Monday, June 13, 2016

The Big Reveal

My daughter was born a girly girl. Her first word after the parental syllables was "shoe." She was boy crazy at four, passing toys to the neighbor boy between the chain link fence next to our townhouse. By the time she was eight, she'd had more boyfriends than I had in my life. She did ballet for ten years. She giggled in the back seat with her friends about high school dances and holding hands with boys on the ferris wheel. Her favorite color was pink. Or purple. She adored makeup.

She was the stereotypical girl.

She also loves to play the guessing game when she's afraid to tell me something. Which she did ten days ago. It goes something like this:

D: I have to tell you something.
Me: Okay....
D: Only I don't want to.
Me: Okaaay.... (immediately irritated)
D: Well, I want to tell you, but I don't.
Me: .......... (rolling my eyes and heavy-sighing)
D: It's just... I wish you just knew already.
Me: How can I know if you don't tell me?
D: ......
Me: Fine. You had sex.
D: No.
Me: You got drunk.
D: No.
Me: You got in another accident.
You quit your job.
You're friends with that horrible girl again.
You're pregnant. (Because after exhausting the obvious and the stupid, I start throwing out the crazy.)
You're gay. (AmI right? This girly girl? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.......)

She looks at the refrigerator. The girl has zero poker face.
But you're kidding, right?
You can't be serious.
Yes, Mom.


I'd had a cocktail at this point and quickly gulped down the equivalent of another shot. Remember the stereotypical girl? Which I asked her. Or, rather, told her. "You were always boy crazy." Yes, she thought she was, but then she wasn't. But what about her boyfriends? What about drooling over Josh Hutcherson and Ian Somerhalder? What about, what about, what about?

I took a quick break in the bathroom where I furiously texted my best friend. "Don't judge, I said." Her response? "Oh God, what did you do???" When I told her what it really was she said, "We have always supported the gay community. Now it's just time to prove it." Okay......

Yes, I was in shock. It was the last thing I imagined from D. I knew her. I gave birth to her. I held her and cradled her and met all of her needs as an infant. It wasn't that I was against it. I wasn't and I'm not. I had even commented to friends in front of her that I would accept having a gay child but I would mourn my dream of what I thought they would be. That was what she remembered. That is what stuck in her heart and why she was so afraid to tell me.

So I finished my drink and I tried to let her talk. I tried to ask the accepting questions, all the while my brain was reeling from the news. I told her over and over that I'm not disappointed. Not like she thought I would be. It's not necessarily disappointment, but an adjustment. I have to shift my thinking.

When she was a senior in high school, she was temporarily but extremely suicidal. I reminded her that I would take her and keep her any way I could get her but I never want to lose her. I told her she could see how it felt without choosing labels yet. She told me she was confused. Ah, confusion. It's not real. Just a phase.

Now, if anyone thinks at any point thus far that I said the wrong thing or reacted the wrong way, you're entitled to that opinion. But if you're just not prepared for something, you can't predict your reaction. This outcome had just never occurred to me. Not in a million years.

The next day was a struggle between reassuring her that I do love and accept her, which I completely do, and balancing my own confused feelings. I asked if she was sure because she had been confused the night before. No, she was talking about being confused when it all started for her. Oh. Well, damn.

My second concern was for her safety. My whole life has been about protecting her. It's my job. I'm not so afraid that she will be physically harmed, but the thought of someone slamming her with vulgarity while she walks hand-in-hand with a girlfriend makes me want to rip an imaginary asshole. It's hard to embrace something that I think will hurt her.

It's been a process. I'm still processing it. A few days after she came out, I asked if she was sure this isn't just a phase. I got the hateful teenage reply that basically identified me as in insensitive dinosaur.

The next day I asked how long she'd known. Since freshman year of high school, which equals five years. I had known for five days. She agreed this wasn't fair and allowed me to ask any and all questions I had, which I prefaced by saying that I'll always love her and I will get to the point where I openly accept and embrace this "new" identity but that it will take time. I asked questions I didn't really want answers to. We supported each other throughout the conversation.

My emotions have been all over the map and probably around the globe a dozen times. I'm scared for her. I felt deceived by her and lied to. I have to clarify that these are not rational emotions, but we can't control feelings. I can't. I felt that if I had been a better mom I would have known. How the fuck did I miss THIS one??

There have been other thoughts too. I was never hung up on having a son-in-law. Weddings with two brides are often beautiful. I halfway adopted a handful of her friends growing up anyway, I'm used to it. Plus she's promised me I will have grandbabies. That's all I really care about, I'm just asking for a couple extra now.

Over the last year, I have been worried about her capacity to love. We moved to Nashville and she went through half a dozen boys in a matter of months. She seemed to get bored or to lose interest really quickly. Of course I blamed myself for divorcing her father and for dragging her through the subsequent Bad Relationship. All of this must have affected her ability to be intimate, to love someone. Now it's somewhat of a relief that might not be the case. I want her to love deeply and be loved to the core of her being. I'm not going to be able to choose that person anyway, so why should I choose their gender?

She had the brilliant millennial idea of coming out on Facebook. I didn't expect that today she'd be ready. Always keeping me on my toes, that one. The shooting in Orlando over the weekend was her motivation. She's scared now. She should be. I'm scared for her. And yesterday we went to the vigil downtown because I wanted her to be with people like her and to see that there is love in the fear. I want her to know that she's supported, that even if I can't be there always to protect her, I will do everything in my power to ensure that she feels loved and supported. She said she wanted to be brave. The truth is, this wasn't just an act of bravery. Brave is what she is. She's been brave with her depression, she's been brave with making her own choices about her future and she's brave now to come out when it would be safer to hide.

Her responses so far have been overwhelmingly supportive. I suspect there are some who aren't and they're just staying quiet and that's okay. Their silence still speaks and she knows it. I wonder how my own friends and family will react. I wasn't going to say anything until she was ready, but now that she's just jumped into the deep end, I'm jumping with her.

I'm still scared. All the more so now. I've avoided much of the news from Orlando because it hits too close to home this time. My best friend says it always should have been personal, and she's right. I just lived in a smug little straight-privileged bubble when I thought my child wouldn't be targeted. I'm flying the PFLAG now. I have to be as brave as she is.

I was never in love with anyone the way I was when this precious child came into my life. Never since and I never will be again. The thought of someone taking that from me, or from any other parent, chills me to the bone. Nobody has the right to take love from us. I am scared, but I will not live in fear. I will love her and I will love people like her and I will stand with them and next to them.

I'm proud of her. I'm proud of Nashville, our city. Last night's vigil gave me hope. Hope that I won't have to be afraid forever. Hope that love will prevail. Hope that she will love and be loved.

That's all any of us can hope for, really.


Kris Hargrove said...

My sister's Big Reveal was sort of a disappointment. I flat out asked her and she asked how did I know. duh - I was her sister. Our Mom's reaction was "It's about time you admitted it" and my Dad's was "Ok, cool - I am watching the Yankees". Different for every family and like I told her, "it's just makes me more interesting :-)"

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