A few weeks ago, my friend Sarah informed me that her sonA came out. She was excited that her son felt comfortable to tell her at only 11 years old and that her other son also came out at pansexual at just nine years old. She was so proud of her sons and wanted to tell me. Me. Specifically.
I must confess that at the time, I was numb. It was my last week at my old place of employment. I was tired from working 45-50 hour weeks. I was working one day per week at a new job and trying to find my bearings. I was moving all the things from one office to another. My emotions were on some sort of far away vacation, that I would have given anything to go on.
I remember looking at her. Feeling blank. I had a client coming in and I wasn’t sure how to respond. I am sure I gave some halfhearted acknowledgment. It felt kind of crappy.
You see, here’s the thing, Sarah is an awesome mom. Like, truly awesome. She has date nights with each of her sons. Her husband does the same. This ensures that each child is getting one-on-one time with each parent; building a unique bond with each parent. They also share notebooks (each child has their own) where parents and children write messages to each other to show how much they care.
Sarah and her husband have suspected the oldest son of being gay for some time now. In response, instead of trying to convince him he isn’t gay, they have surrounded him with gay role models, made sure that they used inclusive language, and advocated for him anytime they felt like he may be being bullied or felt “less than”.
Sarah has done all of the things I wish that I would have had growing up. What I imagine my future adopted child will need. The amount of love and support certainly doesn’t stop there. Sarah voiced to me feeling upset. She was upset because her oldest son told her that he had known he was gay for the past three years. She felt that she had not done enough to make him feel comfortable and supported enough to have come out earlier.
The fact that she felt like there was more that could be done and was searching to do even more was astonishing to me. More? What would that even be? I later told her that I didn’t even know what “gay” was until the eighth grade and really didn’t have any inkling of feelings until the year prior. That this whole thing was a process in self-discovery and that quite frankly, I would have killed for that level of support and understanding. I did that whole thing by myself. In isolation. While also juggling issues with my religion, (Oh, and Sarah and her family go to a progressive non-denominational church that Sarah made sure was affirming of LGBTQ+ people- seriously, I think she should be going up for sainthood here), puberty, new social hierarchies…
That Friday, on my way home from my new job, I felt I could finally breath. I had completed my last week at the old job and felt the tension loosening. I was no longer white-knuckling my life. I took a deep breath and as I drove home, windows down, Madonna blaring. I really considered everything that Sarah had happened. I thought about how important it was for her to let me know. I felt truly honored.
I also thought about what my coming out process was like. It was nothing like it is today. As I know from my great uncle’s experience, that my experience was far easier than his back in his day (he had strongly warned me to never come out). I thought about how difficult everything was. How depressed and anxious I had become. I remember wanting so much for an older sibling to help me through this process (and as the oldest in my family, that certainly wasn’t happening). I was the only one out at my school, at the unheard of age of fifteen. I had no role-models and most of the gay males I could find, I did so over the internet (and yes, it was every bit of horrible one could think of when a naïve fifteen year old starts speaking to adult men he doesn’t know on the internet about his sexuality).
I pulled over into the grocery store parking lot. I decided that I would buy these boys a care-package with all the gayest things I could find. They were going to have even more of what I hadn’t. They were going to be welcomed to the community and I was going to make damn sure that they had an adult role model should they honor me with such a title.
I found every rainbow thing they had and threw it in the cart. Candy too. I couldn’t find any Skittles (because “taste the rainbow”), but I figured their plumper and juicier cousins, the Starbursts, were gay enough. Easter was around the corner, so I through in all sort of egg dying kits that incorporate glitter and rainbows (I even found one that said it was for “unicorn eggs”). Colored pencils, coloring books, and did you know? They have discounted DVDs of musicals behind the self-checkout line. Damn skippy, that had to be thrown in there too (Sarah is also a big fan of musical theater, so I figured she would get some enjoyment out of that too- Oh! And did you know that there is a sequel to the musical Annie? Me neither!). I bought rainbow birthday bags and rainbow tissue paper, scissors and tape.
For the next twenty minutes I sat in my car trying to wrap gifts in the front seat. (I don’t recommend this.) I also found a journal in my car that I hadn’t started using. I wrote a note in the journal and wrapped that as well (maybe they would use this to write letters to each other like they do with their parents? Or maybe they won’t, but whatever, the journal had metallic flowers embossed on it, so it was gay enough to be included).
The next morning, I drove over to Sarah’s house and dropped the gift bags on their back porch and drove away. I love being the mysterious gift giver. I feel like it allows people to have an honest reaction without the additional pressure to appear to like something just because the gift giver is present. Meh. I don’t want to layer that on.
I spent the day wondering how everything had gone over. Sarah made sure I knew. She sent me over this amazing video:
I was so pleased. Their responses were so genuine! I hope one day I can make my kids have that reaction to something. I also hope that a good bit of Sarah’s parenting approaches have rubbed off on me as well!
Sarah suggested I provide this as a service. I suggested we call it “You’ve Been Gunked” (gay uncle = Guncle; play on show “punked”)