By Danae Reid
I am not yet a mother, but I understand people fairly well and can surmise that most parents hope that their children are similar to them in more ways than one, (i.e looks, interests, religion, political affiliation, favorite sports team, etc.,).
But what happens when those wishes are trodden by a new generation of children that view the world through a completely different lens?
Millennials, like myself, contrast our parents in various ways. However, I believe that the biggest difference lies in the levels of acceptance and openness we exercise in regard to gender identification/fluidity, sexuality, sexual orientation and so forth.
Within the last few years, the percentage of people in this country openly identifying as members of the LGBTQIA+ community has grown to approximately 4.5% and shows no signs of slowing down. *Though the push for inclusion has reached new heights, homophobia continues to be a prevalent issue in this country.
One thing that millennials have in common with the preceding generations is that mainstream society has tried to convince us that being gay was an act of desecration, and until recently, most of us never questioned that. Through education, many of us have learned the hypocrisy of our words/actions/etc., and in turn have become supporters, advocates, and even proud members of the LGBTQIA+ community. But a significant portion of the population still believes the aforementioned to be fact.
Through observation, I’ve noticed that millennials have had a much easier time adapting than most of our progenitors have. As we all know, parents and their children seldom fully agree on lifestyle choices, but the love a parent has for their child should be unconditional – and if you know that you can’t sign up for that, then perhaps being a parent isn’t for you.
Case in point, last Sunday was Father’s Day, a day that people spend dedicating trite yet lengthy captions/statuses to their fathers, grandfathers, uncles, etc. Because of the different roles that mothers and fathers play in our lives and are revered in society, it’s not uncommon to see a few condemning posts here and there. But overall, the messages are not only wonderful tributes, but also stark reminders of how integral an involved father is in the growth and development of his child(ren).
As I thumbed through my social media timelines, enjoying the photos and their accompanying captions, I noticed something that broke my heart. A person that I care for deeply, shared a status citing how painful the day had become for her. Her father no longer accepts her because of who she loves.
The pain, anger, disappointment, and sadness she felt transcended far beyond her words and touched my heart in such a way that I felt compelled to tell her story.
I contacted her for an impromptu interview where she shared her story with me.
[Name withheld] only met her father at the age of 13 and later made the decision to forgive his absence in an effort to pursue a father/daughter relationship. Over time their bond grew in strides and the two were inseparable. He became her hero and their relationship’s flame seemed to be one that would never extinguish. However, everything changed in May of 2018 when she decided to share her truth with the world via social media. The day she posted about her girlfriend, was the day her life changed forever. While many were excited for her, there was one person that didn’t share in the same joy – and that person was her father.
In favor of protecting her anonymity, I will not divulge the story in totality, but due to her father’s intolerance of her sexuality, their relationship has smoldered significantly, as she hasn’t spoken with him in almost a year. According to her, he’s missed holidays, birthdays, her college graduation, and has ignored her attempts at reconnection – all because of who she loves.
Since the announcement, she has only seen her father once, and that was by happenstance. During that encounter, he berated her with comments such as, “you’re not normal,” “you and your partner’s children will be “demon children,”’ “we don’t do that,” “why would you do this to me… to our family” etc., even though she made it abundantly clear that her girlfriend made her happy. Following this discussion, she has been disowned by his entire side of the family and the two have not spoken since August of 2018 — all because of who she loves.
Take a second to read this direct quote:
“He never wonders if I’m okay? Or am I even still alive… He has made me feel so low and as if my life is completely worthless. He has thrown me away like a piece of trash and turned his entire family against me.”
While I cannot fully comprehend how she’s feeling, as I’ve never been in such a predicament before, the pain in her heart was palpable. Per my own experience, I know how much it means to know that your parents are proud of you. Most of us crave that validation. From our discussion it seems that she exceeded every hope (e.g. stay out of trouble, get a good education, don’t do drugs) that a parent may have for their child, partially for the approval of her father, but now she’s left feeling as if it was all for naught. Thankfully she has support in other family members, but without her father, something is missing.
Our conversation made me question if children are better at loving their parents unconditionally, rather than the other way around… I don’t have the answer, but it’s food for thought.
Though her father has inflicted so much pain over her life and in her heart, she maintains a position of love even though she feels it’s unreciprocated. He is still her hero.
My friend has struggled with suicidal thoughts and depression due to the impact of her father’s actions/inactions, but continues to learn and grow through her experiences. Her current disposition has forced her to be an even greater advocate for the LGBTQ community, as she’s fully aware of what it feels like to be frowned upon and unloved because of who you are.
Unfortunately, regardless of generational affiliation, this story is not unique. It’s neither the first nor the last time someone will experience something as heartbreaking as this.
If you’re a child and have experienced something similar, I encourage you to find someone to talk to and hope you find a semblance of solace in knowing that you’re not alone.
If you’re a parent that has been placed in this position, I hope that my friend’s sentiment prompts you to reconsider your stance.
And lastly, if you’re thinking about being a parent in the future, consider the possibilities before committing to the idea.
*Citation: In U.S., Estimate of LGBT Population Rises to 4.5%. Gallup News. May 22, 2018. Retrieved June 16, 2018.