It will never understand a parent who disowns their LGBTQIA kid. Mine is the same precious girl that she was when I brought her home from the hospital as a newborn. In fact, I think she is better since coming out when she was a high school freshman. Coming out made her more free, confident, and I swear her smile got bigger. Why in the world would I ever want to prevent that? Why would any parent?
Happy Thoughts about the Kids, Please
That’s why my wish for Pride is that all straight cis parents take a step back when we even begin to suspect there is something amiss with our kids. If the thought, little Chrissy may like girls, begins to cross your mind in any form just stop. To allow that thinking is to start down a dark path from where no parent returns unscathed. That thought leads to others which will embarrass and scare you, making you double down on the morality. You’ll reach for the damaging, hateful indoctrination for support and comfort. All humans are programmed to go there—in the name of Jehovah, Allah, Jesus, you name it–when they don’t understand something and don’t know enough to just leave it be.
Instead, push those thoughts on any aspect of your kid’s sexuality away and just enjoy your time with the kid.
I remember when my daughter was younger, 10 or 11. We spent a summer watching Queen Latifah movies. She fell in love with the actress, and I was thrilled because the Queen was my favorite too. Had been since Living Single. We started seeing her new movies and chatting about the actress. At some point, I made a comment that Queen Latifah is a lesbian in real life too. I think we were watching Set It Off. The comment wasn’t followed by anything else. It was just a comment.
I didn’t weigh my daughter’s response at that moment. I also examine her reaction, ask further questions, or even try to speculate. We went on to enjoy the rest of our movie. It was Set It Off, folks. Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett (before the Smith), Vivica Fox, Kimberly Elise were the central cast–black badass women.
Why interrupt that with irrational worry and judgment?
Now 18, my kid tells me that comment was a pivotal moment for her. It became a milestone–the fact that our favorite actress, Queen Latifah, liked girls and that I acted like it was a perfectly natural option. “I didn’t know anything about myself then, but it was the first time I knew that liking girls was on the table!”
See what happened there? A moment that was fleeting, that I didn’t think much of when it happened–nor would I remember until she told me this story–was one that became a milestone in HER journey of discovery. Think about how different things could have gone had I placed any bit of judgment in my voice. Or, if I added one negative adjective to “lesbian”? A distasteful look or a disproving word could have changed things immensely. I truly believe that! I sometimes wonder about how closely I affected her growth into the woman she is today. Would that have repressed my girl? Would it have stalled her coming out? Probably.
The point is that my treatment of the topic could have made the difference between the carefree artist I have now, and a depressed, repressed, suicidal…I don’t want to go there but you know what I mean.
Remember the movie Butterfly Effect? (It was bad, I know. But too many of you know what that film is to be judging it and me right now!) Anyway, when the main character, played by Ashton Kutcher, had the ability to go back in time. Each time, he tried to change a bad event, save a life, even. But, each time he did the littlest thing, there were massive consequences in the future. One movement wiped out a whole person. Another had him traveling straight to jail in his own, present, time. He tried to correct so many things and yet, everything just kept messing up each time he came back.
Parents, you are that time traveler (yes, in this scenario, you are Ashton Kutcher) and the ripples are the results of your response to their little hints of sexual discovery. Those ripples are going to affect your child’s life for a long time after that moment your react. Fortunately, unlike the clueless Ashton Kutcher in the film, you can control the outcome.
By making yourself open to your LGBTQIA child and supportive—even if you don’t understand what the hell they are doing—you can cause the good ripples to happen. You don’t need to know all about non-heterosexuality, or how it works, or understand why it works. Your job is to be there for your kid like you would if he were telling you he wanted to play football. Instead, he just likes to kiss boys, or boys and girls, or nobody at all depending on his sexuality. He may no longer identify as “he”. And, that’s okay! Where’s the damage? (Other than in your overly judgmental head?) But, if you shut down, throw a Bible at the kid, or in too many cases, throw the child out of the house, the ripples will be dark. They will cause massive damage–to your child, their future, and your relationship to one another. Many parent-child relationships never recover.
Now, don’t try to excuse your bad reaction by saying that you “fear for how the world will treat them”. If the kids have our support at home and a safe space that they know they can return to every day, these kids can take whatever the world throws at them. They just don’t need you to contaminate their home–their safe space–with hate.
My Wish for Pride is for parents to stop wondering, speculating, and even thinking about our children’s sexuality. Instead, enjoy them for the kids they are. That way, when they come out to you by putting t-shirts saying, “I Can’t Even Think Straight” and “ Yes HOMO” in your Amazon cart, you’ll react like I did. I laughed at her cleverness and bought the tees. When they arrived asked, “You trying to say something?” with a smile on my face.
We chatted and then started planning our movie trip.
I think it was to a Melissa McCarthy flick.
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Jonita Davis is a writer, mother, a certified nerd, and writer of Black Girl Nerds. Davis is a critic and journalist. She has been writing for 13 years about the way pop culture and politics affect our lives as parents, women, black women, nerds, and people of this planet.