On a crisp Fall night, I said the words out loud for the first time. My husband and I had been out dinner with good friends and we’d stopped by a local festival to listen to music. As our husbands walked ahead of us, in search of beer, I touched my friend’s arm and said, “I have to tell you something,” with tears in my eyes.
I’d been carrying the weight of our family secret for too long but, recent events in my daughter’s life allowed for me to share with my dear friend.
The words, foreign and weird on my tongue, tumbled out, “Our daughter is gay.”
I looked deep into my friend’s eyes, terrified I’d catch a glimmer of rejection or disgust, and waited as the sounds of music filled the night air around us.
As my friend enveloped me in a warm hug of support, I started to cry in earnest.
Not from shame, not from embarrassment, but from relief.
Our daughter is gay. Queer. Fluid. Curious.
She is our daughter, no different than when she came to us last year and said,
“I’m pretty sure I like girls, too.”
We believed her and didn’t question her. Because we’ve always known that conversation would come and when she looked at us, hazel eyes full of relief, my heart started to ache.
And we loved her through the hardest conversation she’s ever had with us.
As I held my daughter and cried tears of relief with her, I’d be lying if I said my thoughts didn’t instantly leap to all of the ways life was going to be harder for her. Not because being queer is shameful. Not because we are embarrassed.
But, because I’ve never looked at a friend with tears in my eyes and said, “My son is straight.”
I’ve never looked at pictures of kids going to proms and dates and thought, “None of them are same-sex couples.”
And, I’ve never winced when I thought of my son’s first kiss, first sexual experience, his wedding day.
Society will be kind to him and his “normal” sexual identity.
Life is harder for gay teens and my daughter will be forever judged simply because of who she is at her core.
And I’m learning how to parent a teen who doesn’t know how to navigate her new sexuality any more than I do.
I am learning that we may have to say goodbye to certain friends and family as they grapple with her truth. There’s no room for hate at our dinner table.
I am learning that your heart will break into a million pieces every time someone mentions your daughter breaking a man’s heart someday. Because people assume she’s straight.
I’m learning that I will go home and silently sob in my closet after I’ve heard boys on the football team yell, “You are so gay, dude!” and “You run like a faggot,” at practice. And I will wipe my tears away discreetly as she bounds home from school and tells me she’s had a good day. Because not all of her school days will be good days.
I am learning that my faith rejects her and that I may have to walk away from the only church I’ve ever know. As I stand in Mass, I look at the cross in front of me and wonder how this perfect creature, created by God, isn’t worthy to stand on that altar and profess her love to a woman. And it makes me fall to my knees.
I am learning that I will lay awake at night, long after my family is sleeping and wonder how to help her explore her sexuality. And I cry into my pillow, thinking of the souls in the Pulse Nightclub and pray she’ll never be hated so much that someone takes her life.
I am learning to make peace with the word, “queer” because it feels like I’m insulting my daughter, even though I know the word allows her to truly express who she is.
I’m learning that my role as a parent advocate is coming at me faster than I expected. I don’t feel ready or strong enough to go to battle against the hatred towards the gay community.
But I will.
I will put on my battle armor and I will stand ready to defend my daughter’s right to share her life married to the partner of her dreams.
I will help her find her voice.
I will help her find people and communities that welcome her rainbow heart with open arms.
I will vote for legislation that protects her safety and her legal rights when she can’t make decisions for herself.
And I will love her.
With my whole heart.
And, with each passing day, I will learn how to parent her in the way she needs.
My child is gay and I’m proud to be her mother.
And though some days, I’m terrified and afraid that I’m screwing it all up, I’m learning that my daughter will teach me every day what it means to live life fearlessly.
The author wishes to remain anonymous.