‘I Do’ and a whole lot more

On Being a Gay Parent

by Brett Webb-Mitchell    
Published: July 9, 2011 in On Being a Gay Parent

In many homes, one photograph proudly displayed is a wedding portrait. The wedding portrait can be of the homeowners, or often times, it is a photograph that captures the idyllic moment of the grown-up child of a parent or maybe the image of the parents’ parents renewing their wedding vows on a special anniversary.

In the home of my friend David, he proudly showed me the photograph of his daughter and one of his sons from his daughter’s recent wedding in Mexico. The two grown children were both absolutely gorgeous and handsome. The daughter decided not to go with the traditional white gown, but instead wore a beautiful red dress, flowers in her hair. The son was handsome in a casual shirt and jeans. Both were smiling broadly. David beamed with pride as he told me about the day of his daughter’s wedding.

What he was missing were photographs of his other son’s wedding. The wedding took place only a few months ago, but David was not invited to his own son’s wedding, because David is gay. David has not talked to his other son for over six years. While the rest of David’s grown children and former wife were at the wedding, the father was not invited.

“There are only two times that I remember crying as an adult,” said David. “Once when my dad died and the other time was when I was not welcomed to my own son’s wedding.”

David had waited to come out of his closet when the children had graduated from high school. In hindsight, he would not have done it that way, because the now-grown children were confused and bewildered that he had been less than honest about his life story with his children. But, the fear, the shame, the guilt of being gay had kept David from acting earlier in his life, and he was now living with the consequences of his actions.

As this nation continues its forward-moving march toward equality in marriage, these laws approving of marriage and civil unions for all LGBTQ and straight people will make an earth-shaking difference in the lives of thousands, if not millions, of Americans who are currently saddled with fear, guilt and shame. From the vantage point of the LGBTQ parent, who is reminded daily of what a loud, but growing minority of Americans think about us, the laws that affirm our unions — civil or marriage — cannot help but not only make us legitimate in the eyes of the law, but more importantly, feel affirmed for trusting our guts and living life to its fullest in our covenantal vows with our respective partners. And, for our children, our parents and extended family members, whose lives are shaped and nurtured by the very same forces that attempt to humiliate us, dredging up a needless phobia of all things related to LGBTQ people, the change in the laws in the United States will have a tremendous effect, for the good. The change in laws will swiftly shift the cultural matrix in which we live, tearing apart the larger closet of indignity that many of us have pulled our family and friends into (misery loves company). And, then, very soon, those of us with grown children will delight in dancing at our sons’ and daughters’ weddings — with our partners, spouses and other loved ones — dancing in the light of the moon! : :