Our son, Joe, was 16 when he came out to us. The previous weekend we had been shopping in Manchester and had watched the Manchester Pride Parade. His dad and I had suspected that he was gay for about 2 years prior to that and had tried to broach the subject on several occasions. However, watching his reaction to the parade confirmed in my mind we were right and, several days later, he confirmed the fact himself.
We had, and still have, no problem with Joe’s sexuality but were still aware of society’s attitude towards GLBT people. We are also fortunate that both my and my husband’s families are non-judgmental and tolerant. Therefore we were able to tell the family and so Joe was able to feel secure in the knowledge that his whole family were there to support him. We had often confided our suspicions to our closest friends before Joe came out and so had no problems with their reactions either, indeed we have several gay and lesbian friends and one of them was on hand to give Joe a ‘guided tour’ of the village showing him which bars etc were safe and where to avoid, and why. My husband works as a nurse and had no problems telling his colleagues; however, working in an office environment I felt that I needed to be more confident of my colleague’s reactions. I was able to tell my closest friends at work and gradually, as my own confidence grew, I was able to tell all my workmates.
Part of this confidence was gained from attending the Manchester Parents Group. I had seen the float pass us by when we watched the parade and had made a mental note to myself that I may be needing them in the near future, therefore I was able to attend my first group meeting a couple of months later. I was made to feel welcome as soon as I arrived and was included in the activities straight away. It was like coming home – the warmth and feeling of belonging were overwhelming.
I realised that, although we had no problems with Joe’s sexuality it was still reassuring to be amongst people who could identify with the different direction that ours worries took to those of parents of heterosexual children. Those worries still involved the usually litany of good grades, good job, nice partner, nice home and all that goes with those goals. We had always tried to be open with Joe about sex and, indeed safe sex, stressing that it was always important to use condoms even if the girl told him she was on the pill, ensuring he knew that it was about responsibility for avoiding std’s as well as unwanted pregnancies, but it was a strange moment when I had to give ‘that talk’ from the perspective of the fact that it was still important to practice safe sex even though there was no risk of pregnancy.
Whilst we had never mapped out our children’s futures Joe’s brother has Autistic Spectrum Disorder, so Joe’s coming out made us more aware that the likelihood of ever having grandchildren was reduced, and having never even considered the fact it was quite emotional when we were clearing the attic and found their Christening gowns and baby clothes that had been saved for their children. Due to the support of the Parents group we were reassured that nothing is impossible. And indeed, when commenting to my mother that the likelihood of having grandchildren was very slim, Joe appeared through the door proclaiming ‘it may not be, I think that is a very homophobic remark!’ So that told me!
Thanks to the continuous campaigning undertaken by pressure groups such as Stonewall and the support and campaigning undertaken by organisations such as the Lesbian and Gay Foundation and the Manchester Parents Group, society is slowly changing, and with the advent of Civil Partnerships it isn’t out of the realms of possibility that I could be buying a posh hat in the future! Indeed I have just read the news that the European Court of Human Rights has just ruled that refusing adoption to gay couples on the grounds of sexuality is in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights. So times, as Bob Dylan is famous for saying, they are a-changing!
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