Jenny Block on living authentically as a gay parent

My daughter just came out to her boyfriend.

No, she didn’t come out as gay. She came out as the daughter of a gay mom.

She had told me she was nervous about telling him. She knew she wouldn’t want to date him if he was a homophobe — and she knew she wanted to date him.

She’s 17 years old. So, naturally she told him via text.

She could immediately see the bubbles. “I was so nervous. It was taking forever,” she told me.

And then the text came through:

“Baby, I love you more than anything. You don’t have to hold anything back from me. Don’t ever be scared to tell me anything. Even if it’s something that might be hard to tell people, I’m your boyfriend and I’m always gonna be by your side. You are my princess and my ride or die. I don’t have any problem with that baby. If she makes your mom happy then I’m happy for them. I LOVE YOU HANNAH WITH ALL MY HEART.”

She sent me the text right after she received it, and I melted. And I cried. Full on cried.

It’s sad that she and I both would be nervous about that moment. But we were. It may be 2016 and gay marriage may be legal, but as much as we may be moving forward as a country, there still remains a nation of individuals who are woefully behind.

I’ve been an out queer parent for more than 10 years now. But somehow it never gets easier. Every time my daughter makes a new friend, I worry. I worry the friend will reject her. I worry the parents will reject me.

And, honestly, I worry that the parent will inform other parents, and we will meet with angry villagers wielding pitchforks.

When my daughter was growing up, we talked about all different kinds of families and all different kinds of love. I knew she got it, because one day I overheard her playing Barbies with a friend when she was maybe 4 years old:

“Ken and Ken can’t get married,” the other child said to my daughter. “The law says they can’t,” she told her friend. “But God says they can. He loves everybody and says all the kinds of love are all good kinds.”

I was beaming. I’m not a religious person. But I am certainly a spiritual person and God did come up. Clearly it had stuck and it had stuck in just the way I had hoped.

In that moment, I guess the other kid believed her, because I heard the nuptials ensue.

Years later, I got an email from the mom of a new friend of my daughter’s. The girls were probably around 10 or 11 years old.

The family was very Christian — lots of church going and church related activities; crosses and framed Biblical quotes on the walls in their home.

When I saw the email in my inbox, my stomach dropped. The subject line simply said, “Our girls.” I had no idea what to expect. I can tell you that what was inside was none of the things that were running through my head.

Inside was one of the loveliest emails I have ever received. It said that she knew I was gay and that she wanted me to know that she knew so that I wouldn’t worry that there was some sort of elephant in the room or shoe threatening to drop.

It said that she admired me and my work, that she adored my daughter, that she so appreciated all the things her daughter got to do with us — go the theater and the ballet and to travel with us. She said she didn’t care who I loved. She cared that I was a kind person with whom she trusted her child.

I remember crying and crying that day. I remember telling myself to remember that people are good and not to make assumptions about them.

I remember being grateful for this person and for being able to live authentically.

I feel like I’ve been lucky. I know that’s not the case for all parents, especially gay parents. Sure, as a teenager, my daughter has screamed, “Do you know how hard it is to have a lesbian mom?” and left me feeling very guilty about being born gay and living authentically.

I am sure there are parents at the schools she’s attended who aren’t fans of mine — either because I am gay or because I am so publically gay. But no one has ever said a word to either me or my daughter.

In some ways, the thing that has made parenting as a lesbian mom a challenge has been the stress both my daughter and I have about what others will think, despite the fact that we haven’t had any direct negative reactions. I admit, I do get hate mail about my “abominable lifestyle” and all of the horrible things I am doing to my daughter by “exposing” her to it. But other than that, the only monsters have been in our minds.
Gay parenting — like all parenting — is hard. It has its own unique challenges. But I feel like a very lucky girl, from having a great kid to having a great partner, both of whom like one another. And, believe me, my daughter has NOT dug all of my girlfriends.
Luckily, this is the one that’s going to stick.

My advice? Trust your heart. Live your truth. Talk to your child openly and honestly and age appropriately.

People are generally good. And the ones who aren’t? Neither you nor your kid need them in your life any way.

Jenny Block is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex, by Jenny Block, foreword by Betty Dodson.

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2016.