I probably should have been home today baking and cooking for Rosh Hashana on my day off of work. Instead I’m on my way home from the JQY Teens’ 2015-16 Kickoff Picnic that took place today in New York and I couldn’t be happier. This picnic was open to teens involved in JQY, and their families. There were about 50 teens,parents, siblings, aunts and other relatives and friends. It was amazing, to say the least. I have never attended an LGBT event with my son, and he has never attended an LGBT parent event with me. And I loved every minute. The kids involved in this group call themselves a family. I heard them mention this several times today. But meeting these other parents of teens, I realized that we are family as well. I’ve spoken to several mothers on the phone before but hadn’t met them in person and we remarked about how comfortable we felt meeting in person. I had to explain to one mother that I am actually a pretty cynical person who doesn’t let other people into my life that easily, yet it felt completely natural to hug the people that I met for the first time upon first introduction.
Even better than meeting other parents, was being able to see my son with all of his JQY friends. I’ve never seen him in an environment with all (or mostly) LGBT people and he was so comfortable. I had to stop myself from taking picture after picture because I felt like my son was finally part of a group of Orthodox and traditional kids where he was in the majority in this area. He has great friends at home, but he often feels like an outsider because of his sexuality. He was so happy and I felt bad when it was time to leave. When I say that this group of kids ran the gamut of religiosity, I am really not kidding. I don’t want to go into more detail, but let’s just say there were all kinds of traditional and Orthodox kids at this event. It was a sight to see and one that I will not forget for a long time.
One parent joked, “I don’t get it, these kids are doing such normal things!! When do they go off to the side and have an orgy?” It was a bit off color but of course he was referring to the fact that many people believe that if we are allowing our kids to be involved in an LGBT youth group, it must be rife with sex and sexual situations. I can’t stress how “normal” (I hate that word) these teens were. They were regular kids having fun like regular kids. Playing catch, taking selfies, playing games. And enjoying the fact that they had something in common with one another. No more, no less. It was a beautiful sight.
When my son came out, I found JQY and they didn’t really have a teen program (for kids under 17). I remember writing them an email on the off chance that maybe they would be able to connect him and me with younger teens. At the time there was one other mom for me to meet. It’s incredible that only 22 months later, this group is thriving and these kids (and parents) have such a safe space to meet other kids like themselves and to be regular kids. I’m very appreciative.