I try to stay away from commenting on stories that have already gotten lots of attention in the press. It’s my goal to come up with new things to say that are coming from my place of wisdom, from my experiences. Daily, I work to avoid judging others. This post that has been bouncing around in my head for a few days has taken me on an introspective roller coaster ride. Sometimes I imagine that the people around me can tell when I am wrestling with being consumed by the desire to write. To me, it’s obvious in my ability to concentrate, or not. The main thought/opinion that I want to convey in this post is an idea I’ve already posted on Face Book and shared with friends.
When I say my children can be anything they want to be when they grow up, I mean that. For those of you are parents, let’s sit here and think for a minute what that should really mean. It’s an age old wish for parents that their child follow their dreams to the career/vocation of their choice. Those careers have changed over the years. Looking back, for women that meant teaching or nurses. For men, they were encouraged to be everything else, except those things. My parents were great about never telling me there were any limits on what I could become someday. In my formative years, that phrase about being anything we wanted to be, seemed to be strictly about occupation. Well, folks, those days are over.
My older son, for years and years, had talked about wanting to fly planes for the Navy. His path in life seemed pointed in that direction. Early on in his initial hospitalization, we realized that his previous career choice was unlikely. It was disappointing and he may still fly plans commercially. During this time of opening up and sharing himself with us, Preston disclosed that he was bisexual. To be honest, I think I know when and where but I have no idea what he said. It wasn’t a momentous occasion or some fancy speech worth memorizing. Now, over a little year later, I do remember thinking “So what?”. The only reason it had much significance at the time was that I felt it was a factor in his suicidal ideation and self harm. We laughed in the car this morning, when I told him that I wanted to write this post, that it was so not a thing! He hasn’t shared with me what he expected that I might say or if he thought I would reject him. I didn’t and that’s what mattered. It was easy for me to tell him I loved him no matter what, because it is true. I would die before making my children believe that they can’t be anything they want to be. (I’m not saying sexual orientation is a choice.) This is true for sexuality, gender, religious beliefs or practices or political preferences. I believe in God and Jesus and their love. This love, shining through me, means I can love anyone and everyone.
Here is the part where I deviate from my typical format and comment on current events. I do not know Leelah Alcorn’s parents but I have heard that they were unable or unwilling to accept their child who was born male, for who she was. I’ve also heard that they believe in God. I have a very hard time relating to them or understanding why they made their child’s life about them and were so selfish as to deny their child a life lived on her own terms. We are made in His imgaae so I rest assured that God loves and accepts all genders (forget the damn binary), sexual orientations, skin colors, cultures and creeds. It is time that we set tradition and old-school patterns aside. We owe this generation unconditional love.
Despite the fact that I was not upset or disappointed about Preston being bisexual, I didn’t have a guidebook for what to say or do, so I winged it. I made sure that he knew that I loved him, and his people, with no judgement. We joked about guys (Lenny Kravitz) that we both find attractive. I spent time with him. Rather than make him come out to the extended family, I spread the news with the example that “This is not a thing. Don’t make it a thing. We love Preston and we expect you to do the same. Whatever your personal feelings on bisexuality, keep it to yourself or you don’t get access to Preston.” We found the local PFLAG group which just so happens to meet in our church building. 🙂 Since I had no exposure what so ever to the bisexual community, I read online as much as I could. We learned about the myths and the actual statistics that refute them. Our church had a booth at last summer’s Bend Pride Event and Preston and I were there all day to meet and greet people. PEOPLE. Not gays, lesbians, queers, bisexuals but PEOPLE!!! It was a great afternoon and I could tell that Preston was happy to be surrounded by a large number of people that accept him. He proudly purchased an HRC shirt that says “Love Conquers Hate”, a pin with the bisexual flag pin and a few rainbow bracelets. I show up for him and will stand by him anywhere he wants to go. It was very moving to be included and bond that day. As the newness wore off and we settled in to our new, improved, mentally healthier life, Preston began to really be himself and wear his own skin proudly. He went with a group of friends to homecoming but his “date” was a nice young man he goes to school with. (Bless his heart, his parents don’t know he is gay and he has been recently rejected by the only family member that does know.) He has participated in the GSA at his school but his attendance is less consistent now that he hangs out with his girlfriend. I look back on the time we’ve spent together where Preston could be his authentic self and I shudder to think that a close-minded parent could have missed out on all those treasured memories. I don’t know how much of his concern about coming out to us had to do with his suicidal ideation but I know part of it did. How would he have ever improved emotionally if I would have put him down that day or walked away from him while he sat in a hospital room? This happens to children every day. The people they rely on for love and safety, say hateful words that burn a scar onto their child’s soul. The rejection and pain they cause may not be overcome and lead to the tragedy, such as with Leelah Alcorn, that they cannot see continuing to life and end their own life, long before they had the chance to live it.
My plea is that all parents everywhere would love their children unconditionally. Listen with open minds and speak with kind words of acceptance. If you hate homosexuality and think it’s an abomination, tough shit! Suck it up and hide that hatred from your child. We cannot control anyone’s actions in this world but our own. We can choose to show love and acceptance and provide a safe haven in the darkness.
My prayers are for all the families out there who are struggling, be it the children and/or the parents. May God show people what is truly important and unburden hearts.
If you are alone and need someone to love and accept you for who you are, I will. Love and hugs, Rebecca