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 To purge the unused, outdated, sentimental antique clothing that consumes so much of the space in the closet I share with my husband.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.


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

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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!


I've made it easier to comment - no nasty word verification. So let me know you dropped by.