The following speech was given at the Oct. 8 vigil at DePaul university, honoring those lost to suicide.
My name is Maureen and my 13-year-old son is gay.
I like to think that my son never really had to come out to his dad and I. From an early age, he was not your stereotypical boy. His favorite color was lighter pink, he loved dress up, his dream is to become a Fashion Designer and he is a gifted musician. Sports are not his thing and he is always surrounded by a gaggle of girls. Many parents have given me quizzical looks over the years about letting my son wear pink, or dress up as a "girl" witch for Halloween. But deep down I believed that if I suppressed his spirit and true being, I would eventually destroy his courage and self-assuredness. I have gone against advice about trying to get him to fit in more. Instead, I have let his creativeness flourish.
I regularly attend my PFLAG meetings and am often told what an amazing parent I am and how lucky my son is to have my husband and I as his parents. While I am flattered by their praise, I genuinely do not feel that I deserve any. I am only doing what I signed up for when I made the choice to become a parentto love my children, unconditionally.
I have been told that my child is the first in his school's history to come out at such an early age. The truth is that there are many more children there who are gay and may not feel safe, comfortable or strong enough to come out. I remember my son telling me when he was five that he felt different. You cannot tell me that these kids don't know they are gay. They are just too afraid to talk about it.
Gay teens and adults endure ridicule and humiliation that our society brushes under the rug. My son hears the word "faggot" and gay slurs multiple times every day. They may not always be directed at him, but they are there and he hears them. These comments are humiliating and demoralizing. Yes, some would say I am oversensitive; it's just words. I don't accept that. These words are like poison and they can become lethal.
As parents, family and friends of gay loved ones, we need to continue to educate and insist that this abuse, misinformation and bigotry ends. Gay people are not going to go away. Children are going to come out earlier in life. We need to dispel the myths and correct the misinformation. I cannot imagine the hurt, confusion and pain that young people face when they are forced to live a life that is not their own. My goal for my son is to grow into an adult with all the same experiences that any other teen goes through. I think that his Dad and I have accomplished that and we have a very secure, happy and confident young man to show for it. Parents need to know that they are doing more damage than good by trying to suppress what they cannot change. Having a gay child may not be the life that you signed up for, but it's the one you got. Do the right thinglove them in their entirety.
Maureen Goldin and her family live in Libertyville, Illinois.
PLEASE SEE LAST WEEK'S SPECIAL "IT GETS BETTER" SECTION
ELSEWHERE IN THIS ISSUE
IT GETS BETTER: Protecting Our Youth BY Kathleen Sebelius and Arne Duncan www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php?AID=29158
IT GETS BETTER: by Dean Littner www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php?AID=29159
IT GETS BETTER: Surviving, by Brittany Barton www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php?AID=29160
IT GETS BETTER: Supporting My Son by Maureen Goldin www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php?AID=29161
IT GETS BETTER: For Those We Lost by Matthew Zaradich www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php?AID=29162
IT GETS BETTER: Resources www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php?AID=29163