My teenage son came to me and said, "Mom, can we go out to dinner, just the two of us? I have something I need to talk to you about." I agreed, and didn't think much of it. With four kids, when one asks for my undivided attention, I hear it, and really try to honor it.
The conversation that transpired at dinner was one of the most beautiful and courageous moments I have ever witnessed as a parent. He proceeded to explain to me, in his most logical and articulate fashion, that he is bisexual. When he said it, I smiled, and said, in my calmest parenting voice, "OK, Cool. Please continue..." While I finished my chicken salad and he noshed on his gigantic plate of meat and potatoes, I soaked in this moment and thought to myself how incredibly lucky I am.
What, you don't think I'm lucky? Well, I do. All I could think was how grateful I was that my son trusted me with this information. He came to me with it, didn't feel the need to hide it or become introverted, and was pretty sure I wouldn't freak out. I didn't. That said, I did NOT see this coming. There was never, and still really isn't, any stereotypical signs that my son would be just as interested in a boy than he would be a girl. It is confusing. He has always flirted with girls, played football, likes to hang out with the guys and is a video-gaming typical teenager. None of this sounds bisexual, does it?
The immediate question that came out of my mouth was, "Are you OK? Is someone trying to hurt you?" He laughed and explained that he wasn't having any problems like that. He goes to an all boys Catholic high school. I immediately imagined bullying in every form. I explained to him that the only concern I had with knowing this about him was how fearful I am that someone would try to harm him. He continued to explain that there were boys that were gay and "out" at school. He explained that they were not bullied there, and that they were accepted and protected. My mind would wander as he spoke, wondering what parallel universe had I just entered where people treated other people with such respect? He said there were a few that weren't kind, but the majority far out-weighed them and he feels safe at school.
My next words were, "OK. You sound like you have this under control. What do you need from me?" He then explained that he might need a little help breaking the news to his step-dad, my husband. He explained how he would talk to his step-mom, and she would help him with the news to his dad. The only important thing to say here is that none of us freaked out. So far, so good.
In the weeks to follow, he made it known to us that he was in a "relationship" with a boy. That boy was gay, and the two of them hung out in a group of friends and went to the movies a couple of times together. My son chose to end it, and like any other teenage relationship, he ran a huge range of emotions as he didn't like hurting someone else, but he just wasn't "feelin' it." I immediately realized that if I didn't believe it already, I now clearly understood that same gender relationships are exactly the same as others when it comes to tears, heartbreak and teens.
He started to do a production at school, and girls were coming from a nearby school to participate. Immediately, he was interested in a girl. I automatically assumed the bisexual identification was a "phase." After all, it is an all boys school, and we all thought maybe that had something to do with his need to connect more deeply with a boy. I was overwhelmed with guilt that I felt some sense of relief that he was chasing a girl. The guilt was because I knew that dating girls was easier for Facebook statuses and prom pictures. I was also afraid to find out that there might be some unaccepting friends or family in my life. The guilt was that I had thoughts of how this affected me, instead focusing on how hard it must be for him. By the way, our assumption was completely incorrect. He explained, when asked, that it was indeed not a phase and that it didn't work like that. Bisexual means both genders, and he is attracted to both. OK, got it. Not a phase.
My friend is participating in an incredible production of the "It Gets Better Tour." I committed to attending the show, and brought my son with me. I wasn't sure how he would feel about it. Neither one of us were sure what we were in for, and once in our seats, we were taken away. We were entranced by listening to the stories of other gay, bisexual and transgender people who were horribly mistreated when they came out to their parents. Some were horrific, some were uplifting, and some I'm still trying to understand exactly what I heard. I went through a whole box of tissues through the night, and my son sat stoic. After it was over, I said, "So, what did you think?" His response, "I didn't love some of the super flashy numbers, but the message is so important. Let's talk about it more on the way home." We then waited to hug my friend who was incredibly spectacular in the show, and it was then that I witnessed my son's first time speaking out loud, around others, about his bisexuality. It was an honor to witness how comfortable he is in his own skin. I realized how comfortable I really am with who he is. I was also blown away by how articulate he can be about his feelings, the way he sees God in the picture of it all, and more.
The "It Gets Better" Tour left us feeling uplifted. Tell your story! Be heard! Your voice matters! On the drive home we realized we HAVE to tell our story. We think we are doing ok...but we think we have responsibilty to show the actual change in motion. We ARE the change. We can help others see this doesn't have to be difficult. We can show how a loving family nurtures each other through this kind of news and we can share what works, and what doesn't. So, for us, it already IS better. Everyone in our home gets to be who they are. Period.
I'm not trying to brag or look for parenting pats on the back. I don't think anyone should receive accolades for loving their children unconditionally. What we would like to say is this. Give it a try. Tell your story, and be who you are. Don't assume everyone you love will turn against you. You just might be surprised. Some people may need a little more time than others, and some may never understand. To quote my friend and cast member Jason Currie of the "It Gets Better Tour", "Not talking about it is just as demonizing as being cruel and unaccepting." This really hit me like a ton of bricks.
So, in honor of EVERY single person who has been kicked out of their homes, beaten, bullied, told they could be "fixed", sent to Church camp to wash the gay away etc, I stand with you. I say talk about it as much as you want. We are going to. If someone doesn't love you or accept you exactly the way you are, then seek out those of us that will. We are out here, and we are going to do everything we can to make sure it truly does get better.
For more information about the It Gets Better Project visit http://www.itgetsbetter.org/
For more information and tickets for the It Gets Better Tour visit http://gmcla.org/gmcla3/outreach/it-gets-better-tour/
editor note: photo and use permission was given by Briane Cohen, Events and Tour Manager for GMCLA