I came out in my teen years. Decades later, I am coming out again as a special needs parent.
As the world celebrates Pride Month and the importance of inclusion, love and tolerance, I am thankful for living in a part of the world that is, for the most part, progressive and inclusive.
I came out at 14. I remember how nervous I was and how it took me three weeks to work up the nerve to tell the first person I came out to.
I was very fortunate to have received mostly supportive responses. When I didn’t, I am glad I had the wisdom to walk away.
When I told the pastor of the church that I was attending that I was gay, she suggested that I go see a psychologist.
I was 16 and didn’t have the boldness to tell her how angry and hurt her reaction made me feel. I stopped going to church and knew that organized religion was not for me. Today, I don’t need a church to feel a connection to God.
Both the positives and negatives of the coming out experience shaped my formative teen years and influenced how I perceive, respond and adapt to challenging situations as an adult.
I see parallels between my own coming out with now coming out as a special needs parent.
In the early days, I worried a lot about how others would react.
Not because I felt ashamed, but because I did not want a four letter prognosis, FASD, to become a negative label or stigma for our T and to affect how others treat him.
But like my own coming out, it became easier with every step – and I quickly found support in family, friends, colleagues and professionals.
When I came out in my teens, the Internet was new. I am fortunate that today there are so many online resources and communities to help the hubby and I navigate this journey.
Perhaps the most important lesson that I learned from my own coming out was the importance of advocacy.
The hubby and I have embraced this ethos for T and are very grateful to have met so many allies through the school system and the medical and social services communities.
The irony, though, is that while many people know about T’s prognosis, he has yet to know about his condition.
I think a lot about how the hubby and I will have this conversation with him one day.
He is now 6 and we want to wait until he is a little older for two reasons: a) he is still young and b) he doesn’t have a diagnosis yet and is doing well so far with the supports we have in place.
I don’t quite know the words that I will use but I know that I will take a direct but compassionate approach.
I will make it clear that this was nothing that he did or was responsible for.
But the most important message that he needs to hear and to understand is that he is perfect the way he is.
There is nothing wrong with him, nothing to be ashamed of and whatever challenges he is facing because of his medical condition, we will continue to support and work together with him to face and to overcome them.
I can’t control how he will react. I sometimes worry about how this knowledge of his condition will shape his self concept.
But I do genuinely feel hopeful. Despite ongoing challenges and regular struggles, T continues to surprise us all with his awesomeness.
And like the rainbow that has been embraced as a symbol for LGBTQ2S+ inclusion, I feel hopeful there will always be something wonderful at the end of every stormy moment.