by Artemae Anderson
Jerry and I are parents of six children. One of our sons, Brian, is gay. One of our daughters, Mary Colleen, is lesbian. This is the story of their “coming out” to us and how we have journeyed through that experience.
In 2002, Brian was out of college and living in New York. We had just returned home from a visit with him when we received a letter in the mail. Here are some excerpts:
“I was hoping to use your time in New York to take the opportunity to talk to you about the relationship I’ve been in for about 6 months, but I am sorry to say I couldn’t overcome my fear of making our time together awkward. I am also disappointed to admit that I have no idea how you will react to me telling you that I have a boyfriend. Maybe it’s a surprise to you or maybe you’ve been anticipating this ‘conversation’ for quite some time… I should be able to be completely honest with you, so consider this letter my first step in that direction. Accepting that I’ll never be married to a woman has been a lifelong process for me, and something I was always hesitant to talk about with family. But I don’t want to hide anything from those I care about most….No matter how you’re feeling now, I’m very much relieved that I can be open about this now, that I’ve broken the ice. I’ve always felt that I have a wonderful relationship with the both of you, but ignoring this huge aspect of my life is becoming increasingly stifling in our interactions. I send this letter with much love and understanding of the broad range of emotions it will possibly spark in you, and with faith that you will find the same love and understanding for me in your digestion of its contents. Huge love and gratitude, your son Brian”
As Brian predicted, our emotions ranged all over the map. Predominant was our incredible love for this incredible young man, which could never lessen, no matter what. Next was fear and concern for him and anguish over what he must have suffered growing up, and pride in his courage and strength of character. And just as Brian had to accept over time that he would never marry a woman, we grieved our lost expectations of grandchildren. Through prayer and dialogue, we clung to our predominate feeling of great love for Brian, and lost no time in assuring him of that.
In 2004 Mary Colleen was living at home during her last year of undergrad at University of Detroit – Mercy to save money before heading off to the University of Michigan for Dental School. Sarah had just enrolled as a freshman, and we were happy to delay our empty nest one more year. Before leaving on a weekend camping trip with friends, Colleen left a letter for us to find while she was gone. Here are some excerpts:
“This is a rather difficult letter to write, and it won’t be easy to read either. I think this is as good a time as any, however, and better than some, so here it is. What I have to tell you is something I’ve known for a very long time, and I don’t know if you’ve ever guessed at it or not. What I’m trying to do is ease you into this: I am a lesbian. I know this is going to be really hard to accept and adjust to, but I also know that you will, eventually. Having gone through this with Brian is comforting in that respect, but I can’t imagine what it is to have two of your children come out as homosexual. I know Brian opened up to you by letter, and I thought that the space these few days provide would be helpful. I didn’t want to wait until I was someplace else just because it would be easier for me to handle. I don’t plan on living my whole life away from home, and so home seems to be the best place to be out first. I know you’re going to be very concerned about what I’ve been through without talking to anyone. You’re right to be concerned—it’s really difficult. But it’s not impossible, and so I’ve made it through without ever experiencing self-hate, or denial, or any other dramatics….It’s not without trepidation that I write you this letter—this changes everything, and I’ll have to face you in only two days’ time. But I think it’s best to do this now…Living here this year has been a real gift, and I love you both very much. Colleen”
Again, we experienced the grief of lost expectations, sadness and concern for all she had endured on her own, but grateful for her inner strength and courage. Again, we responded with copious love; it flowed from our hearts without thinking about it. We know God created our children as they are, each a unique mirror reflection of the Divine image. And as our youngest daughter, Sarah, so wisely said, “I don’t love her any less; I just know her better now.”
Email This Post Print This Post