My Issue, But Your Issue Too: A Letter to My Son

Photo 20151202062642534

As a gay man and a father, I could not have asked for you to be any more supportive than you have been since I came out to you three years ago. When we marched together this past summer, with my boyfriend, surrounded by my coworkers, in the Capital Pride Parade, it was a powerful and empowering experience.

I recognize that we all have our own journey. When a father comes out to his teenage son, just as the father has his journey, the son has his journey as well. While you have always been supportive of me personally, you have not always been at ease with the world I now inhabit.

This past summer, after first telling me you were not comfortable walking in the pride parade, you changed your mind. What changed your mind? You learned that your favorite radio station had a float in the pride parade and something shifted in you. You saw the parade as more every day. You told me with authority that the parades had become “more corporate” than they once were, which made me laugh because I had said the same thing to you months earlier. 

During my college years in Brooklyn, NY, and again after graduate school living in New York City, I remember walking by the pride or Halloween parades in Manhattan. The parades were wild and over the top. These earlier parades were a protest. A way to demand our acceptance and to express our freedom. As a closeted man, they made me very uncomfortable. 

Today’s parades are sedate by comparison. They have become, in many parts of the USA, accepted cultural events incorporating the broader community. While there are still some wild floats, the majority of marchers seem to be corporations, church groups, and local politicians.

When you recently wrote about your parade experience for a college writing assignment I was surprised how you described the event as wild and flamboyant. You noticed the half-naked men in red speedos and the drag queens. I suspect that if I was seeing a pride parade for the first time I would probably notice the same thing. My impression of the parade was different: I saw a joyous, multicultural event with people from all walks of life. Nothing seemed over the top to me, but then, maybe I have just gotten used to some of the more outrageous parts of the LGBTQ culture. 

I have tried on a few occasions to get you to participate in your college’s LGBTQ resource center which last year included a bi-weekly discussion group for family members of LGBTQ individuals. Your reaction was that this was my issue, not yours. You felt that you had no need to attend such an event. While it is true that being gay is my issue, it is your issue too. While you continue to support me, the LGBTQ world makes you uncomfortable.

When you got rid of your glasses in 9th grade and started wearing contacts, it was to reinvent yourself. You saw yourself as bookish and one of the smart kids, but what you really wanted was to be one of the cool kids. But in being cool you have gone for conformity. You are afraid of the fringes and your non-conforming peers. Your comfort zone is the straight, sports-loving guy. None of your friends are LGBTQ. I wish you could step outside your comfort zone to see and experience more of the diversity that the world includes.

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