There’s a video that’s been making the rounds, reportedly recorded clandestinely by a young man whose parents were upset and angered when he came out to them. I can’t vouch for the truth of this specific video, but it is accurate for far too many youth—and adults, for that matter, but adults are generally better able to deal with this level of venom. They may have heard it before from strangers and they probably have more in the way of support systems than youth—and most importantly, they are no longer dependent on their parents. The video is here., but trigger warning—it’s very harsh.
In response to that video, a gay parent wrote an open letter to the parents in the video. His letter is here.
As a parent, I really resonated with much of what the latter parent said, but I don’t think he emphasized enough what stands out to me, and it is this: Our children do not belong to us. Not ever. They are not our property, to do with as we wish, to force into our predetermined moulds, and thrown out (literally) if they don’t fit our expectations.
There are all kinds of ways kids might not be what their parents expected, from the day they are born to the day the child or the parent dies. A child’s gender, physical ability, health status, appearance, intellectual ability, athletic skills—parents naturally have hopes around each of these and those expectations are bound to be different for each parent (one parent may hope for a football star while his or her partner dreams of a tennis ace, but they both are hoping for athletic prowess). But it is not up to parents, to decide whether our child is acceptable to us or not based on our hopes and expectations.
It is not acceptable to disown a child because he prefers football to tennis—that’s not a very contentious point. Nor is it acceptable to throw a child out of the family because she has physical disabilities. A child who chooses a different career path than the parents had hoped is not a failure or to be ignored.
Our children are not supposed to fulfil all the fantasies and dreams parents have had; they are not surrogates for their parents, for the failed dreams and hopes and unfulfilled plans. They are each their own person, and parents cannot have control of them—children have their own hope and dreams. If parents cannot prevent the pain and disappointments their children will experience, neither can they—although some try—to keep them from the happiness they seek.
It is unacceptable to disown a child who is being who they are meant to be, simply because the parent don’t like or approve of it. And it really doesn’t matter if that child being him or herself means a parent is unhappy with their child playing a particular sport or not, following a certain profession or not, living a specified place or not, or loving a certain kind of person or not. None of these are real reasons for rejecting a child. There are no real reasons. A parent may not like a child's choices, actions, and decisions, but the parent still loves them.
No “unless” or “except” or “buts” to be considered.
Either a child is loved as he or she is, or they aren’t really loved after all. Because children are not property, no matter their age, choices, decision, or anything else about them.
They are who they are. A parent’s job is to love them and support them as they find their own way in the world. A parent can give advice but only if asked and then the parent shuts up and lets the child make their own decision, for good or ill, and continues to love them.
Because that is real, unconditional love.