Parents! Come on Out!

GPH-LG.jpgWhen my daughter Kathryn “married” her partner in 1999, I knew only one standard regarding weddings, those which were between a bride and a groom. As a Mother of A Bride who was unaware of etiquette or procedures for two brides, I decided my standard to guide me would be the same as though she were marrying a man. This was all I knew. What I did know for sure was that this event was no less important or special since she was marrying a woman instead of a man as I had anticipated up to that point in time. This was my commitment.
One action I knew I would do if she were marrying a man would be to send out wedding announcements immediately after the ceremony to all our friends and relatives who had not been invited to the wedding. (In this case their wedding was in the area where Kathryn and her partner live, not in Dallas where her father and I live, and I was held on a short rein of how many invitations I could send. You know how these brides (or grooms) can be!)
When I told my husband my plans to send out wedding announcements, he said, “Don’t order announcements; we will send out a Christmas letter to everyone.” I responded, “First of all we rarely send out a Christmas letter, but more importantly I am not announcing my daughter’s wedding that way!” Then a gay friend of mine recommended my not sending them out, too. (Remember this is 1999….a long, long time ago in the world of same-sex marriage.) As a result, I was quite perplexed about this negativity toward sending same sex wedding announcements to our friends and family (don’t laugh here….I was surprised about the negativity….to me, it seemed the appropriate thing to do at this point), and I brought it up to discuss with Kathryn. In her often wise way, she said, “Mom, sending announcements is your and Dad’s coming out to your friends.” Of course, it was! I knew right then I was ordering and sending those wedding announcements! Let everyone know that indeed we have a lesbian daughter and that we are thrilled she has found a life partner who both love each other and are committed to one another for the rest of their lives. This also enables everyone to ingest the news in private, and they can react how ever they want or need to.
The crux of this story is that it is important for family members and friends to come out, too. I have had a number of my customers tell me that they felt fully supported when their parents came out to their friends, not just supportive to the gay or lesbian son or daughter by welcoming the respective partner in their homes. This latter was important, but not nearly so as openly claiming their gay child in public to friends and other family members.
M. Goldfried, Department of Psychology, State University of New York at Stony Brook, NY has written that it is “…a very important role that parental acceptance and support plays in furthering the psychological well-being of gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals. Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), an organization dedicated to this goal, has as its mission the support for family members, education of the public, and advocacy for equal rights for lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals. By “coming out” themselves, straight parents and relatives-including those in the mental health field-not only can extend the support they offer to their gay/lesbian/bisexual children and relatives but also play a significant role in reducing the stigma of being gay, lesbian, or bisexual and in mainstreaming gay, lesbian, and bisexual issues.”
So, Parents, Come on out!….the water’s just fine.
And, Kids: if you haven’t come out yet, it’s time! How can your parents come out if you haven’t?????

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