Coming Out Stories
So, my “outing story” is about being an ally, and it doesn’t get any more “ally” than being a dad. As any parent does, I fell madly in love the minute I laid eyes on Erin. I am the oldest of six children (me and five sisters) and Erin was my first born, and the first of 14 grandchildren for my mom and dad. To say she was loved, doted on, and fussed over by her aunts would be an understatement. She grew up being a very, very (did I mention very?) social kid. There were lots of friends, and from early on it was clear she had a big kind heart, a wonderful ability to connect with people, and to empathize with them.
Erin was, and is very close with her two brothers, Dave and Dan, who are one and two years younger than her respectively. Her mom left our home and moved out of state when she was 7 years old. That hole in her heart added to the normal confusion surrounding adolescence and her developing sexual identity. Maybe, she thought, “I more strongly value my female friendships because I am stuck in a house full of boys (as she used to say) and my mom is not around?”
Here is where I think I dropped the ball as a parent in Erin’s journey! I had no awareness around more inclusive language that might have helped her sort through her confusion around her sexuality in early adolescence. I was raised in the homophobic '50s and '60s and it never occurred to me that I could speak in ways that were much more open and inclusive than for instance, “which boy do you like in your class”? Why not, “which person”? Duh! Like having a child that was homosexual was not even a possibility. Unknowingly I think I made it harder for her to come to terms with who she was, possibly leaving her feeling “dad wouldn’t get it.” Although I raised the kids to not be prejudiced and to treat all people with kindness, I was much more aware of and vocal around issues of racial injustice than I was of LGBT issues. When she did finally come out, it was when she was in her mid-20s and living in New York City. Her approach was to be forward and let people figure it out as she lived her truth.
My first thought was surprise (I am clearly not the brightest bulb in the pack!). Then I felt a little sad that Erin may not have children (sometimes I am amazed by own ignorance, like gay couples don’t have children). Then I felt a little scared, knowing that some people might be openly hostile to her for being who she is. Then I thought, nothing has really changed. She is simply Erin, my daughter, a warm-hearted and kind soul, a great sister, niece, granddaughter, cousin, friend, and person. Her entire family has responded the same way. For Erin’s part, she claims she never had a doubt that we would all love her just as we always had. Turns out she was right!