by Brent Almond
Dear Parents of Gay Kids,
I thought it might be helpful to see inside the head of someone who was once a gay kid, and who is now a parent—someone who relates to a young person discovering themselves, and also to a parent that never stops worrying and wanting for their kids, regardless of the issue.
Below is a letter I wrote to my younger self. As I was writing, I was also addressing my own parents, assuring them that while I definitely had some hard times, I came out okay on the other side. The same goes for them, and for you as well. There will definitely be growing pains as you learn and support and try to weather what your family is going through. Yet as long as you stick by them—staying present in their lives even when you don’t agree or understand—you’ll be there to share in the joy and freedom that comes down the road.
Going through hardship can lead to greater intimacy, and that is what I hope for each of you. I’m closer now to my parents than I ever have been—and while I’m sure they worry about me and will never stop, it has very little to do with the fact that I’m gay, and all to do with the fact that they love me.
Please hold on. Be hopeful.
Dear Younger Gay Me,
Well, it looks like same-sex marriage is about to be legal in the entire U.S. And although it seems like it’s taken an eternity for all 50 states to come around, it’s pretty amazing when I stop and think about it. But you probably have no idea what I’m even talking about, do you? That’s why I’m writing you—to let you know how things will be when you’re an adult, so you can be encouraged and have hope and just hang in there. I’m also writing to remind myself how lucky I am and how far I’ve come.
Remember when you were about seven years old, and you started having thoughts that made you think you were different, not quite right, broken? And how you inherently knew you were doing something wrong, even though you weren’t doing anything but being yourself? And then you started looking in the index of every Bible you ever came across for mention of the word “homosexual”—hoping above all hope for an answer to what was going on inside your head and heart. I’m sorry you had to go through all that.
Nowadays you hardly ever think about the fact that you’re gay, and certainly never that you’re broken or sinful or not quite right. You still think you’re different sometimes, but you kind of enjoy that, and see it more as being unique or special, not as something to be hated.
I think about your years in elementary school, when you liked to hang out with the girls at recess, and how you never enjoyed sports, thus adding to your feelings of isolation. I think about junior high, when you started to discover your sexuality and had nowhere to turn but your imagination, the ads in a magazine, or the superheroes in your comic books. I think about high school, where you started trying to date girls in order to fit in, but felt completely alone and always scared of being found out—even though you didn’t quite know what it was you were hiding yet. In truth, you knew—but were too afraid to say it out loud…or even think it.
However, my life as an adult has been unbelievably rich with love and friendship of every kind. I’ve had so many wonderful friends—both guys and girls, gay and straight—who know and accept me for who I am in every way. I’ve dated some very nice men, experiencing all the highs and lows a relationship brings with it—just like all your friends did in school. It’s been heartbreaking at times, unimaginably wonderful at others—but it’s all been honest and real and part of living life out in the open.
I recall your college years, finally putting words to your fears, and how devastating and horrifying that was. And how you initially felt liberated by speaking your truth, only to be suffocated and crippled by the religious rules you felt compelled to follow and the religious leaders you subjected yourself to. All in hopes that God would fix you. So many years (the entirety of your youth) spent in prayer and Bible study and therapy and confession and retreats and mission trips and exorcisms. So many tears shed, so many screams, so much self-loathing.
I can still feel the fear you felt, wondering what Mom and Dad would think if they knew. The disappointment, sadness and rejection that might occur. The ongoing battle in your head, weighing which was worse—the secrets and lies or the possible estrangement from the two people who’d loved, nurtured, and protected you every day since you were born.
But please hold on. Be hopeful. Very soon you will come to the conclusion—after decades of fighting what you’ve been feeling—that this is how God created you. That you are indeed “wonderfully made.” And you can stop trying to be something else, and just be. You will experience so much freedom and relief.
Mom and Dad will have a hard time at first. It won’t be perfect or without conflict. But they will come around, as long as you continue to do the same. They will love and accept you and pray for you as they’ve always done. They will even stand up for your right to be yourself and love who you love. They will come to your defense against friends, church members, and even other family members. You always were and always will be their pride and joy.
And you will experience deep, real, committed love. You will meet a man who adores and respects you for who you are right then, for who you will be, and for how far you’ve come. And he will be with you, by your side, as you journey through life. You will love, cherish and honor one another—for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health. And then, after nearly 20 years sharing your life together, you will become legally and wonderfully married, in the backyard of the home you share, with your family and friends officiating, singing, toasting, and celebrating all around you.
Lastly, I look back to when you would picture your life as a father, but could never imagine how to make that happen. You felt like you’d never want to live in such secrecy and misery in order to become and stay a family, but that it would likely be your lot in life.
Yet one day, many years from now, you and your husband will bring a baby boy into your lives. He will be your son, your pride and joy and everything. And you will be his father, and will feel complete. After 40 years on the planet, you’ll feel like you’ve finally taken on the roles you were born to fill. A husband and a father. And a gay man: happily, incidentally, truthfully gay.
So please be patient just a little bit longer. Life is about to get wonderful.
Older Gay You
Brent Almond is a graphic designer, writer, and father of a pre-schooler. He combines all of these on his blog Designer Daddy, where he writes about being a gay dad of an adopted son, chronicles the progress of same-sex marriage with fridge magnets, and shares the superhero doodles he puts in his son’s lunchbox. More of Brent’s writing can be found on Huffington Post and The Good Men Project, and he was recently honored as one of the Voices of the Year at BlogHer 2014. Brent also serves on the board of Rainbow Families DC, an organization that supports, educates and connects LGBT families. Read more of his work on his blog, Designer Daddy.
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