A few weeks ago, John Kinnear wrote a wonderful letter on HuffPost entitled "Dear Hypothetically Gay Son." In that letter, he made it very clear that if he were to have a son, and if said son were to be gay, he would continue to love, support and accept him just as he would if he were (hypothetically) straight.
He talked about how he'd need a little time to become educated so that he could help guide him and teach him about sex. (I loved that part.) He told him how proud he was of him and how he didn't view him as any different than he did before he knew he was gay. He even talked about how all the rules that had applied to having female visitors in the house now applied to male. Good stuff.
And then he told his (hypothetical) son to view the letter as a contract. That sentence, that concept, struck a chord.
John had written his letter as a response. Earlier that week, another letter -- a very, very different kind of letter -- had made its way around the Internet. The first letter was horrifying. It was written by a father who had disowned his (not hypothetically) gay son because he was gay. It was toxic. It was heartbreaking. John's letter was its antithesis. And it was beautiful.
I posted the link to John's letter on my blog's Facebook page. Responses came in quickly, applauding John for being the kind of father that the other man was not. Readers praised him for expressing his (hypothetical) unconditional love, to which I shouted a hearty 'Amen.' They cited his (hypothetical) acceptance, to which I raised my glass. They lauded him for his bravery. At which I bristled.
As much as I, too, applaud John for writing the letter, and as much as I found it pitch-perfect in its tenor and its content, I just couldn't swallow 'brave.'
Perhaps I'm being unfair. Maybe it's just that I'm reading -- as I always do -- through the filter of my own experience as a mother.
I am the mother of two delicious tween girls. One just started middle school and the other just began fourth grade. (For the record, I have no idea if they are gay, straight or somewhere in between, nor do I particularly care.) But one of them is autistic. And I have been called brave for accepting her as she is. For loving her as she is. For fighting for her rather than against a piece of her. For embracing all of who she is.
And I am brave. For lots of reasons. For taking on legislators. For calling out liars. For singing along to country songs in my convertible with the top down. But for loving my daughter? For accepting her, supporting her, seeing her as perfect and whole and beautiful and capable (and autistic)? To my mind, none of those things make me brave. They make me her mother.
When we become parents -- no matter how we become parents, we enter into life's most sacred contract. One drawn in blood and signed with the enormity of all that *is* life. And I believe with all my heart that it is a pact with God -- or Mother Nature or the Universe or Whatever or Whomever we believe is the Ultimate Creator -- to protect and to love and to cherish and to hold more precious than anything else this fledgling person in his or her totality.
The contract is short. It is concise. It does not contain a single modifier, not one qualification, not one if/then amendment. It is simply a pledge to love, to cherish and to guide this tiny human being -- this ultimate gift -- to self-actualization.
The human spectrum is far too vast to wrangle with our desperately limited imaginations. People come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. They come traditionally pretty and they come painfully disfigured. They come male and they come female and they come transgendered and gender queer. They come with athletic prowess and they come with two left feet. Sometimes they come needing prosthetic feet. They come with genetic mutations and they come with physical challenges and they come with neurological differences. They come wired for words and they come with no easily discernible method of communication. They come gay and they come straight and they come everything in between. They come socially adept and they come socially awkward. They come brilliant and they come intellectually challenged. Sometimes they come intellectually challenged and brilliant. They come as they come. And when we become parents, they come to us. For life.
When we sign the contract, we enter without condition into the sacred pact to care for them, love them and guide them -- whomever they may turn out to be.
~ Ed note: To be clear, I do not mean to imply that homosexuality is a disability in any way, shape, nor form. The parallel that I draw here is used only to describe the filter through which I read John's wonderful letter -- a filter that just happens to give me some idea of what it is to parent a child who might be different from the one we envisioned.