This story was originally published in This Is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids
Zoe came out to me when she was eighteen years old. Up until that moment, we always had a good routine when it came to conversations—she’d tell me she wanted to talk about something and ask if it was a good time, I’d tell her I had to finish a couple of phone calls, and then we’d settle down to talk about what was on her mind. This particular night, though, I was lying in my bed not feeling so well, and in comes Zoe. She lays across me and says, “Mom, I have to tell you something.” I was like, “Really? You have to tell me now?” She was adamant. “Yes, I have to tell you now.” So, she did. She told me she was gay.
When it came to telling other people about Zoe’s sexuality, we mostly didn’t. I felt that, since nobody calls other people just to say, “My kid’s a heterosexual,” why should I call and make an announcement about my daughter? I didn’t think it was anybody else’s business, unless Zoe wanted them to know. But, of course, as with everything else, things were a little more complicated than they initially seemed.
A few months passed, and we were asked to go to dinner by our close friends—friends who have always adored Zoe. I told them that Zoe was going to be coming home from college that day, and they were thrilled and told us to bring her along. The complication was that Zoe was coming home with her girlfriend, Madi—and I didn’t know how to explain that to my friends.
Instead of trying to find the right words, I simply said, “Well, Zoe is bringing a friend with her.” They, of course, immediately extended an invitation to her “friend.” I told Zoe the day she was headed home that she and Madi were invited to join us all for dinner, but then explained that I hadn’t told our friends that the two of them were dating. Zoe drew a line in the sand. She said she wouldn’t go to dinner unless everyone knew that she and Madi were a couple. She didn’t want to lie. It made sense, and it was the first time Zoe had ever put her foot down about anything, but we had just a short amount of time before we had to leave. I didn’t know what to do.
My husband suggested that we just tell our friends that Zoe missed the train, so that we could avoid the conversation entirely. At that point, our extended family didn’t even know. I had no idea what to expect. So, Zoe stayed home.
We went to dinner, and my friends, of course, said how they were so sorry that Zoe had missed the train. In that moment, I just couldn’t lie. I told them, then and there. I said, “Well, actually, Zoe did not miss the train. Zoe’s at home. She wants me to tell you that she’s gay, and that her friend is not just her friend, her friend is her partner. I want you to know, too.” They did not miss a beat. They asked me if she was happy, and I told them she was—she was really happy. The wife replied, “That’s what’s most important.” Her husband said to me before we left dinner that night, “I want you to tell Zoe that she will always be a daughter to me and I expect her to be at dinner next time.”