Recently I had a conversation with someone about my son and she said something that got to me. She said “I think you have to know that you may be unpleasantly surprised by some people’s reactions when you tell them about him.” I wasn’t upset that she said this. It was a candid conversation and we were being open and honest. But I was upset by the fact that I completely disagree with her.
I don’t disagree that people will have negative reactions. I disagree that I will be surprised when it happens. One thing I don’t think this person realizes is that when my son came out to us, it hit me that over the years not only will he have to come out every time he meets someone new, but so will we. Every time someone asks us “So is your son dating anyone?” or “Can I set him up?”, we will have to come out to them. Every time we meet someone new and assuming we go into details about our children, we will have to come out. Hopefully we will get to the point where it will not be a big deal to say “our son is gay.” But that doesn’t meant that the people we say it to won’t think it’s a big deal.
Today, at a shabbat meal, someone was talking about one of the teenage boys there and said, “wait till he brings a girl home….” I don’t argue that this line of conversation is the expected norm. But when that conversation happens at the shabbat table about my son, either we will have to smile and nod politely or correct the person speaking and say, “Actually…”. And to be honest, this prospect scares me. Because once again, I won’t always know what the reaction of the person I’m talking to will be. I fully expect that some people will say hurtful, ignorant, or negative things to and about us.
I think about this constantly. And I think it’s normal to think about this constantly since we’re so early into this process and since he is still young. But the anticipation of it is NOT easy. So even though I wasn’t upset that this person said what she said, I was a bit taken aback. I actually responded, “No, I don’t think I will be unpleasantly surprised. I expect that some people will react negatively. ”
But this does bring me to another point. The pleasantly surprising reactions I get and will continue to get. Recently I had the opportunity to tell an old friend about my son. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time and she asked how my kids were doing at school and at the moment I felt like I HAD to tell her. A bit of background is that this friend comes from what most would think of as a very Ultra Orthodox background. She is still very Orthodox, and superficially one might not think that she would not be as accepting as some more “modern Orthodox” friends. But I know this friend and I had a strong feeling she would react okay. But I wasn’t 100% sure. You can never be 100% sure. Luckily I was pleasantly surprised and she was better than “okay”. She was wonderful.
Of the few people we’ve told, all of the reactions have been pleasantly surprising. And I do not want to downplay this at all. I know I shouldn’t be “surprised” that reactions are good, but based on what I wrote earlier in this post, I am and will continue to be guarded. I don’t ever want to be negatively surprised. I’m scared it will hurt too much. So while it may seem pessimistic, a small part of me always assumes that someone will react somewhat badly and then I can be pleasantly surprised when they don’t. I look forward to a time when other people’s reactions don’t matter to me. I hope with all of my heart that this will happen in the future.