One must ask, what is the difference between denial and realism?
Denial is telling oneself that your son/daughter is as “normal” as his/her straight friends, especially when you come from a small town. It was just unheard of knowing a gay person; they just didn’t exist in our town. They were considered social outcasts, as well as their parents for bringing them up in this world.
When my son Patrick entered junior high school, he encountered many differences with his fellow classmates. He would always come home upset and ask why was he was so different. As a parent I would console him and explain that kids are cruel and that he shouldn’t buckle under peer pressure. I used to wonder what type of female would be a compatible match for him, totaly naive of his sexual orientation.
After graduation Patrick was off to college and as a typical mother, my heart was broken when he moved out. He seemed painfully unhappy but wouldn’t tell me what was troubling him. So, I took it for granted that he was just homesick and missed his family. He then decided to leave school to do an internship with Entertainment Weekly in New York City.
Wow, what an eye opener moving him was.
I remember a call from Pat on his first day at work and him saying “Mom—you won’t believe all the drag queens that just walked past my office.” I should have recognized the sign from the enthusiasm in his voice, but again—denial, I told everyone he was “star struck”.
Patrick convinced me to fly to New York to visit him. He came out in a weak moment and told me I just didn’t understand that he was gay and struggling with his own emotions. But there again – denial – I brushed it off and blamed his mood swings on New York, and under no circumstances was I going to tell my husband or family members. That just wasn’t going to happen. When Patrick’s internship was up at Entertainment Weekly he went to work for Out Magazine. I was so upset. I never told anyone he worked for a gay magazine.
Patrick could never stay long in one place. He was always moving. In 1999 he made a trip driving around North America, then moved back to New York to start working for Condé Nast Traveler. He also joined a LGBT hockey league there. He told me it wasn’t all gay people, so I went back to New York to watch him play. I was really impressed—especially because he never put on a pair of ice skates growing up. At that time I noticed a difference in Patrick, I wasn’t really sure what was going on in him.
On a bright spring morning, 10 years after he left home, Patrick called me to say he had decided to move to Madison, Wisconsin so he could be closer to home and could visit me more often. I was elated, especially when I found out it was only a three hour drive from our home. As the conversation went on, he asked if I told his father yet about his sexuality. I said no. He was hurt and our conversation ended on a very bad note. So before Thanksgiving that year, I told his father and much to my surprise he already suspected it.
In 2006, I went to visit Patrick in Madison and we started talking about hockey. That night we went to a Badger hockey game. Then a few weeks later Pat called to say he was starting a LGBT league in Madison. My first impression was ‘this should be interesting’. That year, I went to see the league play twice as well as their championships. I just sat back and felt impressed and extremely proud of Patrick for all he had accomplished. His interaction with all the players was phenomenal. I always knew Patrick had leadership ability within him. I also went to the association’s fundraiser “Blades Against AIDS.” The look on his face said it all.
I came home and finally started telling my family and friends. I’ve come to the conclusion that I am no longer in denial. Now I realize I have the attitude that I don’t care what people think—he is our son. If they don’t like it then they are not worth calling a friend. The sad conclusion is I never took Patrick’s feelings into consideration in the past. I never considered what he was enduring. The mere fact of coming out wasn’t enough on his plate, the struggles in daily living, being lonely, and society’s prejudices were added to that.
It’s no wonder why these young people are an emotional mess today.
My advise to other parents of LGBT young adults is to support your loved one and try to smooth the transition for them the best way possible. If I had to do it over, I would have been a realist. That is the difference between denial and realism. Society is cruel enough, but the individual is truly struggling to find peace within him/her self.