Sunday, January 23, 2005

Coming Out

I have been reading a book called Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions, by James W. Pennebaker. Actually, I just started reading it, and instead of starting at the beginning, I went right to a chapter called "The Social Price of Disclosure." The chapter starts out talking about bereaving parents, and how after a couple of months their social networks collapse because other people can't deal with the topic themselves. The bereaving parents then find themselves alone, with nobody to talk to, even if they need to talk. The author discusses how groups can help in this situation.

A lightbulb immediately went on over my head. I have a gay son. Although he came out when he was 17 and is now 21, I haven't been able to relate to many people about it. Perhaps it is more honest to say that I haven't really been able to talk about it on more than a surface level. The topic quickly changes. But I want to talk about what it's like having a gay son! It's not that I was ever traumatized by it. On the contrary, I suspected it and have been very supportive from the moment he told me. He is my son, and being gay is part of who he is. I love the whole package. I am proud of him.

I have been in virtual isolation about my son's homosexuality. For one, I don't want to "out" him to other people when he hasn't made that choice himself. Second, a conversation about it doesn't go anywhere. But aren't I outing him here? No, I'm outing myself. He isn't here and you don't know him.

I decided, at that moment when I was reading that chapter, that I needed to go to some PFLAG meetings. PFLAG is Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. I need a place to talk openly. When I realized there was a place to do that, I felt great relief.

My fear in writing this here is that I will be criticized for it. But what I've realized reading that chapter is that I need to "come out" about it too.

Why did I choose to read that chapter first? I think I knew, just like I knew that he was gay.


Susie said...

I think it's wonderful that you're going to explore PFLAG. You'll be a great addition to any group, with your positive and accepting attitude about your son. But it makes me sad that people don't feel comfortable talking about what it's like for you to have a gay son. He's your son! Of course you want to talk about him! PFLAG will let you do that without the worries about "outing" him, too.

Anna van Schurman said...

I work in a university gender studies office--a place where many lesbian and gay male students end up--and I just wish there were more parents like you!

Anonymous said...

I just had the same conversation earlier this week with my aunt who has just found out her grandson (my 2nd cousin) is gay. He is 20

Anonymous said...

Sorry, that last post was me - I forgot to add my name.
Karen F

debbi said...

Candace - I read your blog with interest and am impressed with the way you expressed yourself. Keep your chin up. I think you just made a great big baby step. Good luck and I'll be back to check on you .... debbi

Donna Rubin said...

I have a gay cousin. He has only told me and his parents. He won't tell anyone else in the family because he knows they will never have anything to do with him. He is handsome, smart, educated and the sweetest fella you would ever want to meet. You are lucky your son can confide in you.
God Bless,