“But it’s important to me that the family know. I am proud of my Christopher.” She did not answer that. She loved her grandson so much.
But she came from a generation who did not talk about sensitive issues. In fact, it often shocked me at what she did not discuss. She would not let her grandson interview her on tape for a family history project. We tried to assure her no one would hear it except Christopher for his research. But no go with her! However, I have heard this same comment from contemporary parents of gay or lesbian adult children. This attitude impedes progress.
This came home to me again this Sunday in The New York Times. I read about Ohio legislators who years ago passed an anti-marriage equality bill. But Jim Obergefall from Ohio is one of the plaintiffs in the suit before the Supreme Court contesting his state’s ban on same-sex marriage. His husband, who passed away from ALS, cannot have his spouse’s name on the death certificate since their Maryland wedding is not recognized in Ohio.
However, Mr. Obergefall was honored in his home city of Cincinnati proclaiming a day to his late husband. This proclamation was sponsored by a former mayor who angered gay constituents in the ’90s by proclaiming Gay Tolerance Day instead of Gay Pride Day. But then his son came out as gay. In 2013 Senator Rob Portman from Ohio became the first Republican senator to publicly support same-sex marriage after he discovered his son is gay.
Consequently it is very important for us family members to be honest. One reason is that it helps mitigate against discriminatory actions. You cannot be an anti-gay bully if you know your friend’s son or daughter is gay. And you can’t be anti-gay in your policies if you know your constituents have gay relatives. Or at least I would hope so. When I have written opinion pieces for the local newspaper about my gay son I have received only positive responses. I was afraid of the opposite. But as a friend told me, it’s hard to be nasty to a mom (but not impossible, as on-line comments show).
My son was very brave 22 years ago, before celebrities were coming out or story lines in movies included positive gay characters. His courage inspired both my husband and me. It is clear that these Ohio legislators were influenced by their sons’ honesty. The state of Ohio was one of the most anti-LGBT states in the land. Now the city of Cincinnati is seen as a model of inclusiveness. It overturned the despicable city amendment that barred any law that protected LGBT citizens from discrimination. Now even the Human Rights Campaign visited the city to promote the city’s new gay-friendly policies.
The Supreme Court will take up marriage equality issue today. Earth shattering. Who could have imagined 22 years ago that the country would be at this juncture? Yes, great strides have been made, but more needs to be done. And it’s time for families and friends to be as brave as the LGBT community.