrets and Silence, silence about something that should be spoken is the same as a lie.  Lies suffocate relationships; truth breathes in new life.
       "The possibilities that exist between two people ... are a kind of alchemy.  They are the most interesting thing in life.  The liar is someone who keeps losing sight of these possibilities," Rich writes.
       The Gift of Desperation: Life is not a gentle teacher.  Most of us are too caught up in our routines to learn subtle lessons.  Only when life slams us upside the head with a 2-by-4 do we pay attention and become willing to change, to ask for help, to grow.
       Life hits us with a drunken-driving arrest, a potentially deadly diagnosis, a relationship-threatening affair or a world-shattering revelation.  And the emotional pain can, if we let it, propel us to do a better job of living up to our finest values by, for example, showing a gay son that we love him unconditionally.
       As Buddhist nun Pema Chodron, author of When Things Fall Apart, says of life's most disturbing events, "This very moment is the perfect teacher."
       Gay or straight, we can run from pain and learn nothing.  Or we can walk through it and force ourselves to grow.