When a child comes out as LGBT, a mother’s journey can take many different paths. The one I’m most struck by is grief. I know a lot of moms of LGBTQ kids. I’d say the majority of them went through some kind of grieving process when their child come out. Even those of us who knew or suspected, had a grieving process.
For parents of LGB kids, the grief is about the loss of the life we envisioned for our child. Even if we suspected they were gay, lesbian or bisexual, we still envisioned them as straight. We saw them married to an opposite sex partner. We envisioned their wedding and what their partner would be like. We especially envisioned them with a family, thus making us grandmothers.
The truth is that parents envision a lot of things for their children not necessarily related to their life partners. We envision them in college, maybe a specific college. We envision a career and a certain kind of success. I’m reminded of the man who used to take care of trees back in California. He knew more about trees than anyone I’d even known. We used to call him a tree scholar. Maybe because his father was an academic, a college professor. He wanted his son to follow in his footsteps and he was certainly smart enough to do that. But he loved trees. He just wanted to take care of them and created a business and a very nice life for himself and his family. He told me how disappointed his father was that he didn’t go to college and become a professor. I imagine his father went through some kind of grieving process for the loss of the vision he had for his son.
When a child tells you they are gay, lesbian or bisexual, all those dreams and visions become very clear. For many of us, we didn’t even realize we had them – they were so much a part of us. Letting go of those dreams and visions is hard for so many of us. We have to grieve what we perceive we’ve lost before we can see what we really have. It takes time and everyone’s time frame is unique to them. There is no prescribed time frame for grief. It passes as it passes.
For the mother of a transgender child, the grief is different. They grieve the loss of the son or daughter they always knew. They grieve the loss of the name so carefully chosen for their child. For many transgender kids, the sight of pictures of them as their birth gender causes dysphoria and they ask their parents to put them away. So moms grieve the loss of those visible memories. They will discover that the child they always knew and loved is still there. It’s just that child is now a different gender than the parents thought they had and goes by a different name. When the parent sees their transgender child blossom as they are allowed to express who they really are, the grief starts to diminish.
When grief does pass, we can see that what we envisioned for our child is not so different from who we now know them to be. Being LGBT does not preclude them getting married. Their spouse may just look a little different from our vision. Being LGBT does not preclude them from having a family. Many LGBT couples have children and we do become grandmothers. Oh, and by the way, our straight children don’t always marry and have families!
Grief can be a private journey or it can be shared. When we share our grief with another parent of an LGBTQ child, we learn we are not alone. We hear other people’s experience and it gives us hope. A mother’s journey can take many paths. Grief is one but we find we walk through it and get to the other side. We look back and wonder what that was all about. Our child is happier than they’ve ever been. And that is all we really wanted for them anyway.