As LGBT parents, we have all lived through some sort of trauma in our lives. For many it is the rejection of our family, being bullied, or abuse. We learn to be vigilant of our surroundings and often are very cautious of who we trust. As adults, we start to become watchful of how much we share and we look for "red flags" around every corner.
So, what effect does this have on our children? Does it unintentionally cause us to be more jaded with our interactions involving others? For some the answer may be a resounding "no." But as we look deeper into the situation, we often find that through survival our interactions with others have changed and we may not even realize exactly how much we are projecting on those around us.
Recently my youngest son, who is now 10 years old, wanted to perform drag for a charity benefit. My first thought was how exciting. However, that quickly changed to feelings of fear and anxiety. Will I be proving the typical stereotype that a gay father can only raise a gay child? Will it be seen as abuse in the eyes of the conservative family members that I have? And what about the repercussions of this choice on his future? All these fears are feelings that many of us experience and in that moment, I had a choice to be supportive of his decision or turn his joy into fear based upon my experiences.
Daniel has stated that he was gay from a very young age, and even before he came to live with me as his forever dad. When I started the fostering process the social worker even told me he claimed to be gay from the age of four and asked if it would be a problem. I knew that he would be in a perfect home to explore his life and be supported no matter his decision. What I did not plan for was projecting my own experiences into his budding life.
Thankfully, in that moment, I made the choice to support his decision. Through that decision I got to watch him learn many valuable lessons on his own. He now knows the work that goes into performing, the meaning of giving back to those less fortunate than us, and what it means to truly be proud of who you are. Daniel, like so many of the children who are adopted, came from an abusive home and spent much of his youth in Social Services. He also suffers from Charcot – Marie – Tooth, a form of Muscular Dystrophy and was told that he would never be adopted because he was "broken." He was taught from a young age that life was hard, people give up on you, and he was not worthy of being loved.
As he stepped out on the stage, I could see the fear in his eyes as his knees started to buckle and his neck turned red with terror; but then he looked into my eyes and came to life because he knew that he was safe and supported. In that moment we both experienced true pride in who we were and all the fears I could have projected onto him just seemed to fly away. I could have stopped him from doing the event due to my own insecurity, and while that could have protected him, it would have kept him from experiencing his truth. That little dreamer who was finally realizing that he was worthy of love, that he could accomplish great things, and that he would live his own truth supported by those he loved was finally able to soar high above the weight of this world for possibly the first time in his life.
That day he raised money to benefit the local AIDS Alliance Chapter, but he did so much more in the lives of those at brunch. For some he gave hope that a better future still lies ahead through the actions of our youth. In others, he instilled a sense of accomplishment that their sacrifices were not in vain over all the years of hardships we have endured as a society. For me personally, he gave the best gift of all which was the knowledge that I could still protect my son, but also support his dreams. It was not for me to take this from him, but it was a great reminder for me that I can be both dad the protector, and the supporter.