By David Bradburn
It’s early Sunday morning in December 2012. I’m in the middle of a two-week business trip, and I’m waking up in New Orleans, LA. When I call my wife to say good morning, she asks if I’m sitting down, because she has something to tell me. In the second it takes me to say I am sitting down and ask what’s wrong, my heart is already in my throat, fearing that she’s about to tell me someone has died. She lets me know that our son is gay, that he left a note for her the previous evening. She reads the note to me. I’m relieved nobody has died.
I wish I could be there to hug my son, but that will have to wait. I’m 1,500 miles and a week away from being home. Instead, my wife and I assure David that we love him more than he could know, and say we are here for him, no matter what.
If I remember anything about those first days and weeks, it is that your mind thinks of nothing else except your child. You are filled with worries about your child’s long-term happiness, that they will be safe from harm, that they will not be rejected by family and friends. There is grieving, too. It didn’t last long, but I remember thinking about some stupid things at the time, including the fact that my son probably wouldn’t be taking a girl to senior prom, if he went at all.
Thankfully, one of the best things I chose to do on day one was to research support groups for parents like me—parents of a child who is gay. I quickly found a link to the Greater Boston PFLAG. They were tremendously supportive, offering to speak with me by phone the very next day. During what was probably a 45-minute call, members of my local PFLAG patiently listened to my worries, while responding to them with positive stories of hope and love that made me feel much better. They spoke of gay couples who had married, who had children, who lead happy and productive lives. Hearing all this meant so much.
While our son may have come out of the closet, his mom and I quickly entered one. David didn’t come out to the entire world, and we didn’t feel comfortable coming out for him. We attended monthly meetings at our local PFLAG. There were other parents there who had been through the same thing with their own children. There were individuals there, too, who had come out to their own parents in the past. They were equally supportive, and allowed us to feel and be ourselves.
Early in 2016, David changed his relationship status on Facebook, and followed up the news with a black and white photograph of him and his new boyfriend. It’s a great photo. Both young men have huge smiles on their faces. They both look very happy. I took this opportunity to finally let my father know. I had been holding off telling him simply out of fear that he would react negatively, and reject my son in the process. I’m happy to report that his reaction was entirely positive, and filled with love and support for young David.
We haven’t told everyone in our lives, which is fine. I’ve told my father. My wife hasn’t told her mother. Some of our family and friends are Facebook friends with my son. They might have drawn their own conclusions from his posts, but none of them have said anything. This is also fine.
David is 21 now, and a junior in college. His boyfriend came to visit with us last month, and he seems like a really nice person. He and David seem very happy together. My son loves me, and he’s happy. I love my son, and I’m happy. Life is good. I hope the same is true for you.
David Bradburn is a Parent Facilitator for the Merrimack Valley PFLAG, which meets monthly in Andover, MA. He is also a One-to-One Parent Support volunteer for the Greater Boston PFLAG.