Sunday was National Coming Out Day, and I chose that day to publicly celebrate my older daughter, who came out to me about a year ago. (With her permission, obviously; I would never out her publicly without her consent.)
In many ways, her coming out wasn’t a big deal; it was more of a continuation of conversations we’d been having since she was very young: Some men like women; some women like women; some men like men; some kids have two moms or two dads.
I grew up in the New Orleans arts scene, so gay people were never particularly mysterious or scandalous to me. When I was maybe 4, my mom casually mentioned one of her male friends and his boyfriend.
“How can he have a boyfriend?” I asked. “He’s a boy!”
“Some boys have boyfriends,” she said.
“Oh,” I said, and that was it.
In high school, I joined the Gay-Straight Alliance and had lots of gay, bi, and lesbian friends; college was more of the same, although I was sort of surprised to realize that being homosexual was a much bigger issue in the Midwest than it ever seemed to be in New Orleans, home of Southern Decadence.
When the Obergefell decision came out in 2015, I made Ruby, only 8, read parts of the decision out loud. She stumbled over many of the words, but she was just as happy as I was with the whole thing: “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
“That means all of my friends who have two mommies are, like, OK now, right?”
“They were always OK,” I told her, “but now their mommmies can be legally married.”
So when Ruby told me she liked girls, I was surprised to find that I was … weird about it. I wasn’t mad or upset or anything; I just was not expecting it. She had always liked boys; she had a boyfriend in sixth grade; she told me about crushes she had on boys. How could I have been so clueless? How could I have not known something so fundamental about my own child?
And then the next wave: I didn’t want things to be harder for her. I didn’t want anyone to judge her or call her a sinner. I didn’t want her to be discriminated against or feel like she had to hide part of who she was. I don’t want her to be excluded from sleepovers or camp or playdates. Now more than ever, with Supreme Court justices saying Obergefell was wrongly decided, I am sad at the ideas of her rights being taken away before she is even old enough to enjoy them.
Within a day or so, though, I had worked through it, and I know my most important job as a mother is to support her and celebrate her on her own terms, as she is, and to fight for her when she needs it.
Part of that is visibility. Someone can hate homosexuality in the abstract, but it’s harder to hate my kid – who is kind and funny and wise and smart.
And part of it is standing up and saying, publicly and proudly, that I love her just the way she is.
Anything that it costs me is not worth having.
Happy National Coming Out Day to my baby girl – and to everyone, everywhere, who has ever wanted “equal dignity in the eyes of the law” and just as important full acceptance from their friends and loved ones.
We’ve come so far … now let’s keep going!