Would You Be Too Ashamed To Display Your Child's Wedding Photo?

This Thanksgiving, reach out and give your LGBTQ sons and daughters an even tighter hug.
11/22/2016 01:20 pm ET Updated Mar 15, 2017

Now more than ever, reach out and give your LGBTQ sons and daughters an even tighter hug. It’s what we all need right now but, for different reasons, might not get!

On a recent trip home to England with my American wife of 10 years, Laurie, I had to face my marriage not being accepted by my parents. It wasn’t exactly a surprise, but nonetheless it hurt me, a lot, and the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” rang so true for me.

Whenever visiting my parents home, one of the first things you see when you walk into their living room is a dresser covered in photo frames with pictures of all family members on their wedding days.

So, after Laurie and I got married, we framed one of our wedding photographs and gave it to them. It was graciously received and placed on the dresser along with the other photographs.

But when we arrived on our most recent visit and I looked at the photographs on the dresser, I saw our photograph was not there anymore. I asked my mother about it and she said she had “lost it,” which seemed like a strange answer to me.

Later, when my parents were out of the room, I found what I knew was the frame, I undid the back and sure enough, there was our wedding photo, stuck behind someone else’s.

The Wedding Photograph of Laurie and Caroline Hart
The Wedding Photograph of Laurie and Caroline Hart

The next day, my mother had a hospital appointment and I wanted to take her, Laurie came along too as she wanted to support me as I had supported her and her dad.

When the nurse came out to talk to my mother she asked kindly, “Are these your daughters with you today?” To which my mother answered, “No, my daughter and her friend!”

I was mortified but immediately said “No, she’s my wife!” These two things happening within 24 hours gave me a sinking feeling and made me realize I had been right when I was young, thinking I wouldn’t be accepted for who I was. That was what had kept me closeted until the age of 42.

On the complete flip side to this is Laurie’s dad, Tom, who always accepted our marriage, and even when we were in the midst of our fight for marriage equality, wanted to do his bit to help.

He always proudly displayed photos of us on his wall at the nursing home for all to see, Laurie even took a photo of him holding a picture of us, and she shared it with Gay Marriage USA in support of marriage equality.

His photo got over 2,500 likes and had so many incredible messages saying what a wonderful parent he is; he was even more thrilled when he was given the “Awesome Dad Award 2013” because of his support of us.

Awesome Dad - Tom Watts
Awesome Dad - Tom Watts

This trip back to England was a very poignant one for us; it was the first trip since Laurie’s dad had passed away just the month before, following a short battle with brain cancer.

I had wanted this trip to be filled with nothing but love for Laurie, but instead was greeted by my parents with glaringly obvious homophobia.

Over the years, there have been many occasions that my parents lack of acceptance was obvious and I have always tried to not let it bother me, even though it did. But this time was too much.

Laurie and I had exciting news that we wanted to share about an upcoming project we had been working on, but because it involved LGBTQ issues, they outright said they were “not interested in hearing about it, it isn’t something that affects US!”

When it got to this point I really couldn’t take it anymore. As I sat across from them, they both starred back at me with what felt like disgust and hatred.

“I’ve never expected you to wave a rainbow flag in support of same sex marriage but at least be happy for me and proud to show a photo of me and Laurie. Most parents are proud when their children achieve important things in life but you just seem ashamed!” I said to my parents, just an hour before we were leaving for the airport.

My mother just got up and left room telling me “I have nothing further to say.”

I am not writing this for sympathy, I am writing it for acceptance, so other parents may think about being more accepting and love their children for who they are. Because it does matter, whatever their age.

I am very grateful that I am loved unconditionally by my wife and my sons who couldn’t be more supportive. I’m also thankful for wonderful family and friends who go out of their way to show their love and acceptance too.

If you are a parent out there be a Tom and love your child with all your heart, for all your life!

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