Story #20: “This will be interesting!”
When my son was a toddler, he enjoyed playing with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Legos and Transformers, but I noticed that he preferred playing with his sister’s toys as much as, if not more than, his other toys. Watching him play with other children, he never liked rough-housing like other boys and I remember wondering one day, ‘”Maybe he’s going to be gay?” Thinking about him growing up, my next thought was, “Hmm, this will be interesting.” For the rest of his grade school years, we supported and defended his choices in toys, colour preferences, and activities. There was no way I was going to let anyone else dictate what my son could or couldn’t do; he had a RIGHT to his choices, as long as they didn’t hurt anyone. When he was younger, he was occasionally bullied, but I’m not sure if it was because he was smaller than the older boys or that he avoided conflict, so bullies may have though he’d be an target. Whatever the reason, I’d intervene when I heard about any incidents, making sure that school bus drivers or day care workers knew that such incidents had better not happen again.
I remember one incident in middle school when a girl in my son’s class was attracted to him. When he didn’t respond to her ‘subtle’ attempts to interest him, she started teasing him and called him gay. He was very upset by the taunting and insisted that he wasn’t gay. By the time my son hit puberty, he became more introverted and spent a lot of time on the computer. I still thought that he was probably gay, and thinking that that decision was weighing on his mind, I tried to talk to him about it. He denied it again and I thought “Maybe I’m wrong,” so clumsily explained that whether or not he was, it was OK with us. As he went through high school, I became more certain that he was gay and couldn’t understand why he didn’t acknowledge it, but I unfortunately didn’t realize how hard it is for young teens to come to terms with their own sexuality. One day, in grade 10, he came home and announced that someone had told about a gay camp that he could attend. Thinking this would finally be the day he came out, I said “I thought you said you weren’t gay.” He replied, “Oh, yeah,” and ran upstairs, shutting his door firmly behind him. I said to myself, “This is getting ridiculous, he’s obviously gay, why won’t he tell us?” So I went upstairs and knocked on his door, thinking we’d finally be able to talk. He pulled open the door, and before I could say a word, he blurted out “Yes I am and I’m going to move to Toronto and go in the Gay Pride parade and …..” I just looked at him and burst into tears, NOT because he was gay, but because I felt I could no longer protect him. If he was rejecting us, I could no longer climb on that school bus and yell at the bullies, I could no longer stand up for him, I couldn’t do anything anymore! Well, as you can guess, we got past that moment pretty soon; more tears and hugs followed, and he realized that he wasn’t going to be rejected. He finally understood that both of his parents supported and loved him very much; he will always be loved by us. Looking back on those years, I can’t help but wonder if I could have done something more to make his coming out easier. At the time, I never understood how difficult it was for each child to discover for themselves who they’re attracted to. With so much social information about ‘typical’ families being composed of a man and a woman, it shouldn’t be surprising that kids think they won’t be accepted if they’re attracted to someone of the same sex. As parents, it’s our responsibility to make sure our children know they’ll always be loved and accepted.
Our son did move away from home during his university years, with our full support, but he always comes home. It has been very interesting – watching him grow and mature, develop his own interests, and begin his career. Now, my gentle loving son has grown into an intelligent, confident young man, still gentle and very loving, and we couldn’t be more proud of him.