Closet of Hidden Shame, or Transparent Freedom?

By Carol Green

As the mother of twin daughters, I waited with excitement for the teen years, looking forward to college trips, proms, teen sleepovers, graduations, weddings, and future grandchildren. I was diligent about parenting teens, i.e., knowing their friends’ parents, making sure parties were chaperoned, monitoring homework and grades, etc. Our twins were smart, had lots of friends, and as parents, we felt like we had the most wonderful teens a parent could have. Life and the future were bright. 

Then one night, out of the blue, one of my daughters asked if she could talk with me. She proceeded to disclose that she was not straight. Suddenly, my calm, cool, and collected optimism cracked. In a period of a few short minutes, I realized it had never occurred to me that one of my daughters might identify as LGBT. I was unprepared for what lay ahead. Fortunately, as a pastoral counselor and pastoral educator, I had already worked through my beliefs and theology about LGBT issues. It was easy to listen to my daughter without judgment. I loved her with all my heart and nothing she could say would change that fact. I also felt so blessed that she had trusted me and my love enough to tell me, her dad and sister.   

By the next day, I was overwhelmed with anxiety and grief. Suddenly, my identity as a mom was called into question. I thought I had a handle on parenting a teen; I realized I knew nothing about parenting a gay teen. I obsessed over what to do about sleepovers. We didn’t allow opposite sex sleepovers, but what did that mean for same gender attractions. I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to worry about accidental pregnancies, but I grieved she would not be able to be married or have children (I didn’t know that 15 years later all of that would change.) I was even more worried I might not be able to have grandchildren. I worried about her safety. I knew the rates of suicide among gays was significantly higher than the rest of the population. I knew that many gays had been attacked, abused, or killed. I prayed that as a female she would have an easier and safer time.

Life continued with no obvious signs of the disruption I was feeling inside. The grief came in waves. The anxiety was in the background most days. Questions seemed to always raise anxiety. What do we tell our parents and the rest of the family? What do we tell our friends and colleagues? And most importantly, what do we tell our church? And always in the background, what do we do about sleepovers? 

I did not want my daughter to feel like she needed to live in the closet. At first, I didn’t connect the reality that if she was out of the closet, I would have to be out as well. A quote that had been important to me is, “We are only as sick as our secrets.” I do not believe being gay is a disease, and I didn’t want to turn it into a sickness because of the secrets. My daughter had no plans of living in the closet; I was so proud of her. So, I followed her lead. 

My coming out of the closet was so natural and unplanned. My daughter wanted me to take her to a Metropolitan Community Church worship service, and I did. At our church the following Sunday, a friend told me that she had missed my daughter and I the previous Sunday. What had we been up to?  Without hesitation, I responded that I had taken my daughter to the MCC. This friend had never heard of that church and asked about it. As I began to tell her about MCC being a congregation where LGBT folks felt welcome and affirmed and safe, I had the sudden revelation that I had just outed myself as the parent of a gay child. It felt right. I didn’t need to ask her to keep a secret; that decision has been so freeing. 

I am so grateful to my local church during those years as well as the MCC. The more open I was about our journey, the more support I felt from my church. My daughter and I were fully accepted. No one in the youth group made deriding comments about her or made her feel less than the others. No one criticized me or recommended I send her to conversion therapy. I feel passionate about helping other congregations to become welcoming and affirming to all, especially those identifying as LGBT. Because of the support our family experienced, my daughter is married to a lovely woman whom I adore as much as my daughters, and I have met so many awesome individuals who have enriched my life in so many ways. 

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