Dear Jody: Let me back in, son

by Jody Valley

Q:

When my son came out to me eight years ago, I didn't take it well. The reason for this is that I grew up as a Southern Baptist and continued in that religion much of my life. In fact, his mother and I raised our son "Thomas" in that faith. (His mother died when Thomas was 5, and I've not remarried.) I took Thomas to church, not just every Sunday, but at least four times a week. It was our religion and our social life. In other words, I was immersed in that kind of thinking and believing.

So when Thomas came out to me, I was horrified. I worried that his soul was in mortal danger. I thought that his condition was due to the devil's influence. Plain and simple, I thought he was going to hell. (Obviously, no parent wants bad things for his child.) This was the basis for my reaction of him, and why, for so long, I continued to treat my son as a sinner, a pervert and a pariah.

It was a very painful time for me and, I know, for Thomas as well. I had disowned him, and if anyone asked if I had children, I would say that I had no children. (Thomas is my only child.) My church friends knew my situation and supported me in denying my son's existence.

I am so sorry for those years of denying my son. Those are lost years that I will never get back, nor will Thomas. I also know that I've hurt my son in a way that will stay with him forever, even though I have changed and no longer condemn him.

Two years ago I joined PFLAG. I won't go into how I got there, but I will say that I feel so grateful that I found these folks. I've learned so much and now have friends who support me in my love and acceptance of my gay son. (I'm no longer involved in the church that encouraged me to condemn my son.)

I've made a big effort in letting Thomas know who I am, now. He's been home several times, and a few weeks ago, introduced me to his boyfriend. Thomas and I have made a lot of progress in our relationship; however, I've found out that he's having a commitment ceremony. And, he's having an "older male friend" of his give him away. I'm really hurt. I'm ready to be part of this, and now he has someone else in my place. With all my heart and soul, I'm ready to take this ceremony on. I've worked hard to get where I am today. But now I feel abandoned by him.

I'm invited to his ceremony, but I'm not playing the role I should be playing.

Should I push it, let Thomas know that this is upsetting me, and that I want to be the person to give him away?

Hurt Dad

A: When I think of you and your son, I see so much hurt and pain - for both of you.

Unfortunately, while you were away Thomas was getting his paternal support from someone else. Historically, that's what we gay people did (and still do) in the face of rejection; we found replacement families.

Instead of feeling resentment and hurt, I suggest you think about and appreciate how this other, older man stepped in when you stepped out. He probably saved your son, in so many ways.

If I were you, I'd go to your son's ceremony and show your support, enjoy his very special day, and show how happy you are for him and his partner. And, thank the guy who gave your son acceptance, support and love while you were gone. Though you have worked hard on who you've become, your son needs time to let go of his pain and forgive you, as well as learn to trust your transformation.

P.S. Congratulations on working hard and overcoming your homophobia and heterosexism.

For more information about gay men and their fathers, go to Dear Jody Valley on Facebook.

Jody Valley spent 12 years as a clinical social worker. She worked with the LGBT community both as a counselor and a workshop leader in the areas of coming out, self-esteem and relationship issues. Reach Jody at DearJodyValley@hotmail.com. The "Dear Jody" column appears weekly.
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