Jim came out to his Dad and me April, 2000. It was his junior year in high school and this was the evening of the annual honors banquet. Jim asked us to come to school early – he had to tell us something – and with his guidance counselor and youth minister – told us he is gay. The range of emotions we felt as parents was overwhelming. Love and acceptance were first as we hugged him and let him know he had our full support. Fear quickly followed – I thought of Matthew Shepard. I knew about hate crimes against gays and lesbians. Grief lasted a bit longer – willingness to accept a loved one’s sexual orientation doesn’t stop you from grieving for the life you had dreamed for them. Heterosexuality is the perceived norm. We feared life would be difficult for him. What we came to realize is that a closeted life would be so much more difficult.
So that evening in April of 2000, we began a journey. Some parents in PFLAG – Parents, Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays – say that when our children come out of the closet, the parents go in. My husband and I talked about Jimmy to each other, but we spoke about him to no one else – not even to Jimmy. Jimmy went to the Gay Straight Alliance in our community, enjoyed his senior year in high school, and planned to attend college in the fall of 2001. Over the next four years, Jimmy lived at home, attended school and worked part time. More importantly, he helped his family become more comfortable with his sexual orientation. Jimmy was instrumental in starting the gay straight alliance at his college. He went to the Center for Lesbian, Gay and Transgendered Youth. He
raised funds and walked the AIDS walk and I joined him. He dated and we welcomed the young man into our home. He brought us to a realization that sexuality is central to the human identity. He helped us to acknowledge that a long term committed relationship is a healthy relationship and for him, it would be with someone of the same sex, and he hoped it could be a marital relationship.
Gradually, my husband and I did come out of the closet. My husband told family and friends. Our daughter, who is three years younger than Jim, became a wonderful ally. She brought PFLAG to her college campus, during Unity Week, for a presentation titled: LGBT 101.
I joined PFLAG, where I first sought support and then became a support for others. PFLAG has also encouraged me to take an advocacy role. My son’s happiness is so incredibly important to me. That he can express his love for another man in a safe and supportive
community environment has become one of my goals.
In the last ten years, we have all come a long way. Jim is in a committed relationship with his partner, a United Church of
Christ pastor. Jim has earned an associate degree, a bachelor and master degrees in social work, and will begin divinity school
this summer. Jim’s goal is to be an Episcopal priest. I have continued to be active in PFLAG Cleveland serving as secretary for the advisory board, attending monthly support group meetings, and staffing community education and advocacy events.
I facilitate Safe Zone Training workshops, with the LAMBDA Gay Straight Alliance students, at the community college. Most recently I have joined the Listening Parents Network of Fortunate Families. It has not been easy remaining Catholic. Recent misstatements, by the
hierarchy of the church, have strengthened my resolve to not only remain Catholic, but to work to educate other Catholics about the truth about sexual orientation, to repeatedly tell our family’s story, and to advocate for the rights of the LBGTQ community.
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