Our family reached out to Toronto Pflag when our 12-year-old son Simon told us he was gay. He also told us that he hated who he was and that he didn’t want to be gay. That shocked me; until then I didn’t understand the internal struggle that can occur when people discover they are attracted to the same sex.
Simon was in emotional pain, being bullied by classmates and self harming. I felt tremendous guilt at not recognizing his pain sooner. For several months he had retreated from our family. I was concerned, but I rationalized it as adolescent behavior. When I realized that Simon needed help, I found that resources and understanding are hard to come by when a 12-year-old identifies as LGBTQ.
I contacted Toronto Pflag and spoke to Irene. I will never forget that first phone call; the kind voice that understood the answers to questions I hadn’t even thought of yet. I recall silently crying into the phone and Irene knowing just what to say. She talked to me about what it feels like, as a parent, to discover unanticipated difference. She said it was okay to feel sad and worried about the future for Simon, but that we best spend as little time as possible in that concerned place because life for Simon was going to be just fine. There would be a few extra struggles, and the proper supports needed, but life would be fabulous nonetheless. We privately and briefly grieved the image we had created in our minds for Simon and we had hope for future.
Our family started going to Toronto Pflag meetings, and the new path that our son had shown to us soon became easier to navigate. We had a place to go for support. We could ask questions, like how do we handle same-sex sleepovers on school trips and at home, and what do we say to friends who are unkind? At the meetings, Simon saw other LGBTQ kids. Yes, they were a little older, but they were at the meetings -- sharing, crying and laughing. We felt less alone, and it was a very lonely time for all of us at first.
Throughout this process our daughter Sydney was tremendously supportive and loving of her brother. They have always been very close and it was actually Sydney who told me that she heard Simon was gay and being bullied at school. Sydney was simply accepting of Simon and could comfort him better than my husband or I at times. Through this experience, I feel like I got to know both of my children better in different ways.
Today Simon is a happy and confident person. He has a hop, and an occasional skip, in his step, and we believe all our lives are richer because he is living his life as a whole person. Being gay is just one fun fact about Simon. Compassion; strength and courage are other good qualities about him. Simon has expanded our family, as we are all members of the Toronto Pflag family now, and for that we couldn’t be more grateful.