Friday, June 26, 2015

I AM AN ALLY...wanna know why?

*I have vacillated about writing this post for weeks now, for a variety of reasons. Fear, mostly. Privacy. The possibility that sharing something personal could be seen as exploitation of some sort. But in light of today's supreme court decision, the time seems right to me. This decision has been discussed and approved by all important parties involved. 

People have always thought that my feelings about LGBT rights had to do with my dad and the fact that he was gay. But the truth is that I felt the same way long before he came out to me when I was 21 years old. I was raised to be accepting of everyone. I had gay friends and co-workers in high school. It's never mattered to me. Of course, when I discovered that my father was gay, the parent I was closest to in my youth, it became deeply personal. I honestly thought that outside of being gay myself (I'm not), nothing could be more personal than having been raised by a gay parent.

I was mistaken.

Guess What, Mom?

I wonder what the stats are, or if any longitudinal studies have been done about families...what are the odds of having a gay parent and a gay child? But here we are. My beautiful daughter has always marched to the beat of her own drummer, and I have always loved that about her.  She has always been an old soul and wiser than her years. She was 4 going on 7, 8 going on 12, and now 14 going on about 23. She knows who she is. We stopped being able to dress her in girlie Halloween costumes when she was 3. Starting at 4, she chose to be a pirate, a skeleton, a Ninja. To be clear, she does NOT want to be a boy, and that is well covered territory. She has friends who identify in different ways and I don't pretend to understand all of it, but I try. But she is solid in that she loves being female, except for the week or two every month when we all hate it. She first mentioned to me that she thought she might be attracted to girls near the end of 6th grade. It didn't rattle me at all, I think kids go through a lot of phases in puberty. But as time went on and she talked more and more about it, I began to realize it wasn't a phase. She knew our feelings about the issue as a whole, but was still a little skittish when it came to telling us. Her dad's response was priceless...he said, "There is nothing you could do to make me love you less, you're my daughter. And now I don't have to worry about you getting pregnant."  

She IS young, but she is rock solid in who she is. Is it possible that she will grow up and fall in love with a young man? Sure, that could happen. However, I am not willing to brush off her acknowledgment of herself and just say she's too young to know. The gay people in my life that I love and respect all say that they knew when they were young. Most of them fought against it for years and years and tried to deny that part of themselves before they fully came out, but they still say they knew. She's young. She knows.

Now, I have to be honest. I always thought that if one or both of our children ended up being gay, it would be a piece of cake, no sweat. Again...WRONG. It's been waaaaay harder than I would have imagined it to be. On any given day, I have a gazillion conflicting thoughts flying around in my head about this issue. Here are some of them:

Killing People is Illegal

Any parent on earth who is honest with themselves is familiar with the murderous rage that bubbles up inside when someone hurts their baby. I love kids, I have always worked with kids, but I have honestly been able to visualize knocking a few of them out lately. This feeling always shocks me a bit, that irrational split second when I feel like I could totally run someone over with my car and be fine with it. So for those of you who are reading this who have seen the hurt on your child's face when they were left out, not invited to the party, not chosen for the team, imagine this scenario:  A peer tells your child that she will burn in the pits of hell. That their existence is against God's plan. That they're disgusting. Imagine having your child in middle school and having to tolerate girls saying nasty things to her in the locker room, constantly accusing her of "checking them out." Imagine what it feels like to have your daughter crying in your arms, saying she just wants to be "normal".  I could cut someone. But I won't.

And then there are the boys....It's very interesting to me to observe how boys have responded to this fact about her. I honestly never gave it a lot of thought, but over the past year I have observed two trends: Some boys seem to believe that with their overwhelming, undeniable 14 year old masculinity, that they can "turn" her straight.  The second trend seems to happen after the first one has been attempted, all for naught...faced with the idea that she truly won't be interested in them in that way, they then ask if they can "watch" her with another girl. LORD.  I shake my head, man. It is somewhat refreshing to realize that boys this age have not changed at ALL. Boys this age are sex-driven beasts, and it's not their fault. It's predictable...and not a bad litmus test, actually. She does have a few male friends who have not given in to either trend, so maybe there's hope. Or they just know not to say it out loud! I don't want to kill these boys, actually...I just keep shaking my head.

Would You Like To See a Menu?

There are too many options now. There, I said it. When I was younger, you were straight or gay, sometimes a bisexual person would get in there. Now there are like 62 possibilities. I find this absurd, and it puts our kids in such a tough spot. There is so much damn pressure for kids to absolutely identify "what" they are at such a young age. I have equated it to having to declare a major in college. Nowadays, when you enter middle school, it's like you are issued a card that identifies who and what you are. I hate this, it pisses me off. It may not be the case in my child's life, but as a whole I believe that this causes mass confusion for a lot of kids. I've seen it firsthand, these poor young ones change "what" they are weekly. Whyyyyyyyyy????  In middle school, most kids don't even know WHO they are, let alone "what". CHILL OUT. It's not that serious, and at the end of the day, it's no one's business one way or the other. 

You Are a NOUN, Not An Adjective

This is one that makes me crazy. It is so much more important for my daughter to be solid in WHO she is, not what. I have told her to answer the inane question "what are you?" with a hearty "I'm Maddie." or "None of your business."  On some days, she totally agrees with me, and on some days she feels that this advice is tantamount to me telling her to hide who she is. Aye, carumba. This part is soooooo hard. She is such a tremendous individual, I want people to spend time getting to know her without having to know who she might want to eventually date. Sexuality is a part of who people are, but it's just one part, a small part. She is Maddie, not That Lesbian, The Gay Girl, or (my favorite), IT. Uggggg....this is when I have to remember that killing people is illegal. 

The only person I am concerned about my daughter loving right now is herself. Learning how to do that, for all of us, can be a lifelong endeavor. Who she falls in love with in the future is really of no consequence at the moment. The only people I want her to think about when it comes to who loves HER is God and her family. All of the rest of it can come later, there is so much time for all that madness. I've told her more than one time, "You are not allowed to date now. Nope, no way. You have the rest of your life to feel confused and rejected, focus on yourself and who you want to become."  

Christians Aren't Hateful

I have friends who will disagree with me on this notion, but I will fight till the death over this one. People who truly get it, real Christians, will NOT condemn people to hell for being gay. Sadly, the ones who get the most press are the whack jobs. It makes my heart hurt. That lovely young lady who told my daughter she'd burn there? Oh yeah, of course she's Christian, of course she's active in her youth group here in town, and it makes my blood boil. She has a public Instagram that is Christian and mostly positive, but she has used it to spew a lot of hateful crap towards gay folk. I thought about contacting the youth pastor at that church about it until I heard from a kid who had attended that youth group and heard the pastor say dreadful things about gay people. SIGH.  It saddens me so much that someone in a position of power who has access to impressionable teens would teach such a thing. Interestingly, once when this young lady confronted my daughter, Maddie said, "But Jesus hung out with all kinds of people, prostitutes, can you say he would hate me?" I was beyond proud about that one, even though she had no intention of evangelizing, she did an excellent job of it! 

So to all of the Christians who focus on this one issue, and project all of their angst and anger onto it, PLEASE find something more productive to do with your time. Feed the hungry, house the homeless, love the unloved, give to the poor...there is a lot to do and limited time to accomplish it. Save your energy for the things that are truly important. 

Not Everyone Will Like This

I'd love to be able to say that I don't give a rip what anyone thinks, but I would be lying. Of course I care. I'm scared of being open about this, and I'm worried about how people will treat my family because of it. Not everyone in our family has been explicitly told, but they've probably already figured it out. I asked Maddie about this, about me stating it like this and posting it, and she said that it would actually be somewhat of a relief, not having to say it herself. This may be a bumpy realization for some, but I truly pray that they will take the time to think about it and continue to show our child unconditional love anyway. That is what families do. 

I go to church with some exceptional people, many of whom I know do not share my outlook on this issue. I don't only respect or tolerate these people, I love them. That is one thing that I have learned as an adult that is really important to me...I can love and be friends with people with whom I disagree on fundamental issues, but it requires mutual respect. Will everyone at my church welcome this news with open hearts? Probably not, and that has to be okay. Everyone is absolutely entitled to their opinion on this. Will some of the parents of the youth group I work with be upset? Jeez, I hope not, I have no idea. Some of the youth themselves may be upset, but I love them too. We can all be people of God and disagree...except for when it comes to how we treat one another. That is non-negotiable, Love Thy Neighbor is not up for interpretation. 

My Child Will Never Have to Hide

Our daughter does not have an affliction, there is nothing wrong with her. This is not a hardship she will have to toil and work to overcome. She doesn't have to wish to be normal, she IS normal. While I truly pray that she focuses more on herself as an individual and not just on who she may be attracted to, she will not have to hide who she is. She will never have to worry about her parents being ashamed of her. She is so many things! She is my incredibly smart, insightful, mature, wise, artistic, talented, loyal, hilarious, creative, beautiful, original, musical, joyful daughter. She is also stubborn, argumentative, difficult, forgetful, irresponsible, and maddening. I love her ferociously, and nothing will ever change that. Who she chooses to spend her life with is her business, and all I pray for is that it is someone who will love and respect her for exactly who she is.  Knowing that if she chooses to get married later in life, that it will now be legally recognized and respected anywhere in this country fills me with joy and pride. 

And I know my dad is smiling.