First, I'd like to apologize if my thoughts seem a bit scattered. This morning, I learned about Leelah Alcorn, a LGBT teen here in Ohio who chose to end her own life because her parents didn't accept her.
So I would like to share a coming out story of my own, and how being the mom of a gay child has changed my life for the better.
This is my son, Kyle. He is about to turn 15, and is a Freshman in high school. He is kind, has loads of friends, and is incredibly creative. Seriously. This kid has some serious artistic talent. (It must have skipped a generation, since I can't even draw aesthetically pleasing stick figures!) Kyle gets good grades, is very involved in school activities, and is always the first in line when someone needs help. In fact, he walks his best friend home from school DAILY, just to make sure she gets there safely. We live in a very safe city, so this probably isn't necessary, but I LOVE the fact that his heart is so big that he wants to do it, anyway. I think his BFF appreciates it, too.
Kyle is also very openly gay.
Kyle came out to me a few years ago, while he was still in elementary school. We were watching a documentary about serial killers, and they made mention that killers like Gacy and Dahmer were closet homosexuals, and that their hidden orientation helped fuel their murderous rage. Kyle disappeared for a bit, and then he came downstairs and asked if he could talk to me. He was in tears, and said, "Mom, I think I might be gay."
I know that for a lot of parents, this would feel like the end of the world. Or at least the end of the hopes they may have had for their child. People envision planning weddings, having grandbabies, and their kids leading a "normal" life. No one ever plans to have a gay child. I didn't plan on having a gay child.
Before Kyle was born, I was a right-wing, super-conservative woman. I was married to the World's Biggest Redneck, so I had to go along with HIS beliefs. God forbid I had thoughts or opinions of my own. (No offense to you country folk out there...I LOVE the country life, and my definition of redneck does not include the vast majority of southern folks!) I believed that everything in the Bible HAD to be 100% right, and the idea of gay marriage didn't seem right to me. After all, it's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, right?
Before I became a mother, I am ashamed to admit it, but I was a bigot. I was afraid of things that I didn't understand, therefore it was easier to condemn alternate lifestyles than to open my heart and mind to accept them. It was easier to think as I was told to think, and to believe all of the misguided stereotypes.
Then, I gave birth to a 7lb 13oz baby boy. He instantly became my everything. My ex-husband was an abusive prick, so it was literally me and my son against the world. We were a team. His smile and laughter made my life worth living, and probably prevented me from attempting suicide on more than one occasion. When you feel trapped in an abusive relationship, this sometimes seems like the only way out. But looking at my sweet, blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy made the idea of suicide seem insane. He NEEDED me. And I needed HIM, in more ways than I knew at the time. My son taught me the meaning of unconditional love, and he also taught me how to be a stronger woman and break free of the abusive chokehold I had been in for years.
Being Kyle's mom saved my life, both literally and figuratively.
As Kyle grew, I noticed pretty quickly that he was "different". Rather than wanting to go hunting or fishing with his Dad, he wanted to try on my high heels and make-up. Instead of wanting to tinker around with vehicles, he wanted to design dresses.
I think it's safe to say, I have known my son was gay since he was about 4 years old.
And you know what? It has always been completely and totally okay with me. From the moment I realized I was the mother of a gay child, I was completely at peace with this, and it simply did not matter.
After all, this was the same child who I rocked to sleep, whose boo-boo's I kissed better, and who I nursed through illness. This was my child. No matter who or what he would grow up to be, he would always be my baby, and that love is nothing short of unconditional.
I knew Kyle was gay even before HE did. Having a gay child has changed my mind about a lot of things, and it has changed my heart, too. I am more tolerant, more accepting, and more gentle in general. I am passionate about everyone having the right to love and happiness, and I will be PROUD to give my son away to his future husband one day.
So on that night, when Kyle came to me in tears, telling me he was gay....
"I know. Want to go watch the rest of the movie?"
He suddenly stopped crying, and he smiled. He said, "You mean you don't hate me now? I think God made me wrong, and I just can't make myself change."
This broke my heart. Literally. To see my beautiful, sweet child feel shame for something he didn't choose tore me apart inside. I told him that the God I know doesn't make mistakes, and that he is exactly who he's meant to be. I also told him that we would be there to love him and support him for who he is, and that we were not ashamed of him in the slightest.
We have gone to great lengths to show our 100% support to our son. We left Virginia, in good part because the bullying was out of control and the schools didn't do anything to stop it. When we saw that Kyle was going through Hell every day and had become depressed, we moved to my hometown in Ohio to give him a fresh start. Thankfully, Kyle is not bullied here, and he has a ton of friends. He is like a totally new kid, in the best way possible. Mostly, he is able to freely be himself, without fear of being beaten up or tormented.
I have always been Kyle's biggest cheerleader, and I always will be. The fact that he's gay is just a part of who he is, like his gorgeous blue eyes or his amazing artistic ability. Being gay is part of my son, but it doesn't define him. His worth has nothing to do with his sexuality. His worth comes from being the kind, compassionate, empathetic kid that he is. He will be an amazing man soon, and we couldn't be any more proud.
I guess the reason I am telling out "Coming Out" story is because I wanted to address the fact that before having a gay child of my own, I was very closed-minded. Never in a million years would I have thought my child would be gay. I would have never supported Marriage Equality and equal rights for LGBT people. Never. I had been taught, incorrectly, that these things were dirty and sinful. And while I hate to admit it, these things came out of my mouth on many occasions. I am ashamed that I was ever so ignorant.
But the fact is, my son is gay. Kyle is gay, and he is fabulous, just the way he is. If someone had a magic wand and could magically make Kyle straight? Well, I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't want to change the amazing, wonderful person that he is. Being gay is part of who he is. Accepting and loving him has been the easiest thing in the world. As easy as breathing, in fact.
Today, I fully support Marriage Equality. I support equal rights. I pray every single day that my son will be able to marry the man of his dreams one day, and that his marriage will be respected, honored, and LEGAL. My son deserves to have the same happiness that I do....All of our kids do...Gay? Straight? It doesn't matter. When it all comes down to it, we're all human beings, and we all deserve to be loved, in whatever form that happens to come.
So please, before you utter words of hate or judgement, please keep in mind, your children hear you. They hear every single word. For a child who may be struggling with their own sense of worth due to their sexuality, these words can literally mean the difference between life and death.
Just the other day here in Ohio, a Transgendered teen named Leelah Alcorn took her life, largely because her parents wouldn't accept her for who she is.
This broke my heart.
Please, please realize, the little child whose diaper you're changing...Whose boo-boo's you kiss better, and who you lovingly tuck into bed every night...Well, that child might be gay.
Don't be your child's first bully. Teach them love, tolerance, and acceptance from an early age.
And most of all, love your kids for who they are. Not who you hoped they might be.
No child should ever feel so ashamed of who they are that they end their own lives. Help me battle hate by choosing to love unconditionally.
Being the mom of a gay teen changed my life. Actually, it saved my life.
RIP Leelah, and all the other kids who didn't have the support they needed from family.
Wow, I can't believe that Christmas is just a couple of short days away. This year has truly flown by! While we're all hoping for the material things on our wish lists, I want to tell you about a dear friend of mine. I will not go into great detail about the scientific mumbo-jumbo surrounding her condition, and I will not mention her name, out of respect for her privacy. I will simply call her Marie in this post. I also have to apologize in advance if my thoughts seem scattered. I am crying as I write this, but I feel that this post NEEDS to be written. If it changes ONE person's mind about becoming an organ donor, I will be absolutely thrilled.
This year, rather than that fancy new Coach bag or shiny bling, my friend has a much bigger Christmas wish. My friend wants a chance at life.
You see, I have known Marie since we were about 12 years old. We met in middle school, and the first thing I noticed about this beautiful, shy girl was her warm smile and timid nature. Marie was used to being "different". She was born with a series of serious congenital heart defects, so her life, from birth, has been that of a warrior. She has been fighting to live with every single breath she's ever taken.
She has had multiple open heart surgeries and procedures, many of which were performed before the medical community even knew how to treat her specific disorder. At the time, doctors didn't know what to do to effectively treat infants and children with serious heart malformations. Marie, in many ways, has helped the medical community learn how to treat other kids, just like her. That, to me, is pretty amazing.
Of course her life has been full of fear, as well as uncertainty.
Picture a tiny little girl on an operating room table, putting on her brave face as doctors tried to fix what was "broken". There were no guarantees. Picture her terrified parents in the waiting room, not knowing if their baby would survive these complicated procedures. Back in the 80's, there was a lot of guesswork involved, and by the grace of God, with the help of a skilled medical team, she survived.
About a year ago, Marie learned that the procedure that literally saved her life many years ago, called a Fontan, has actually been slowly killing her. This procedure helped her heart to operate well enough to keep her alive, but it also increased the pressures in her body, which began to destroy her liver.
She has now been diagnosed with both congestive heart failure and late stage Cardiac Cirrhosis. This was something that the medical community didn't know would happen with CHD patients who received the Fontan procedure, and they are just now beginning to see the long-term effects for patients like my friend, Marie. She is actually very lucky that these conditions were even caught in time to plan for treatment of any kind.
So what does this mean for Marie?
It breaks MY heart to say this, but right now, Marie is getting ready to head out of state to meet with a transplant team at a top medical facility. Yes. In order to survive, she will likely need a new heart and a new liver. Both organs will be needed for her to have hopes for a healthy life. She can't receive a healthy "new" liver and keep her heart, because then the new liver would inevitably be destroyed, much like her current liver is.
Pardon my language, but this scares the shit out of me. I hate thinking about the fear my friend and her family are facing, and I hate knowing that while the need for donor organs continues to grow, donations have grown stagnant. I recently looked up some information on organ donation, and what I found was pretty sobering.
Pretty awful to think about, isn't it? SO many peoples' lives can be saved and changed forever through the selfless act of organ donation. Why then, are these organs so difficult to procure for people like Marie, who are in dire need of them? Why is my lifelong friend having to think about the possibility of her own death at the young age of 32? Will she receive the organs she will need to live her life free of illness and disability? Or will her wait simply be too long?
Choosing to be an organ donor is a big decision. I admit, it can be scary to even think about. Choosing to be a donor means that we are acknowledging out own mortality, and no one wants to think about their own death. I have a HUGE fear of death in general, so I can totally understand why some may be apprehensive.
But then, when I think of my friend, Marie, I no longer think of organ donation as a scary thing. I view it as a priceless gift....There are countless people out there right now waiting for someone to give them the chance to LIVE. To finally be able to run that marathon...To be able to have a child of their own, or even adopt. To wake up every day and not have to wonder if the time bomb inside their body was going to detonate. These are things everyone deserves to experience. Marie DESERVES this.
So while you're enjoying the Season of Giving, please consider becoming an organ and tissue donor. This selfless gift can be the difference between life and death for millions in need of healthy organs, including my friend, Marie.
So this Christmas, my biggest wish isn't for that new DSLR camera I want ever so badly. It's not for anything material. I just want someone I love to have the chance to grow old like most of us will. One day, I hope me and Marie can be crochety old ladies sipping iced tea on a porch swing, knitting doilies and talking about our grandchildren. This Christmas, all I want is for my amazing friend to have a real chance at survival.
You can learn more about organ and tissue donation at UNOS.org
Are you an organ donor? Why or why not? I'd love to welcome any discussion on this very important topic. There truly needs to be more awareness of how great this need truly is.
Thanks for listening, and Happy Holidays!