by Sam Thoron, PFLAG National President Emeritus | My story begins in January 1990 when my daughter, aged 19, the youngest of three children, came out to her father as a Lesbian woman. My wife, Julia, and I quickly realized that Liz had not changed. She is still the same wonderful person that we brought into the world and nurtured through her childhood into her emergence as an adult. We needed to learn what this new information meant for us and for our lives. We needed to understand the implications for her in her life.
We soon joined the local chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and there found support for our new journey. I was able to put into perspective my fears about Liz’ future. I also gained an understanding of some of the discrimination she would face. I went to PFLAG for support for my journey and learned that that journey included support for Liz. That means more than just a hug, it means being an advocate for her full equality, and that cannot happen without being open about being the parent of a Gay child.
If you had asked me before Liz came out what I wanted for my children I would have told you that I wanted them to be whole, healthy, happy adults on their own terms. I confess that having one of them identify as LGBT was not in my plans. I was forced to let go of those plans, to tear up my scripts for Liz. The gift of this process is that I also gave myself permission to tear up the scripts for her two older brothers. This is enormously freeing.
I have long been deeply committed to the principle that Liz deserves to be afforded the same respect and dignity as flows so naturally to her two straight brothers. She deserves all the same rights, privileges and obligations of full citizenship in this country. She deserves the freedom to marry the person of her choice and to have that marriage recognized everywhere. She deserves full equality in every aspect of her life, in healthcare, in education, in public accommodation, and especially in the workplace. Bringing this about demands open advocacy.
Over the years I have many times been asked to take actions that, at first look, seemed to be way outside the envelope of my comfort zone. Each time I have had to ask myself if I valued full equality for Liz and for the LGBT world. The answer has always been yes. As a result I have had the privilege of meeting and working with a host of wonderful and inspiring people. When Julia and I agreed to make the lead television ad for the No on 8 Campaign, ‘comfort zone’ ceased to be a useful concept. We are out.
I have come to understand that the very best tool for changing hearts and minds that any of us have is our own story, our own experience, strength and hope. It is vital for parents, allies, family members and all members of the diverse LGBT Communities to tell our stories at every opportunity, and even to create opportunities. We can change the world, one person at a time. Each of us must do our part. Full equality will prevail!
For more resources and prespectives on LGBT and allied parenting, you can check out our Town Call podcast LGBT Parenting: Our Children Speak. We’ll also be hosting a fantastic panel on “Straight Talk from Teens on Having Not-So-Straight Parents” at the 2013 Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Minneapolis, October 29-31. You can take a look at the complete list of confirmed Summit workshops online.