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
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