Suzanne Brockman is a woman with an incredible voice. Not only does she have the talent of a well-skilled storyteller, as shown in her New York Times Best Selling Troubleshooter Series, Suzanne has a voice within the Gay/Lesbian Community that people stop to hear. As a proud card-carrying member of Parents, Family, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (www.PFLAG.com), this straight-shooter and her husband, Ed, stand proud and side-by-side with their son, Jason. They want to reach out to those parents and children out there who are learning how to live healthy, happy lives as in the gay and lesbian community.
Your son Jason, is a gay man. You mentioned he tipped off your gaydar early in life. Can you explain?
I knew Jason was gay when he was three. I just knew.
He was such a funny, gentle, special little kid. Like most little kids, he was completely asexual. And yet I was pretty darn sure that when he grew up he’d identify as gay, and that he’d be faced with having to “come out” to us, his family and friends.
Did it scare me? A little, sure. At the time (1988), I hadn’t given much thought to what being gay meant. At the time, I didn’t have any out gay friends. (That has changed!) I worried about the harshness of the world — caused by the hatred and fear of ignorant people — and how it would affect Jason’s chances at finding happiness in his life.
But here was my bottom line: I loved my son. And it was very obvious to me that Jason was Jason — he was such a sweet, sunshine-spreading little boy — how could he be anything but perfect in God’s eyes? I have to tell you, any mistaken belief that I might’ve had about sexual orientation being a lifestyle choice was completely blasted out of me as I watched this child grow up. Life, or God, or whatever higher power you believe in, gave Jason to me and by being gay, Jason is exactly as he was born to be.
I do remember feeling out Ed, my husband, when Jason was really young. “What if Jason’s gay?” But he echoed my feelings exactly: ‘Jason is Jason, and I love him.’
But I worried, too, about Jason’s safety. There are still places — many places — in the United States where Jason could be attacked or even killed — just because he’s gay.
And I worried about the dreaded closet. Many gay people never come out. They hide from their families and friends — even from themselves. I passionately didn’t want my child to live his life in the shadows.
So Ed and I actively set out to make sure that Jason a) grew up feeling loved unconditionally and reassured that he could be himself, at least in the safety of our home and b) that Jason grew up aware that there were more options in life than the traditional man plus woman equals love, marriage and family. We didn’t whisper the word “gay” in our house.
We openly talked about it — what it means to be gay — and made it clear that we were open and accepting of all people.
See, most gay kids feel isolated and alone. I wanted to be certain that Jason felt neither of those things. Being a teenager is hard enough — without feeling as if there is something wrong with your sexuality!
We also made a rule — we would allow no gay slurs in our house. None of this, “Oh, that’s so gay,” not even in jest. And, eventually, we made the choice to pull Jason out of public high school, where kids hear an average of 25 gay slurs in the course of a single day. Frankly, I didn’t want him exposed to that kind of ugliness.
I also wanted Jason to have role models — gay men who were out and open, several in solid, committed relationships.
And we were lucky there — because Jason fell in love with musical theater at an early age. He was cast in a number of semi-pro productions in the Boston area. And the Boston theater community has a huge area of intersection with the Boston gay community. Jason (and Ed and I) made quite a few gay friends because of this — friends we cherish to this day.
So Jace grew up believing — as we believe — that being gay is no different than being born left-handed or with blue eyes.He never felt as if there was something “wrong” with him — because there’s not! He’s a strong, confident young gay man who really, honestly likes himself. As his mother, I’m proud of him — and of my husband and myself.
When did he come out?
Jason came out to me when he was fifteen. He and I had long had a habit of talking together for few minutes, when he went to bed.
He’d been doing some dating — going out with girls — and Ed and I just kind of sat back and waited. I remember thinking, “Is it possible he doesn’t know?” And, “Gee, maybe we were wrong…”
But I remember so clearly that one evening. Jason took a deep breath and said, “Mom, I think I’m gay.”
And my heart swelled with love and pride (and relief!) because it takes such courage to say that in our society, even to your mom. But I kept things light. “I know. I love you. I’ll always love you. Where did you put your dirty socks…?”
“You knew?!?” He was actually surprised — and so relieved.
Even Jason — growing up in a home with parents who had spoken openly about their support for gay rights and for their gay friends — was a little afraid of what would happen when he came out.
You see, he had friends who were kicked out of their houses by their parents, because they were gay. It makes me heartsick to think of such a thing. And yet it happens. Too often.
I have trouble with the concept that a parent could not know that their child is gay. Aren’t they paying attention? But okay. I can take a deep breath, and understand that there are some people who simply don’t think about anything other than the stereotypical societal “norm.” You get married and have sons and daughters and your son will marry a nice woman and give you grandchildren, and your daughter will marry a nice man and… so on. Still, it seems very much to me as if some people live with blinders on, unwilling to see the real world. (Stats are that one out of eight men are gay, so even if you think you don’t know anyone who’s gay, you probably do.)
What are we afraid of, people? What’s so horrible about the idea of Jason finding his own Mr. Right, and living happily ever after with him? Because that’s what he wants — a happily-ever-after with someone special, someone he loves. And that’s what he can absolutely find as an out gay man.
I know that being gay is associated with being promiscuous — that’s just not true. People are people, and yes there are promiscuous gay people, the same way there are promiscuous straight people.
But here’s the thing — it’s when people are forced to live in the closet, forced to hide who they are, forced to suppress their extremely natural, God-given sexuality, that they sometimes turn to alcohol, drugs and anonymous sexual encounters.
I can imagine a much kinder, better world where all people are allowed to be themselves, where love between two consenting adults is given the respect and honor it deserves.
We can get there if we start with our children — by loving them and supporting them. And by letting them be themselves.
With toys, activities, sports, being so gender specific, do you think
parents today are more fearful of their child being “different”, whether that means their child is less masculine, feminine or gay/bi/straight? Even with the women’s right’s movement, I see these very strict gender roles that society has created and I wonder how much it confuses parents and kids alike.
You ever hear that (horrible) old joke? “What do you get your son when he asks for ballet lessons? A football.”
Our society is FILLED with gender stereotypes — we are bombarded with them from early childhood. What do we say when we meet a little girl? “Oh, aren’t you pretty?” Why don’t we say “Oh, aren’t you smart,” instead? What are we teaching here, people?!
It perplexes me that we can’t just let children be children. Because I had both a daughter and a son, we had an array of toys from dolls to cars to dress-up clothes to baseball mitts. Both kids played with everything.
I’m wondering — does Toys R Us really label the sections of their stores “Boys” and “Girls?” (It’s been a while since I’ve been in one.) I’m wondering this because sometimes gender stereotypes are unconsciously our own. It would, IMO, do your daughter a better service to take care in the labels you use. Instead of calling it the “Boys department,” (even if it is called that!) call it the toy tool kit section. Likewise for the doll section. And the sports section. And the crafts section, the puzzle and game section…
Our children learn from everything we do and say. “Boys will be boys.” Have you ever caught yourself saying that? That’s a terrible message to give our daughters. The subtext is that “boys can’t be held responsible for their actions, so when they insult you or hurt you, when they elbow your breasts in the crush between classes in the middle school hall, when they whistle and taunt you when you walk past a construction site, when they treat you with anything other than respect, just let it go. It’s not their fault.”
I have a huge problem with all stereotypes — not just those regarding gender. In my fictional world, my kick-butt, heroic FBI agent is gay. My petite Asian American heroine is a tough-as-nails former LAPD police detective. My seemingly-good-ol’-boy-from-Texas Navy SEAL had a beloved uncle and cousin who were African American.
And in my world — both my fictional world and in my personal life — children are allowed to play with toys that interest them.
Of course, my answer to the question “What do you get your son when he asks for ballet lessons?” is “Ballet lessons!”
Suzanne encourages parents who think their sons or daughters might be gay, get more information and support from PFLAG — Parents, Family & Friends of Lesbians and Gays at www.PFLAG.org
There, you will find a great and helpful amount of information for you and your child and always keep the lines of communication open between you and your child. They will love you more for it.
Suzanne Brockmann is a New York Times bestselling author. The eleventh book in her Troubleshooters series, FORCE OF NATURE, is on sale now. Her first Troubleshooters holiday novella, ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT, was released October 30, 2007. Visit her website at www.SuzanneBrockmann.com