Today we continue our celebration of LGBTQ Pride Month with an original, personal essay under this week’s theme: family and relationships. While recent horrific events may discourage us, we tread onwards in support of the LGBTQ community and hope to meaningfully contribute to the conversation around respect, dignity, and equality for all.
Please visit our blog each Monday in June as we post think pieces from Wiley authors and LGBTQ advocates centered around a new theme. You’ll also get unlocked access to journal articles and book excerpts that examine the ethical, social, and philosophical issues faced by the LGBTQ community. Thanks for joining us as we continue the necessary conversation on LGBTQ rights, awareness, and support.
Author’s Note: I wrote this a few days before the horrific tragedy that unfolded in the early hours of this past Sunday morning in Orlando. I wrote this with an immense feeling of pride for who I am, pride for who my family is, and pride for all the progress that we as a community have made. I wrote this with an immense sense of hope and happiness for the future as we continue to ride on the wave towards true equality. Yet Sunday’s events have rattled the soul and have shaken my determination… but that can only be temporary. I still feel all of these things – more deeply so now – despite that fact that there are people in this world who do not want me or my brothers and sisters to exist. But we do exist and someone else’s narrow reality is never going to change that.
When I told my family that I was gay, I remembered thinking to myself beforehand that I wanted the act of telling them to be more about the fact that I had met someone special as opposed to an epic proclamation of something that frankly they had already heavily suspected. Not because I don’t feel pride for who and what I am. Let me be clear — once I came to understand what these feelings were, I have never once wanted to be anyone other than myself. Rather, I wanted my family to understand that I wasn’t any different. I was still the same sometimes quiet, sometimes loud little boy that I had always been. I wanted it to be no different than when my brother brought his first serious girlfriend home to meet my parents. I wanted that for myself because I don’t view myself differently from my brother in that respect, and I felt that I deserved that moment.
Homosexuality is not a stranger to my family – deriving mostly from my mother’s side. My father likes to joke about this openly. My closest cousin erupted out of the closet in the early 90’s and it landed like a thud on the living room floor when we were all told. But it was a sign of the times. He was living in New York City, AIDS was continuing to ravage the community, and discrimination was driving the greater reason to speak out and be proud. My other cousin never needed to come out because he was just born with that authentic sense of self and his sexuality was never questioned. And so on and so on, as there are several others. They are all older than I am – I am the baby – therefore again came into themselves at a time when the sexual preference proclamation was intrinsically necessary.
It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I was getting ready to leave my parent’s house in Connecticut to return to Boston, but before I left I needed to have this conversation with my family. My brother already knew – I had told him months prior. I expected my father to bristle and stiffen in that classic, New England Irish Catholic way – immediately shutting any and all emotion inside – and for my mother to embrace me with a million motherly arms, telling me she always knew, that she was so proud, and that she wanted to know all about this new boyfriend.
So when I muttered the words “I have a new person in my life,” what I didn’t realize was that it truly did come as a surprise to my parents. My father sternly looked at me for a moment, paused, and said that he had been all over the world, that he had met and worked with all kinds of people, and that it made no difference to him who I loved. He came over to me to give me a hug and said he was happy that I had found someone. I could tell that my mother’s back had straightened and she said things like “I’m disappointed” and “don’t put yourself at risk” and “I wish your life was going in another direction.” It was hard for me to hear, and to be honest, I was the one who was disappointed and felt very much that my life was finally going in the right direction. I left relieved but also feeling a sense that something had changed between parent and child.
Time passed and feelings began to ease. A few weeks later, my mother apologized for reacting the way she did. And then she wanted me to tell her all about this new boyfriend. Obviously, she needed the space to absorb this new reality. I am not sure if my very traditional parents truly understand the situation, but we move forward with the hope that one day they will. I continue to say things like “when we get married” and “if we have children” just to remind them that this is the life I have – unexpected as it is. And it sinks in. A few months ago, we were on the phone and my mother said that she couldn’t understand how a family could disown a child for being gay. It was a horrible example of the flaws within our human makeup. She hopes that we can reach a place where all of this isn’t necessary because people are people and family is family.
People are people. And family is family.
It is such a parochial statement with no real depth within the syntax, but the meaning is clear and profound. You are who you are and that isn’t something that should ever change. Your family members are your greatest champions and should be there for you always. I was proud to hear my mother say these words, especially after our rocky start. The latest research shows that 73% of millennials support same-sex marriage, whereas the Baby Boomer generation, i.e., my parents’ generation, is still stuck underneath 50%. This presents a seismic shift in attitudes towards both gender and sexuality, especially as millennials begin to have families of their own.
The fight for equality and acceptance is far from over though. This month, President Obama hosted a reception in honor of Pride month and in his closing comments said, “So some folks never imagined we’d come this far — maybe even some in this room. Change can be slow. And I know that there have been times where at least some of the people in this room have yelled at me. But together, we’ve proven that change is possible, that progress is possible. It’s not inevitable, though. History doesn’t just travel forward; it can go backwards if we don’t work hard. So we can’t be complacent. We cannot be complacent. Securing the gains this country has made requires perseverance and vigilance. And it requires voting. Because we’ve got more work to do.”
There are parts of this world – including the United States – where parents and communities do not accept this type of progress. And so he is absolutely right; we’ve got more work to do. The month of June is a time for everyone – the LGBTQ community, allies, parents, brothers, sisters, friends – to celebrate the progress that we’ve made and to also look towards the future progress that needs to come….
About the Author
Brian Giblin is a publishing professional living and working in Boston. He currently works at Wiley as a Journals Publishing Manager in the areas of Business, Management, and Policy Studies. In his spare time he enjoys baking, reading paperback books, and riding his bicycle.