In Part 2 of this series we heard from Jeff DeGroot about his experience with coming out as the child of gay parents. For Mr. DeGroot, who identifies as straight, that alone can be a situation fraught with peril. What about a child of gay parents who also identifies as gay?
A frequent response to a gay person coming out is “are you sure you’re gay?” Children of gay parents receive a variation of this question which is “are you gay?” This question can be a no-win situation. If they actually are gay (sometimes referred to as “second generation”), they must deal with the double-edged sword of defending themselves from the usual anti-gay harassment while also trying to fend off charges of “ah hah! Your parents made you gay!”
This can cause internal conflicts. On the one hand, they know they are gay and might be ok with it. But they might claim they are straight in order to protect their gay parents, or even the entire concept of LGBT-parenting in general. It’s inevitable that as our kids grow they become aware of the controversies surrounding their families. They will learn that one of the biggest scare tactics used in anti-gay propaganda is the fear that gay parents will create gay children.
Abigail Garner, herself the daughter of two gay dads who co-parented with her straight mother, is the author of “Families Like Mine: Children of gay parents tell it like it is”. On her website of the same name she relates the coming out process for family rights activist Ryn Gluckman: “I lost political power as a queer daughter of a lesbian mother in the eyes of both the mainstream and my own community. In the eyes of the religious right and in some queer eyes too, I am the worst thing that can happen.”
The irony in this is that with the current trend in acceptance among the younger generations, if kids like Ryn had straight parents many of them could be out and proud as early as middle school. And yet today’s charged political atmosphere creates unexpected pressures, sometimes to the point that they remain closeted while in a family headed by out gay parents.
As parents we can’t assume that our personal comfort and openness will be enough. Even if we know without a doubt that our child is gay, we cannot expect them to be immediately and equally comfortable with it. There are factors at play beyond our control. Ms. Gluckman has shared with us just one of those factors.