My name is Judy Gaver and this is my story:
About ten years ago, my life changed – drastically – and at the time, I wasn’t convinced it would be for the good. I learned that my oldest son was gay – and though at the time it was a complete surprise, looking back now, there were many signs. However, upon learning this, I was still sure of three things – #1 - I still loved him with all my heart - my love for him did not change one bit; #2 - I knew he hadn’t “chosen” to be gay – who would choose a life of discrimination and hatred and ignorance from others; and #3 – I knew that God still loved him.
I set about to educate myself – and to find how I could best help him. I was concerned that he would be judged, and harmed, simply because of who he was; I was frightened that he would contract a deadly disease. After all, all the “sources” pointed out every negative aspect associated with being gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folks.
BUT that’s when I learned about PFLAG! I immediately began attending monthly meetings – both informational meetings, and separate Parents’ Support Group meetings. What a period of enlightenment for me – and honor to get to know, and soon love, these wonderful folks who helped me understand and gave me the support and courage I needed. I found all the resources I needed to become informed and realized I was not alone, meeting many other parents who were also on their journeys of understanding, love and acceptance. We shared concerns, joys, tears and love and it was a huge source of comfort to me to be with others who knew exactly how I was feeling.
I have remained involved with PFLAG over the years and now facilitate the Parents’ Support Group for the Columbia/Howard County Chapter. Over these years, I have done everything I can to support my son and let him know how much I love him – and let him know, that now - because of his orientation - I am blessed with many “family members” I know and love – whom without him I would never have had the opportunity to meet!!
Though things are great for my family now – we’re still not finished. I have two wonderful sons – but unfortunately they both cannot enjoy the same rights and privileges. You see, my oldest son – because of who he loves – faces discrimination and inequity every single day. In this great state of Maryland, my oldest son is denied the right to marry the person with whom he’s fallen in love. He is not afforded over 1,000 rights that his brother will someday enjoy when he falls in love and decides to marry; rights that his father and I enjoy as a married couple.
A particularly disturbing fact for me is this – I work in the Court system, and have been in the company of the Clerk of the Court on more than one occasion and heard him say that he was going to the local detention center to perform a wedding!!! Now, here are folks who have broken the law, are incarcerated and yet, they still can get married!! And my son – an upstanding, law-abiding, tax paying, hard working citizen – cannot! I just need someone to explain that to me!!
So I will “stay the course” and do what I can for him – and thousands of other loving, caring, hard working and tax paying same sex couples who want nothing more than to be happy, and enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other Maryland citizen.
Hello, we are Bob & Lori and this our story.
For twenty-three years we have worked together as husband and wife, parents of two amazing kids and licensed therapists specializing in marriage and relationship counseling. We have always counseled straight and gay couples. We never imagined we would end up hitting the jackpot – that both our son and daughter would be gay.
You may think it was a piece of cake for us liberal, enlightened therapists, but it was not. Our son struggled through his adolescence questioning his feelings and orientation – at times crying, depressed and withdrawn. He felt alone since until high school he was not able to come out to his friends and the rest of our family. We feel blessed that he was able to confide in us so he didn’t have to struggle by himself. By his senior year of high school he had no doubt that he was gay. Coming out to family and friends for him, and for us, was not easy. Despite our enlightenment and the fact that those close to us were as liberal as they come, we were still afraid of judgment and rejection. As it turned out, everyone we told has been accepting and loving.
Our daughter was a “tomboy” growing up but we never suspected she was anything but straight. Since she confided in her friends instead of us, we didn’t find out she was lesbian until she was 17 years old. This revelation came as quite a shock to us and others and was more difficult to adjust to since she had dated boys and we had no clue. In our wildest dreams we never would have imagined we would end up having two gay children.
We quickly became the house all our children’s LGBT friends would come to because we were caring and accepting and listened to them. Some of their friends were not able to come out to their parents or any family member for fear of rejection or being kicked out of the house. We witnessed the hardship, the pain, the self-loathing, the fear and the sadness that some of these kids felt and it really hurt.
We also thought and worried a lot about our kids’ future. Aren’t we all taught to believe as kids that we will “grow up, get married and have a family?” Will that promise, of a “normal” life be taken away from our children? Will they be able to marry someone they love and have their own children and grandchildren? Why is this rite of passage yanked away from people because of who they are attracted to, which as we know is not a choice?
Professionally and personally we knew there was no difference between straight and gay couples’ relationships except that gay couples, in addition to relationship issues, had to deal with discrimination perpetrated against them.
We could not just stand by and watch so we became activists. Here’s what we have done to date:
- ·Learned as much as we could about the LGBT community
- ·Joined PFLAG and went to PFLAG National Conference
- ·Got involved with Equality Maryland, Human Rights Commission, Marylanders for Marriage Equality
- ·Designed and gave presentations for PFLAG parents on “Why Marriage Equality is Vital to the Health of our LGBT Kids”
- ·Testified before the MD House of Delegates and the Senate for the Marriage Equality Bill in 2011 and we will do it again in 2012
- ·Developed a radio show called Black White & Gay – The Human Side to showcase gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and allies, so listeners will gain knowledge about and experience with LGBT people. We teamed up with Pastor Larry Brumfield to co-host our weekly talk and “call-in” radio show which focuses on the religious, racial, legal and psychological aspects of being gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.
- ·And most importantly, we encouraged our kids to become activists and leaders for their cause in college and in Annapolis, to speak up for their rights, to not allow themselves to be discriminated against and to speak out for others who don’t have supportive parents and family. They both attended the hearings for the Marriage Equality Bill in 2011 and both will be back in 2012 to testify before the House and Senate with us.
If parents don’t speak out for their kids, who will? It is parents who need to step up and fight for our children to have a future equal to all others.
We are available to speak with any parents and children for support. And we welcome parents to call us to discuss how you can become more active, at your comfort level, in the movement towards equality for our gay, lesbian and transgender sons and daughters.
Hello, my name is Erma and this is my story.
It was in the early 1980’s when I first met a lesbian couple. Someone invited them to our Women’s Church group. We met every month, taking turns in each other’s home, for a pot-luck dinner, discussion and prayer.
Our discussions focused on how women were being affected, positively or negatively by the policies and practices of our churches. Though most of the women were Catholic, all were not. Ours was an open, welcoming group where only two unwritten assumptions ruled our gatherings: first, everyone would be guaranteed the opportunity to speak, and second, no one need be afraid to honestly express her opinions.
One evening Lynn and Gloria were already seated in the living-room along with the regulars when I arrived. As we were being introduced I learned that they were Catholic, lesbian and a couple. This surprised me, and was the catalyst for my education about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.
At that point in my life I was married, had three young children and was preoccupied with getting them all through school safely and successfully. My once-a-month-night-out-with-the-church-ladies pretty much described my social life. It was at this juncture that the little I knew about homosexuals was brought to the forefront of my consciousness and I felt challenged. How can women live as a couple and still be Catholic? Getting to know these two wonderful women set me on a research path that eventually benefited my whole family in an important way.
During his college years, my son, the middle child, gradually revealed that he is gay. This, I was deducing during his High School years. Because of what I had already learned about sexual orientation, I was neither shocked, nor saddened. I was more concerned about the behavior of others toward him than his behavior towards others. His sexual orientation did not change my love and concern for him one iota. Nevertheless, I witness how he struggled within himself about his orientation; cautiously feeling his way not to give offense in social situations, the anxiety of finding friends who would be real friends; people who would not do him harm. Then, there was always the fear of rejection by extended family members, and the hurt caused by the negative pronouncements of his Church that had baptized and nourished him spiritually from birth, as it did for his ancestors many centuries ago.
Years have gone by, The boy is now a man who has grown stronger and wiser for the difficulties he has had to endure. Family and friends love him for the content of his character. And, since New York has legalized same-gender marriage, he and his partner of 17 years are preparing to be married there.
Every parent with a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender child will have a unique story to tell when they come to a PFLAG meeting. And each parent’s main worry or concern will be unique to their situation.
I count myself fortunate to have met Lynn and Gloria those many years ago at our Women’s Church meeting. Their kindness, integrity, and example wiped away the negative opinions I had about gay people. They gave me the information and courage to stand by my gay son with loving support until he was able to stand on his own.
My only regret is that the leaders of my Church have yet to find a way to be fully accepting of the spiritual aspirations of gay, lesbian bisexual and transgender members. However, I know the Spirit is moving and God will not be thwarted.
Hi, we are Sue & Rich
I am a parent of a gay son. I have learned a great deal about the world in which my son lives through the gay and straight community associated with PFLAG. I would like to share my story with you in hope that it brings comfort in the event you are struggling with a questioning child.
My son had confided in us while he was in High School that he was questioning his sexuality. We were not sure how to help him with this so we decided to seek professional help. One of my first concerns was the all-boys Catholic High School he was attending. Within the first semester of school, he was confronted with homophobic slang etched into his locker door for all to see. The school was immediate in their response to this situation and there was not another incident. There were however many discussions that pursued as a result of this “outing”. My son decided that he wanted to continue at this school and we decided that we needed to know more about Homosexuality.
We found the “coming-out” process difficult in more ways than one: Who do you come out to? My son was not comfortable as a flag waving, card- carrying, change-the-world, deal-with-it attitude; my husband had more of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude; I was somewhere in-between. We felt it was my son’s life and we would follow his lead. We all agreed that our families would be the first that we told.
It really wasn’t until College that my son felt secure within himself to join his college queer union. He found it comforting to know that he was not alone but he also found that there were many differences and extremes in the homosexual world. I suspect that what he discovered is that being a homosexual male within a homosexual environment is similar to being a heterosexual male in a heterosexual environment—there are other characteristics that attract our love interests than our gender. In his acceptance of his sexuality, although a huge step, he was just beginning to understand his desire for a relationship in a heterosexual society.
I don’t mean to imply that being homosexual is as accepted as being heterosexual—it is not. But I have seen through my son that is not a decision that he has made. This wasn’t something that appeared at puberty. We saw his nature developing in pre-school, elementary school, middle school and into High School. We tried to guide him into a more masculine curriculum by signing him up for soccer and lacrosse but it was obvious that he did not enjoy these activities. His only decision was whether he would be true to his nature—his God given nature.
There are times when I tell an acquaintance that my son is gay, that they feel this is the worst news they could receive from their son. I hope that I can show them that this is not true. There have been down times with this journey reflected in society and my church’s attitude toward homosexuality. This is an on-going battle that I believe is worth fighting. My son has had to search his soul for his very being and had been humiliated in the process—something that Jesus himself had to endure. I don’t know if I could have done it. I am very proud of him.
Here are some wonderful websites that might interest you:
My name is Arlene and this is my story.
Our son came out to us when he was 25 years old. We were the last to know because our Michael was afraid of losing our love and support. I know he came out to his friends and brother in his undergraduate years at college.
I knew there was something bothering him because every time I took a picture at family gatherings or just to take pictures of my
children, he never had a good smile but I never guessed what it was. Michael felt he may be the only one in the world with his feelings. Luckily there was one English teacher in high school that his friends said was gay and he looked happy. Michael thought he would work in a research lab all his life alone and try to concentrate solely on his work.
Michael came home from college for a long weekend and decided to visit friends in Boston. He called to tell me he left a letter on his bed, I should read it with Dad and he would be back the next day. He didn't want to see our initial reaction to his letter.
At first I was shocked, I cried and then began to realize that I knew all along, but could not admit it to myself. My husband was very
good and told Michael he loved him before he knew and he loves him now. I felt I could never stop loving my good looking, caring, intelligent son but I had to learn more about the world he was going to be a part of. I worried that he would be a target for violence. Many parents feel that they mourn for the grandchildren they will not have, but I was more concerned about how Michael would find a happy life. Michael told us about PFLAG and I met the most caring parents and gay people who shared their life with us. We would have a rap session with 8 to 10 people and then speakers talking about different aspects of what it is to be gay in our world. When Michael came out to us (coming out of the closet), we had to find our way out of the closet now that we knew. I had to feel comfortable enough to come out to family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and the world. Every time I tell someone that my son is gay, I do it because I am very proud of Michael, every part of him. It makes a difference when people can see what a gay family looks like.
Michael is a wonderful son, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, a loving partner to Matt, active in community affairs, faculty
adviser to the gay organization on campus, travels, loves good food, etc. He deserves the best that life has to offer.
Life is a journey and I feel that my journey has been enhanced by my son and has opened a world up to me that I treasure and would not change.