My children, your children

On Being a Gay Parent

by Brett Webb-Mitchell    
Published: September 3, 2011 in On Being a Gay Parent

Good news from my home: My 18-year-old son has begun his first year of college and loves it, finding his groove among a new group of friends, new course of activities and discovering the joys (and drawbacks) to living in a dorm. One fraternity has approached him about joining (no way) and he is making time in his schedule to join the lacrosse “club” (not quite an official team, yet). He is supposed to find a very part-time job to help pay for additional expenses. He misses his girlfriend, though they remain in touch once a day, if not more often (she is at school in North Carolina). He sends out an occasional request for more money (normal), as well as weather forecast for the Miami area, just in case Hurricane Irene suddenly swerved inland as it passed by Florida and headed straight for NC!

My son is in my daily thoughts as I begin another semester of teaching at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) . My English composition and ethics classes are filled with students who are around the age of my son and daughter. In my students I can only wonder what is going on in the life of my children and vice versa. This sense of wonder was most pronounced in the first days of the fall semester, as the university welcomed the sons and daughters of straight and LGBTQ parents, grandparents and guardians. The first opportunity to meet the incoming students was over a “welcome party” of sorts, hosted by NCCU’s LGBTQ student group, COLORS. The first year students were welcomed by the COLORS current members, with the lure of free Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and a T-shirt that had simply-drawn human figures reflecting all the various relationships that are present in this world: male with male; female with female; and female with male. What was fantastic was not only the incredible turnout of students (around 50 or more, in which I simply lost count), but also the number of faculty, administrators and staff, straight and LGBTQ alike who were there. Still new to this school, I was emotionally moved by the powerful witness of so many of my colleagues present and out, letting new students who may or may not be self-identifying as LGBTQ know that they are not alone. This is especially helpful for those students who may be first generation college students, who are literally heading out on their own, a first for their family of origin.

On the first day of my English composition and ethics classes, I also tell students who I am, without apology. In English, this comes about as I regale the students with my background as a writer, letting them know my writing background. In ethics, I discuss the moral quandary that the modern world finds itself in, denying most LGBTQ people the basic human right of living healthy, life-giving relationships as they demonize us at the same time.

Amid opening day parties and first day of classes, I keep thinking of my son, hoping that someone in his university is being equally transparent and passionate in his or her teaching, making his learning experience richly rewarding. Likewise, I see my son in the eyes of my students, hoping that I am creating an atmosphere of safety and hope in my teaching and advising, so that my students will grow to love learning for the sake of learning more about the world in which they play a vital role. My hope? That the next generation of adults will live in a world that is more open, accepting and celebratory about the incredible diversity of ways of being in this changing world than my contemporaries. : :