Loving A Gay Son/Daughter: A Journey In Understanding
Editor Aj’s note:
When a female friend of mine came into my office and brought to my knowledge the challenges she and her family is facing when they suddenly discover that their second son is gay, I gave her an old copy of the Mothers’ Union magazine where another woman have had to share her experience with the world on how best to handle this particular concern.
Knowing that we live in a nation where there is a lengthy prison term for the practice of homosexuality, I know you wouldn’t want your son or daughter to end up in a Nigerian prison. So I bring to you, this other woman’s experience and how she was able to handle the shock of her sudden discovery.
I know there are some families out there who are facing this same challenge just as a result of our world turning into a global village with the advent of internet and global system of mobile telecommunication (gsm). This has been the favorite line of most people but believe you me, this concern has been there for millions of years.
Read and learn.
It was a shock to discover her son was gay, but Thelma Gabriel learned he was still the same dearly loved person.
“Mum, can I speak to you a minute? I want to tell you something. Mum, I’m gay.” John was nineteen.
It was an absolute bombshell, a bolt out of the blue. I had no idea. As I put my arms round my son, I remember offering up a pleading arrow prayer:”Dear God, please not this.” It was perhaps the greatest shock I had had in my forty-eight years. I could not seem to take it in. I was sure John was telling me the truth as he saw it, but I so wanted him to be mistaken. He whispered, “Mum, I thought you might reject me.”
I realized then just how frightened and vulnerable he was feeling, and how much courage it must have taken him to tell me. I tried to reassure him that I would support him and that I would cope, but it all felt so unreal. I suppose it was the shock, but my world seemed to have turned upside down. My husband, too, was shaken, but offered understanding and practical support in any way he could, and continued to do so until his death in 1991.
I know there were also tears from John’s twin brother, Richard, and his sister Alison. They both felt so sad that they had not known sooner so that they could have helped him through the isolation of his teenage years. That felt hard for me too. Where had I been for him when he was struggling alone?
This all happened nearly ten years ago now, yet I remember it so clearly. John was home after his first term at the university. I knew virtually nothing about homosexuality, and what I thought I knew I did not like. Surely did not occur in ordinary suburban families like ours. John was just a really nice, ordinary guy who had done well at school, had a girl friend, been confirmed, belonged to the youth group, and was now at college.
I kept thinking: “It can’t be true; I can’t manage this.” Yet I knew that some way I must find a way through. I loved him too much to let him down; I just wanted it to be a dream to go away. But what I gradually realized over the next few months and years – yes, it took a long time – was that homosexuality does not go away; it is an intrinsic, instinctive part of a person.
So many questions; so much sadness. I was grieving for the son I thought I had. Yet he had not changed; he had known about himself since his early teens. I needed to try and see it all with his eyes. I had to face my fears, my lack of knowledge and, yes, my prejudice. What was I afraid of? I was frightened for John. I could not see how he was going to be happy, how the world at large would react to him. I could not bear the thought that he might be lonely, ostracized, a loner in society. Might he contract AIDS? I was frightened, too, of my own reactions: how would I manage if he brought friends home? Theory was one thing, but practice was another. It all felt distasteful.
I was very stiff with the first couple of boyfriends, but they were careful not to express affection when I was about. Gradually, as I got to know a regular partner, I realized they were a young couple in love and caring for each other, just as Alison or Richard and their partners might be. I began to relax. But two fears still loomed large: the stigma associated with homosexuality, and the possibility that it was “my fault”. I needed to find out all I could. It seemed that, contrary to it being my “fault”, homosexuality was quite possibly a normal variant in the evolutionary process. It was not something perverse or chosen, but an intrinsic part of a person, and often recognized by him or her before puberty. I learned it was impossible to make someone gay or to “unmake” a gay person; and if that sexual orientation was so natural a part of that person, there could be no room for stigma.
These findings led me on to face my prejudices; those feelings induced by ignorance and fear. For many people, and I was one of them, there is a hidden tag on gay people: “perverted, unnatural, abnormal”. We lump people together to form a fearless mass, then we do not need to feel any personal involvement. John changed that. He was my son; he mattered. I had to think again. Much of the church still tends to see the issue in the traditional light of perversion and sin; but there must be an element of prejudgement if its understanding is based solely on a literal interpretation of Scripture without modern knowledge being taken into account? Surely, if up to one in ten people has been a homosexual throughout the ages, it cannot be a chance phenomenon. Is it not part of the overall pattern, part of the wonder of creation? Genital sexual activity may form part of a loving relationship (that took me quite a while to recognize) and it is this that the church (and the society) still struggles with; but surely we are all entitled to sexual privacy.
It took me time to work it all through. John understood and gave me that space. No one had suggested at any stage of my children’s development that one or other might be gay, and it had never occurred to me. So what was crucial element in my journey to understanding? It was what I saw happening in front of my eyes. During those early years after he told me, I watched John relax and blossom. He gained in confidence and maturity. He found friends with whom he could fully identify. He was living in harmony with himself. He was happy.
Adapted from Home & Family, December-February Edition of 1995/6.