Now that the first generation of the “gayby boom” is entering adulthood, we can begin to gain firsthand insight into what it was like for these children to grow up with openly LGBT parents. One aspect of their coming of age that might be a bit of a surprise is their coming out experience. Coming out? About what? Certainly they would have no problem letting us know they were gay, right? Well, that isn’t the kind of coming out that we’re discussing.
“The process of coming out about your family can be a difficult one,” says 24 year old Jeff Degroot, who has two moms and is an active member of the national organization COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere). “I have never been ashamed of my family, but at the same time I grew up knowing that I would be teased if I talked about my parents in certain situations. When I was in middle school and high school I had to deal with the dueling emotions of guilt, brought on by not publically supporting my family, and embarrassment when peers asked me pointed questions about my family. I think it is important for parents to realize this struggle and support their children no matter how out they want to be about their family.”
“I also have to face the everyday reality that my family is treated differently. From the time I was in first grade there were measures on the Oregon (where I grew up) ballot to legalize discrimination against my family. Beyond the political discrimination, there have been countless social situations where peers of mine have said hateful or ignorant things about the LGBT community without knowing my family structure.”
There is also a generational element at play in regards to how safe our children feel with being open, Mr. DeGroot explains, “I have met (other children of LGBT parents) who are in middle school and have been enthusiastic about talking about their family, and others who are my age or older who still do not discuss their family with even their close friends.”
The one common experience for all these kids after coming out are the endless questions. Among the FAQs are “What is it like to never know your dad/mom?,” “How were you conceived/born,” “What is it like to grow up with two moms/dads?,” etc. According to Mr. DeGroot, “Most people feel too uncomfortable to ask these questions thinking they might offend me, but I enjoy talking about my family and I think it is generally a good thing for more people to have exposure to those of us raised in non-traditional families.”
“I feel blessed to be raised by two loving parents who had the courage to do something different and start an alternative family, which has caused me to face life with an open mind and cherish what is different.”