A few years ago when Hailey was 12 she announced that she had something to tell me over breakfast.
I responded with “Okay. But could you hand me the syrup?”
I suspect she was disappointed in my reaction because it was scary for her to say out loud but it didn’t really affect me for two reasons. One: At that time it seemed like lots of very young kids were coming out and I was a little concerned that for some of them it was an identity they were just trying on. It worried me for kids who really are LGBTQ if a ton of young people came out and then later decided they were straight and that being LGBTQ was just a fad. And two: Because I’m not an asshole. I support all people. I’m openly bi myself. I told Hailey that it wasn’t an issue but that maybe until she was older she should embrace the “no labels” concept. Ironically, the “no labels” idea requires you to label yourself as not having a label but it felt right at the time and I was very proud of the way that Victor and I handled this, which was by not handling it at all because it wasn’t a big deal.
Except? It is a big deal. Maybe not to me or you, but to her. And by not taking it seriously and discussing it I think she thought that we didn’t care, or that we didn’t think it was important. It’s easy for me to say that the world is so much more open and caring than every before but that ignores the fact that everything a teenage girl goes through is viewed through the lens of low self-esteem and fear and shame and hormones and that is all magnified if there’s also an otherness that you are carrying around with you…a fear that comes every time she explains who she is. Everything in junior high sucks but there’s an added layer of hell that comes with knowing you’re not like everyone else.
Hailey is very lucky. We support her fully. She’s out at school and has friends who support her. Her family loves her. There are communities she can join and there are far more out kids in her school than there ever were when I was growing up. Today there are parades and twitter trends and celebrations. It’s different and better and I’m so thankful to the people who’ve come before her who have made this path so much easier for her.
I’ve never been to a Pride parade. I’m not a parade girl. I’m not a people girl. But last year I told Hailey we should all go. Victor and I were ready. She was not. She was out to her friends but not loudly out, and she worried about what would happen if kids from her school saw her there. I explained that tons of straight people and queer allies go to those parades. I reminded her that I was bi. I told her it might be good for her to see difference celebrated. She thought about it for a while but decided she wasn’t ready for that yet.
And I understand it.
The concept of Pride is a weird one for me too…the idea of celebrating something that is as simple as who you love. It’s weird that it’s still something that has to be fought for, that we’re still in a place where it’s considered brave to be exactly who you are. But at the same time, there is so much shame and prejudice around sexuality that it’s necessary to loudly support all people in order to combat the hate that still exists out there.
So we let Hailey take the reins on how she wants to tell her own story. Over the past few years she’s become more confident in who she is and the fear is still there, but it is not as great as her need to be loved and accepted for who she is. Today she told me that she would be okay with me telling this part of her story. In fact, she said, it would make her happy.
And that makes me happy. You’re only as happy as your saddest child, after all.
Having a teenager is hard. You fuck up all the time. I think maybe I shouldn’t have acted like it was no big deal when she told me. Maybe I should have recognized that even though it wasn’t a big deal to me it was a big deal to her. I don’t know. I only know that I’m trying my best and that I will do anything to create a safe passage for her. As safe as can be.
Hailey is now 14. She is openly a lesbian. After two years I can tell you it isn’t a fad. It’s part of who she is. It’s one of many amazing parts that make up the brilliant woman she is becoming. She is a singer, and actress, an honor roll student. She works lights for the theater. She has a temper. She can whistle. She is too young to date but one day she’ll make a great girlfriend to a lucky girl. She stands up for others. She can’t keep her room clean. She memorizes dramatic monologues for fun. She wears braces for bad ankles and is taking Opera lessons and loves her pets and can’t write in cursive and wants to be a neurosurgeon and adores American Horror Story (although I fast-forward through all the bad parts) and is so much more multifaceted than anyone sees. The same as all kids her age, I suppose.
She’s my daughter and I am so very proud of her. I hope you are too.