I am a lesbian….That short, seemingly simple, sentence took me years to be able to say out loud. Fear, uncertainty, social stigma, religious teachings all encouraged my silence.
As an adolescent I became, as most adolescents do, increasingly aware of the people I was attracted to. I wondered why I didn’t want a boyfriend like all the other kids and why I was so drawn to my best friend. When we kissed, I understood. Yet, for 3 years I told myself I was not a lesbian. I did not want to be a lesbian, and no one would know that I was in a relationship with a woman.
I remember sitting next to my partner, 16 years old, listening to a lecture about homosexuality and why it was wrong. I remember my youth minister, a man a highly respected, asking the group one question: do you all understand that homosexuality is a sin? I also vividly remember my thought: No, I do not. For the first time I opened my mouth about the topic of homosexuality. I asked him how someone, who has no choice about who they are attracted to, could possibly be sinning. How could this thing that you have no control over be wrong? His look assured me that was a question better left unasked.
After I fell silent again, among my peers, my friends, my mentors, I realized never again would I question their teachings and never would I reveal my true orientation. I chose to live a lie. I chose to lie to my family, my friends, my teachers, essentially to everyone I had known. I chose to live in fear.
As a society it is important to understand that we all have biases, we have groups of people that make us feel uncomfortable. Perhaps it is the welfare moms that are living off your tax dollars or even the young black kids with their pants too low that get your blood pressure elevated. What I also know about biases is that with more information and more exposure to those groups of people we have, the more our biases begin to lessen. We begin to put ourselves into their shoes.
Homosexuality is not simply a lifestyle choice, it is an orientation that 2-3% of the population experience. As a parent you can make or break your child’s acceptance of their orientation. Suicide attempts are unusually high among gay and lesbian young people and with a few simple words: “I love you for exactly who you are” you have the power to comfort your child in one of the most difficult periods of their life.
By Tina Parker