“My son keeps encouraging me to go to PFLAG meetings and got me a copy of your book so that I can ‘get my questions answered,’ but I don’t have any questions. Should I be handling things differently? Am I supposed to have questions?”
Question Submitted Anonymously
Answered by Kristin Russo
This is my very favorite of all the questions, and I am going to tell you why: I have spoken to so, so, soooo many parents who are immediately supportive of their newly-out child, and who are confused about why they would need to read a book or go to a meeting or follow LGBTQIA-related Twitter accounts or anything of the sort, because they feel just fine. A lot of the advice that exists for parents of LGBTQIA kids is focused on parents who are struggling—who feel overwhelmed with questions or worry or sadness or fear. What about parents like you, who feel just fine?!
Well, first of all: thank you. Thank you for loving your son, for supporting your son, and for being present with him and hearing what he has to say. The two of you are already in an amazing place, because he knows that you accept him for who he is, and that is much farther along than many parent-kid combos are in the initial stages.
But but but!! It sounds like your son wants you to know even more about who he is and about what it all means. And that moves me right along to my second point: There is always more to learn, there is always more to know, and we all have questions—even if we don’t know what they are just yet! You certainly don’t have to go to meetings or read books, but let me tell you a few really awesome things that might happen if you take your son’s advice.
At a PFLAG meeting, there are usually parents from a whole range of different experiences who have kids with a whole plethora of different identities. You didn’t say how your son identifies, but I can guarantee you that you will be able to learn a lot more about the many other identities that exist within LGBTQIA communities. Perhaps your son is gay, and you’ll learn more about what it means to be genderqueer or bisexual or intersex! The more you know about those identities, the more conversations you will be able to have (with yourself, with your son, and with others) about the complexities of being an LGBTQIA person. But wait, there’s more!! As someone at this meeting who is already a supportive parent, you will be able to help other parents who may feel lost or confused or overwhelmed. My mom has engaged with so many parents over the years and has been able to talk to them about their fears in a way that only another parent can. This certainly isn’t your responsibility, and if you go to a meeting or two and you don’t feel comfortable, that is totally okay. You can tell your son your reasons for going, and the reasons you don’t think that PFLAG is for you, personally. Or you may meet some amazing people and have the best time ever—but going once or twice will mean a whole bunch to your son regardless of the outcome.
By reading something like This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids, or more articles here at My Kid Is Gay, you will learn something, too: that there is always so, so much more to learn. I have spoken to so many parents who read our book only to realize that they had never thought about the complexities of gender and gender identity, about the nuances of safe sex, or about the political landscape of being LGBTQIA. I have done this work for years and years and identify as queer myself, and still every day I learn something new. This is a really incredible journey to be on, and your son may be asking you to go along on that journey with him. It means so very much to me when I am able to speak to my parents about things like religion and sexuality or gendered bathrooms or where biphobia comes from—-and it will probably mean a lot to your son, too.
The last thing that I want to say, and this may or may not apply to you specifically, is this: Having questions and not knowing everything there is to know does not make you an ignorant or less accepting parent. I have spoken to a lot of parents who refuse to ask questions because they adhere strictly to this train of thought: “This isn’t a big deal, I love my kid and that is that. I don’t need to know anything to love my kid, period.” While I applaud the tenacity of that love and commitment, we all have more to learn, always. I have questions all the time, and it doesn’t mean I am ignorant or that I think less of anyone…it actually means the exact opposite. It means that I am aware of how powerful knowledge can be, and that I should always be seeking after more, more, and more still. Your questions and your search for continued knowledge and conversation—those things show your love for your son more than anything else.
Your son wants you to be as much a part of his world as you can—so even if you know you love him and you don’t have any questions and you aren’t struggling, read our book anyway. Read articles. Go to PFLAG meetings. Try it all on for size and talk to him about it along the way.
Like me, you will probably be surprised at every turn at how much there is to know, and how incredible the process of discovering can be.
Kristin is the CEO & Co-Founder of both Everyone Is Gay & My Kid Is Gay. She also hosted & produced the first season of First Person, a video series on gender and sexuality from PBS Digital. She co-authored the book This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids (Chronicle, 2014), is the co-director of A-Camp, and holds a Master’s in Gender Studies from the CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan.
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