I was clicked in to read a blog written by a mother who made the claim that in her house, her children would never have to come out of the closet because she and her husband were never going to stuff them in one. In her house love would be love and that’s the end of it.
She wrote this in response to those videos that show kids coming out to parents who, alternately, either love them ‘anyway’ or throw them out of the house.
They can be dramatic, these videos, and show what kids still go through.
While I am glad that the woman who wrote the article is trying to set up her relationship with her children such that they never have to come out, I think she’s making a mistake. No, not in teaching her children that love is love and ensuring they understand that both parents will love their children unconditionally, of course that’s never a mistake. The mistake is thinking that ‘coming out’ and the ‘need to tell’ is something that can be avoided by the work and intervention of parents. Like ‘coming out’ is something under parental control, not something that is owned by and necessary for the child. This concerns me.
I read so much about how parents who love their kids simply love their kids and because of that they’ve loved the difference away.
That their child’s sexuality or their child’s disability or their child’s mental health status are things that can be made to not matter, not exist in a way that is experienced, by their child. I applaud parents, I say again, who wish to communicate acceptance and love for their children, no matter what.
But the irony in saying “My child who is (or who has) will feel my love and know that they are loved,” is a statement that only has meaning and is only being said because of the difference. It makes little to no sense to say it about a typical kid. There is a universal expectation that parents will love their kids, the universality only becomes in question when a difference exists.
Beyond that, there is nothing a parent can do to make the ‘coming out’ process, the ‘identification’ process less difficult for their child. It is what it is and what it is is often painful. Coming out is not an experience that is limited to LGBTQ+ kids, it may have been named by that community, but it isn’t owned by it. Disabled kids have to come out to themselves as having a disability, they have to go through the process towards self acceptance and identification alone. This process, the identification with difference, the acceptance of one’s own difference and the resultant pride in being different, always happens in the context of a social world with messages about what is good, and what is beauty, and what is normal. Parents can soften the blow, but the blow will come.
My concern, though, when reading of parents who love their kids anyway, and who wish to love the difference away … sometimes don’t seem to notice that difference can’t be loved away and ‘loving anyway’ is still a modification of ‘love freely given.’
Parents stories and parental experiences are vitally important. We need to hear them, we need to understand their journeys but we need to understand that these journeys are different from the journeys that their children have to make. There are roads we all walk on alone, there are experiences that will always be uniquely ours. The voices and stories of the children, loved anyway, resistantly different, still need to be told.
The idea that our child will never have to come out to you makes no sense at all. Your child, of whatever age, still has to tell. A child’s voice still has to say the words. No matter how hard you work to communicate acceptance, you will still have to actually accept.
It’s a moment.
Parents of kids who are LGBTQ+ are learning about accepting and honouring and being proud of their child are important steps in their personal relationship with their children.
Parents of kids with other differences, like disability, are still having problems with the idea that ‘my kid is like every other kid’ trumping ‘my kids experiences the world differently because of his disability and I need to understand that difference and allow my child the time and space to understand and identify their difference and work towards pride in who they actually are.’ But we’re moving there, we’re getting the message out. We’re coming out as a people. We’re discovering our own voices.
And our voice and our experience is important too.
It’s different from the voice of parents, it tells different stories, equally important stories, and has it has a right to exist and to expect to be heard.
Our experiences belong only to us.
We experience you.
You experience us.
And there may be great differences that come from that encounter. Experiences that can teach us about each other and teach us how to better love each other.
There’s nothing to fear but the need for growth.
Posted by Dave Hingsburger at 6:25 am