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Fathers, Be a Lion!
submitted by James M. P.
When my son came out to me, I soon discovered that a lot of people hate homosexuals. I'd known that all along, I guess, but hadn't thought much about it. The full impact of our society's pervasive homophobia becomes apparent only when it affects someone important to you.

Though I went through the usual denial, grieving, and other stages so familiar in the literature, another healthier reaction soon dominated my responses. The fierceness and violence of it astonished me. The way I had always imagined an angry lion, for example, defending cubs against the hunter, I found myself enraged that some people might attack my son, verbally or even physically, for something as private and unobjectionable as his sexual orientation.

Though I continue to mask my rage most of the time, I consider my fierce reaction to be the essence of what masculinity used to mean. Defending your Gay child is far tougher, consistent with, and appropriate to being a "real man" than lamenting his tilt away from heterosexuality.

I don't usually worry about my feelings and responses being masculine enough. I'm more concerned that they be human. However, I mention this reaction to my son's coming out because it may help some fathers whose responses are still tied up with the old masculinity myths. To fight for your Gay children is far more "macho" than ignoring them or throwing them out of the house. If you don't turn your back on friends, as "real men" don't, you certainly shouldn't be turning it on your children!

That's why I have so much difficulty understanding fathers who give their gay sons a hard time. What I or they think of homosexuality is irrelevant. Even if I thought of it as a sin, which I don't, my son is right even if he is wrong. He's right because he's my son. If it has to be us against the rest of the world, then that's the way it will be.

To let down your Gay male or Lesbian child violates the most natural, fundamental, and intense human attachment any parent can have. As we became more civilized, we began to call it love, but that word just approximates a complex feeling that originated deep in our evolutionary past. Discovering my son's sexual orientation put me in touch with that feeling as nothing else had before.

I sometimes get impatient in support groups and other conversations with parents. There's often too much sophisticated analysis of subtle feelings and self-indulgent wallowing in the grieving process. Too many parents grapple with their ambivalence about homosexual orientation and practices, and struggle slowly toward understanding and "acceptance."

All of this may be useful and essential, but it neglects a crucial point that comes before everything else. Your child is your child, no matter what, and neither sexual orientation nor anything else changes that. When it comes to acceptance, there's nothing to be subtle or sorry about. Get in touch with the feelings you had when you became a parent. Stop moaning and start being a lion!

This essay is for Gay children and their mothers to show fathers who don't love and accept their homosexual offspring. No matter how those fathers feel about homosexuality, they should be out there standing up for their children. That's "natural," "normal," and "manly" thing to do!

From the February 1995 newsletter of the Metro DC chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).

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