They are who they are, and help them to feel good about that
My kids are now 33 and 31 years of age. Looking back, I can see that they were who they are from the moment they were born. From even before they could walk or talk, they displayed certain qualities and characteristics that said to us, “hey, this is me”. It seemed plain that we could either work with who they are and help them to feel good about that, or we could just screw with their wiring and send things down a rabbit whole that was not going to be good for anyone.
At birth virtually every parent wants what’s best for their child and we, as parents, have some preconceived notions (and even some expectations) about what we hope that will look like, and about who our kid is. But they are born them, and sometimes (maybe all the time) they throw us a curveball or two by just being who they are and not who we expected them to be. For instance, I am a bit of a book nerd. I love reading, always have. I hoped that my kids would have the same passion for reading and literature that I do. However, I was thrown a curveball. One of my kids was born a bit dyslexic. I was shattered. I was devastated. I thought, “Oh my God, my kid is going to suffer from being dyslexic”. I freaked out. A funny thing happened though. My Dad, who was a developmental psychologist, told me everything will be fine, and my child will grow up with computers and spell check. My kid’s amazing third grade teacher told me, in a kind and gentle way, that I needed to get over myself. That this wasn’t about me, it was about my kid and helping them to feel wonderful about who they are. Finally, my kid told me they were fine. Shortly thereafter I got over myself, and I decided that I could share my love for stories and literature by reading to my kids. Not just bedtime books when they were little, but other books that I love. All I can say is that my kids are quite successful in the world, and by that I mean they are happy adults who are comfortable with who they are. Really, that’s all any parent can ask for.
So where am I going with this? Well, today is June 1st. It is the first day of Pride Month. Last weekend I had a conversation with a very dear friend whom I have known since kindergarten (we are turning 64 this year). He came out as gay when we were in college. It was a big deal for him. Things were rough with his father and brother. He had a difficult time in the 1970’s in high school. On the day he came out to me (we were college sophomores home for a holiday) we were driving in his car on our way out to lunch and beer. He started the conversation with “I need to tell you something”. I could tell he was quite nervous, and I thought I knew where he was going. After some hemming and hawing, he said, “I’m gay”. To which I replied, “are we going to Kelties” (a bar that no longer exists in White Plains, New York). He then asked me if I was okay with the news, and whether I needed to talk. I said, “we’ve known each other virtually all of our lives. I love you like a brother. I’m happy for you that you have found out who you are”. Internally, I was sorry that so many years had passed before he could live his truth.
When my friend and I were talking the other day, he said something interesting. He said, “when we were kids, he never felt like a boy or girl, he was just him”. I told him that I was sorry he felt like an outsider when we were younger, and that society (and some members of his family) was not ready at that time to accept him for who he was.
I’ve been thinking about that recent exchange with my friend. I thought about when my kids were young, and we would vacation in Wellfleet on Cape Cod. We frequently would go into Provincetown for dinner and to walk around in the evenings. One night it was getting late, and the drag queens were beginning to hand out fliers for shows in the various theaters or bars that night. We were driving down Commercial Street on our way back to our vacation rental. On a street corner there was a beautiful woman in a silver dress handing out fliers. As we drove by, the person said “show tonight” in a very deep voice that was obviously male. My son was surprised and asked, “why is he dressed like a woman”. In response, I said, “because that’s what he does, and it makes him happy”. That was it. No judgment. Just a simple explanation, and my son was fine and wanted to get ice cream. A teachable moment had come and gone, and the World had not come crashing down.
There are approximately 7.4 billion people on Earth. There is bound to be a variety. There are different skin tones, air color, eye color, genders, sexual orientations, etc. Every time a kid is born historically society has tried to put them into silos with comfortable labels and explanations. However, and as I said earlier, kids are born who they are, and we as parents get thrown a curveball or two. Not bad curveballs, not good curveballs, just things that may surprise us a bit (or even a lot).
At the end of the day, we want what’s best for our kids. My suggestion is simple. Just love the shit out of your kid whomever they are. Help them to feel good about whom they are. We can either help our kids or get in their way; those are really the two choices. I also suggest that certain localities in our society chill out and not pass laws that isolate certain kids, and make these kids feel like outsiders. It can be tough enough to grow up. Life doesn’t provide us with a dress rehearsal. We got one shot at helping kids get through their childhood. We can either let kids be, help them to find their truths, support them, help families to raise their kids without making anyone feel judged or marginalized, our we just screw kids up because of our own fears and narrow definitions.
Someday, hopefully, we will evolve and mature as a species. Someday we may accept people equally and equitably for who they are, not for who we think they should be. Until that day we will need celebrations like Pride Month, Black History Month, and all kinds of other months and days that help us to deal with our discomfort. Until the time when those months and celebrations are no longer needed because we will have gotten over ourselves and we will have grown up, I will stand with all LGBTQ+ and hope that someday they can live in every walk of our society as easily as I do. One World/One Love. Peace.