Two letters are making their way around the Internet this week. Both tell a story about how a parent might react to their son or daughter coming out of the closet.
The first, a real letter posted on Reddit, is from a father to his son, essentially disowning him for being gay. “I will not come to visit, nor do I want you in my house,” he writes.
The second, posted on the daddy blog “Ask Your Dad,” is a letter written to “a hypothetically gay” son. The author, Utah resident John Kinnear, writes how he would respond if his child was gay, saying, “I am still, as always, your biggest defender. Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you’re any less capable of taking care of and defending yourself. That said, if you need me to stand next to you or in front of you, write letters, sign petitions, advocate, or anything else, I am here. I would go to war for you.”
These two very different responses have made me think a lot this week about how I would respond to a child being gay. And here’s what I’ve come up:
First, it’s not an easy answer. Sure it’s politically correct to act like having a homosexual child should be no big deal, but it’s not that easy. Religious beliefs, personal beliefs and societal pressures all come into play if a child announces his or her homosexuality. There are no easy answers or responses – and certainly no easy paths to walk for either a parent or child.
Because of all of those complexities, it’s hard to say exactly how I would react. And it’s impossible for me to judge how another parent reacts.
But I do know this: no matter what your beliefs — religious or political — the conversation has to be grounded in love. If love is the start and finish, then everything else will fill in naturally.
I simply don’t understand how a parent could write a letter like the one posted on Reddit. How can a father say goodbye to his son because of his sexual orientation? How can a father turn his back when his child needs him? He doesn’t have to walk in the next gay rights parade or even agree with his son’s lifestyle, but he does have to love him.
The problem is this letter is about shame. The shame of a parent who hears only how his child’s actions will reflect on him. It’s about the father’s discomfort, not about the son’s need for a loving parent.
So while I don’t know exactly how I would react if my child announced at dinner that he or she was gay, I do know my love would not change. I hope I would be as loving as John Kinnear, who writes, “You need to know with every fiber of who you are that when you walk in the front door of your home, you are safe, and you are loved.”
I would feel that same love whether my son says he’s gay or sleeping with every girl on the cheerleading squad or can’t get a date to save his life. Either way . . . he would be my son. Nothing could change that.
This type of conversation has to begin and end with love. How can we expect to have a national conversation on homosexuality without it? The truth is, we can’t. We can’t hope for a dialogue based on understanding and respect in the vast political arena if we can’t even have one in our own family rooms.
How would you react if your child announced he or she was gay?