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Why Are We Still Ashamed to Have Gay Children?

It’s 2020. Why are some parents still making their gay children’s lives difficult?

When my sister Leigh* came out to me, it made no difference on how I viewed her. Even though she was now 20, she’d always be my special baby sister, the one who I potty trained and played American Girl Dolls with. Leigh being gay simply meant that when it came time to look for a partner, she’d be with a girl instead of a boy.

There was a problem, though: my parents. Leigh had seen what had happened when I opted to date a girl as my first love in high school, which was nothing short of a disaster.

My mother hysterically cried when I told her I liked girls, and my father told me that he was ashamed of me to my face. Whenever said girlfriend came over our house, they’d refer to her as my “friend” and invalidate our relationship. That didn’t really upset me too much, though — at least nowadays — I’ve been living with a man for a few years now and am very comfortable with the fact that my sexuality is none of my family’s business. Because I am straight-passing, I’ve been able to brush their criticism off my shoulders fairly easily.

For Leigh, this isn’t the case. My parents’ response to her coming out was to say something along the lines of “you think you’re gay, but you’re not”. Both have regularly voiced their belief that my sister has been “brainwashed by liberal culture” into believing that she likes girls. Subsequently, both of my parents deliberately try to sabotage her time with her girlfriend and refuse to see their relationship as valid.

On Facebook, my mother posts memes and articles about why gay people shouldn’t be allowed to adopt children. My father insists that marriage is strictly between one man and one woman. Neither will acknowledge how damaging these views — supported by their votes and political donations — put my sister down and make her feel horrible.

The year is 2020. Why are my parents still ashamed to have a gay child in this day and age?

We live in New York State, the Excelsior State, a blue state that championed gay rights with the fight at Stonewall in 1969, the year my father was born. Gay marriage has been legal here since 2011. Accepting our gay children should no longer be a problem.

I blame political discourse for my parents’ beliefs and behavior. They are Conservative Republicans and feel the need to align themselves with every single party value no matter how much it goes against what they taught me. (As a child, my father taught me that gay people really are born that way and that while he was a bit put off by homosexuality, treating others with respect and dignity was a priority).

The fact that my parents have a grown, adult child who identifies as gay means that they should put their party affiliations behind them and advocate for what is best for the child that they created and promised to love.

My sister regularly reports feeling belittled by the things that they say and I cannot help but feel horrified and wonder how much damage they are doing to her fragile, young psyche. It’s difficult to believe that at this moment in history, some people are still embarrassed to live openly as themselves because of their sexual orientation.

We may not be able to fix the unaccepting parents of gay people, but we can certainly work to make them feel loved and remind them of all of the remarkable changes that have come to be over the last ten years. We can support them unconditionally and do our best to show those who put them down why their thinking is so draconian.

I will always be a loud and unabashedly proud ally because of my sister, and I encourage you to stand up for someone you care about, too. They need us.

*Names have been changed to maintain privacy.

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I write about all kinds of human experiences big and small.

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