David McFarlane has a beautiful, sad piece at Huffington Post , about his estrangement from his Fundamentalist Christian mother, who, by his account, used to be his best friend. Unfortunately, she believes things about gay people that aren’t true, but that the Religious Right tells parents like her, which ultimately results in tearing families apart. How those people can call themselves “pro-family” with a straight face is galling. In their family, though, David’s being gay seems to be just the straw that broke the camel’s back:
I first came out as an environmentalist, then an English major, and inevitably a full-blown liberal. I was supposed to be rich and philosophically aligned with my parents. By the time I told them I was gay, my mother had suffered too many disappointments to feel much worse about anything. A homosexual son was horrible, horrible news to imagine others hearing, but her sweet boy had already spurned the idea of studying medicine and marrying a mama grizzly. I was failed progeny. Being gay was the coup de grâce of our defeated relationship.
Reading this, I see problems that go much further than a disagreement about sexuality. For a variety of reasons, I’ve been contemplating lately the pressures parents put on their children, and the fact that some parents seem to dream a little bit too specifically for their kids. Any system where a parent considers a child a failure because he didn’t grow up to conform to a set of norms about what adult life is “supposed to look like,” or because they didn’t do what their siblings, cousins or friends did, is a flawed system. I’m at that age when a lot of the people I’m close to are starting families, and when we talk about their kids, I always say something about dreaming that they grow up to be happy, successful in whatever they want to do, authentic, loved, etc. — all the things a parent should naturally want for their kids. It’s not reasonable to expect your child to be a doctor, or to marry a “Mama Grizzly,” or to be philosophically aligned with you, or to be heterosexual.
In the piece, David seems conflicted over the fact that he and his mother really don’t speak anymore, wondering whether he’s being a “bad gay son” in continuing the estrangement. We can’t answer that question. Everybody has to take stock of their own situation and try to do the best with what they have. Family estrangements are nothing new, but it’s sad that in 2013, with all the other advances we’ve made, there are still many, many LGBT people who are having to cobble together their own families because the ones they were born into don’t accept them for who they are. Yet at the same time, I see friends of mine who have teenagers and college students, a few of whom have come out, and those families are serving as a living example of what it should look like for LGBT people in 2013.
So it’s all luck of the draw, I suppose. Happy Mothers’ Day to all the moms out there, including my own mom.