Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cleaning Closets

Today was rather gray, humid, and somewhat unpleasant - weather-wise. The kind of day that gives you a guilt-free reason to putter the day away inside ... With it being the start of fall and all - I fully intended to tackle my closet. To bring order to chaos. To purge the unused, outdated, sentimental antique clothing that consumes so much of the space in the closet I share with my husband. I dabbled a little, getting caught up in the memories that each piece of clothing holds. It got me thinking about people and closets ...

There was a time when I started noticing subtle changes in my eldest daughter - withdrawal from her friends and our family; significant weight gain; becoming increasingly non-communicative an agitated. Something was amiss. My cheerful, chatty, social daughter was retreating into her own safe cocoon. High school brought added anxiety for her. I began to think that she had been traumatized in some way. Sexual abuse? It seemed unlikely however I decided to raise the issue with her. She seemed believable when she said that nothing like that had ever happened to her. I asked her if she thought that maybe she was gay.

I have friends - one very special one in particular - who are gay and I have witnessed the pain they have experienced from not feeling that they were free to be themselves. As I raised my children I tried to consciously create an open environment in which they could speak freely. We spoke of my friend and how people are different and the challenges those differences can bring. I openly told my girls that I hoped they would never have to "come out" of a closet. I never wanted them to feel that they had to go into one in the first place.

When I first asked my daughter about being gay, she appeared surprised and alarmed. She asked me why I would even ask her that. She said she didn't know ... It provided me the opportunity to tell her that if - down the road - she discovered she was gay, that our love for her would be unwavering. I told her that as a parent my deepest desire for her, was that she be able to be herself, and to live a happy healthy life - in love.

I took a pre-emptive step with my family and told them that I wasn't certain, but that there was a chance that my baby may be gay. I asked them to be respectful and to try to not be presumptuous around her ... " do you have a boyfriend yet?" "when you get married" etc. My family were great and responded with love and support. I think we grew as a family that day.

Years later when my daughter turned to me and simply said "It's official. I'm out. I'm gay", a humongous lump formed in my throat, we high-fived and I was at peace. My daughter didn't come out of a closet, but rather, she came out to herself - when she was ready.

Closets can be a dark and dusty place - filled with baggage and chaos. Definitely no place for people. Absolutely no place for my baby - or anyone else's.

5 comments:

  1. Wow. It is amazing that you support your daughter...and accept her. It's sad how many parents do not. Kudos.

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  2. No kudos needed. She is my beautiful daughter - perfect exactly the way and who she is. Love has to be greater than the fear of what they will face. She has taught us much.

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  3. Thank you for sharing this story. I'm bookmarking this page. :-)

    It's too bad my wife's parents would never read it though to the end. They might learn something.

    I honestly think they have deep shame for the way they have treated her, but they just can't admit it, because it's too hurtful.

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  4. Maybe you are right Beth ... I can imagine how one can become trapped in their pain. My friend (who happens to be gay) once told me that there isn't a handbook on how to be gay. I suppose that goes for parents as well. I think fear is at the root of resistance - fear of the unknown, of anything/one different and fear of the pain their child will face. If only they could get in touch with the love they have for their baby.

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  5. How can one person be so amazing?
    This was a great entry - thanks for sending me the link!!!!
    You truly are an exemplary mother! And I'm glad your daughter is okay with herself.
    You know, I don't think I've ever read one of your entries and NOT loved it!

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