My mother just turned 86, and my father turned 88. I am now parenting my parents in many ways. This past week, I was working at my parents’ house to move them closer to me so I can care for them on a more consistent basis.
I love my folks very much. I have noticed for many people, myself included, we have one parent that we tend to put on a pedestal and one who seems to know each and every one of our hot buttons, how to find them, and how to do a regular happy dance on them. My dad is my pedestal guy. We can have a knock-down, drag-out fight, and an hour later, all is forgiven and flowers seem to spring from his every step. My mother, on the other hand, can catch me with the wrong turn-of-phrase and I will see red for days.
Red colored my vision the other day as I was packing a box of old papers in preparation for their move. The files I had to go through seemed endless. As I neared the bottom of one stack, I came across a beaten brown manila folder that stopped me dead. It was labeled “Rob’s homosexuality.” This was certainly a subject for discussion that my parents and I have had for over thirty years now. I was not aware, however, that it had warranted its own special file.
Even so, the folder was a pleasant surprise. In it was a letter from early 1992 that I received from my cousin asking me pointed questions about my sexual orientation. The file also contained a copy of my response to him. (My cousin must have sent these to my parents; I don’t recall giving the letters to them.) The last item in the file was a letter from my mother to her cousin, written in November 1992, a full decade after I had come out to my parents.
The letter my mother wrote was a follow-up, apparently, to a visit they made to their families that summer. From the story the letter told, my parents had done their own coming out, about me, to the rest of the family. It did not go well. In the letter, my mother described the “distinct disapproval of some factions of the family.” Her cousin had not been one of them, instead offering my parents acceptance and support. In the letter, my mother elaborated on her own viewpoint. She stated, “It is a complex subject, but the main issue of misunderstanding with society at large seems to be the matter of ‘choice.’ As Rob succinctly explained it, he ‘chose’ to be heterosexual since no one chooses to be the butt of scorn and rejection, but that it just isn’t there for him…After a number of unhappy years of struggling with his own private hell, he finally came to the conclusion that God made him this way for a reason—that rather than giving into suicide like a number of his friends, his life IS worth something . . . The bottom line is that we have not seen Rob this happy since he was a little boy.”
The impact of this understanding from my mother twenty years earlier floored me. It reflected a decade of fights and evolution on her part, not only in terms of her perspective, but also her willingness to come forward about it to our relatives and defend me in the way she did. The fact that she did so at a time when homophobia was at an all-time high was not lost on me.
Then, like the screech of a needle being ripped across a melodious LP, or an MP3 recording skipping—depending on your generation—there it was—THE PHRASE. She wrote, “Having been through the gamut of emotions and ten years of soul searching, study and counseling, we have finally arrived at a peaceful acceptance. We are now convinced that Rob was born with a handicap and all we can do is love and support him in the same way we would with any other kind of handicap.”
There is nothing in me that believes that an LGBT person is handicapped by his or her sexual or gender orientation. We have no challenges caused by who and what we are.
That being said, and with a few days’ reflection, there is one aspect in which I can see homosexuality being treated as a handicap, especially from a legal perspective. That “handicap” would be in the area of a couple’s biological fertility. Just as some heterosexual couples are biologically and hormonally blocked from procreating, gay and lesbian couples experience the same kind of “handicap.” Each person may be completely able to procreate with some partners, just not with the one with whom they happen to be sharing their lives. One course of action for the heterosexual couple is hormonal therapy, surrogacy, or adoption. For the gay or lesbian couple it may be surrogacy or adoption.
This of course speaks to the major crux of the current anti-gay, anti-marriage equality position: that gay and lesbian couples should be denied marriage because they are unable to physically procreate with their spouses. If one defines this as a handicap, however, that nullifies this point as a legal argument against marriage. In all other cases dealing with handicaps, viable accommodations and work-arounds are mandated. Handicap issues are not grounds for disqualification when the accommodation mitigates the issue. People with physical challenges are not prevented from driving or walking into buildings; handicapped parking and walk ramps are provided. Persons with workplace challenges by law must be given accommodation and access so that they can effectively exercise their professions.
Even if a gay or lesbian couple has an inability to physically procreate, and that condition is seen as a handicap, the legal precedent is to protect their rights, and enable them to participate fully. As too many studies to cite or count have amply demonstrated, gay and lesbian people are fully capable of parenting.
Blogger Angela Peene of evolequals.com observed, “The definition of ‘handicapped’ is having a condition that markedly restricts one’s ability to function physically, mentally, or socially. In the social context, because of the condemnation and exclusion LGBT individuals have received in the past decades, maybe they could qualify under this heading. However, I am sincerely hoping that this label of handicap is on its way out. Equality is in the air.”
There is an argument that homophobia might qualify, but that is another article.
So, Mom, I am going to give you this one, especially in light of your complete willingness to evolve these past three decades. You have stood up and allowed yourself to challenge an avalanche of misconceptions from your past, and many from your current peers. You are brave, you are fair, and you are my honor and one of my greatest heroes.
If you want to think of my homosexuality as a handicap in terms of my biological fertility, so be it. As we often assert in our fight for equality, a family is made from love, and love makes a family. And it’s a well proved fact that you adore your two grandchildren (my sons), who came to us by adoption.
Now, if you can just try to remember that I hate being served lima beans, then we will be good. Love and kisses forever.
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Thanks to Rachel Hockett for editing help on this article.
Neben kostenpflichtigen Portalen gibt es im Internet auch kostenlose Singlebörsen.
Please delete this comments with hyper links. This is my humble request to you.
I can so relate to what you have said, after 39 years the words of my mother, when I told her I was attracted to women still go around and round in my head. She so lovingly said to me, “If you were crippled in any other way, I would still love you” Sadly those words were false because a year later when I couldn’t play her game of seeking a cure for my “handicap” any longer, she told me to leave her home and never return. And I did.
I don’t usually comment (and haven’t read all the comments to see if anyone has said this already)
Is it not possible it was a dig someone else had made? I can very much see that line being said with heavy sarcasm if you know who it’s aimed at. Maybe the family bigot? 🙂
Glad your parents supported you yourself though, whatever is the case. So did mine.
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Homophobia, hatred and bigotry are handicaps. BEin gay is not an handicap, nor is a choice. Bigotry are.
Yeah – I hate lima beans to. But seriously this was a well written and thoughtful post. Thank you for taking the time to write it.
Thanks for sharing! I learned a very special lesson … Peace!
I usually do not write many remarks, but i did some searching and wound up here %BLOG_TITLE%. And I do have a couple of questions for you if you do not mind. Could it be simply me or does it give the impression like some of the remarks appear like they are written by brain dead folks? 😛 And, if you are posting at additional sites, I would like to keep up with everything new you have to post. Could you make a list of all of all your community sites like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?|
You can find us on http://www.facebook.com/evolequals , and JandJDad on Twitter.
I also appear on Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Impact Magazine, The Next Family and Gay Star News. If you do a search for Rob Watson on any of those sites, it will take you to my archive pages on each.
Thanks for your comment!
homosexuality is not a handicap because it is a choice a person decides to be or not. This is totally absurd. If you want to have children then have a normal relationship as defind by nature and by God.
Do you want to declare it a disability and then file for disability with the government and then live off the government?
Evidently you haven’t got any friends or relatives who are gay or lesbian. There is no reason for a person to prefer a state of being that sets them up for hateful comments and discrimination.
Ah, now you are assuming all too much. I have had several friends and I have two relatives who are gay. So when you consider that all of the relatives on my husbands side of the family are heterosexual and his one brother chooses to be gay, it is a choice not genetic. Handicaps are not a choice you are either born with them or you become handicap due to an illness or some horrible accident.
There is no choice. I tried for more than half of my life to be straight. I said all the right things, dated men and forced myself to not look at other women, but did it work? No. No it did not.
Would you like to know why it didn’t work?
Because I’m not attracted to men, not in the least. There is no fluttery feeling when a man who is (supposedly) handsome, but there is when a cute and attractive woman walks by. I get nothing from a kiss by a man, and have never felt any form of pleasure when I forced myself to engage in sexually activities with them to appear normal. I am homosexual, both romantically and sexually, and if you can’t fathom what that means then watch ‘Love Is All You Need’ on YouTube. It’s a short film, less than 20 minutes. Watch the whole thing, because that’s how gays are treated every day here in the “civilized” world, I won’t even go into what has been done to gays in places like North Korea, Uganda or Russia. The fact that raping and killing gays is seen as acceptable, normal and even encouraged.
Do you think I would choose to live in fear for my life, in fear of being raped, in fear that I could lose my job, my home, just because I love my girlfriend of seven years? I’ve watched five marriages dissolve during that time, and it was only tree of my heterosexual friends doing the marrying. The longest marriage lasted four years. Let that sink in. And I’m still terrified if my employers find out I’m gay because they can, and will, fire me. Yeah, I choose this life of hiding and stress, fear and self-loathing. You are a fool, Madam, and I pity you. I do so because when you reach your heaven you will be turned away, for not following your own religious tenets. And when you join me in Hell, I’ll smile and greet you with an understanding hug.
renava, it’s funny how you say “the relatives on my husbands side of the family ARE heterosexual and his one brother CHOOSES TO BE gay”. The only choosing that’s going on here is you choosing to have bigoted and homophobic double standards in your opinions and choice of words. If you think being gay is a choice prove it by choosing to be gay right now and live as a gay person for a year. If you feel like you don’t want to or that you don’t choose your own sexuality then don’t make the ignorant assumption that others do. Don’t make arguments that you’re not personally willing or able to back up.
Renava, did you even read the article? You don’t address the author’s mother’s noting that, as far as choice goes, he choose to be straight, not to be gay.
If it were a matter of choice, the author (I’ll assume his mom is correct on this point) would be straight. But it wasn’t. And when that “choice” didn’t result in him being straight, he choose to accept himself as he is and stop trying to be something he’s not.
I didn’t choose to be straight anymore than I chose to be female. I did choose to be married. But that wasn’t a choice to be straight.
i’d never considered not being able to have children with the one i love as a handicap. i’m a bisexual male so i would have no problem taking part in the beautiful act of procreation in whatever relationship i ended up in. i can also see being lgbt considered a handicap in a religious sense. handicaps are trials, things that are difficult and sometimes seem near impossible to overcome. i’m not officially out to my family and my mother happened to walk in on me kissing my boyfriend some time back. we are a very religious family, so i was met with many letters on not giving in and fighting the desires (i threw all the letters away). different religious factions believe you can simply ‘pray away the gay’ like it is some kind of addiction or other hardship. i have never once seen my bisexuality as a handicap. it is a part of who i am and has made me a better, more empathetic individual. anyway. i ramble. loved the post. your story gives me hope that my family will be as understanding. thanks 🙂
Thanks for sharing, enjoyed reading 🙂
Thankfully in the UK, the word ‘handicapped’ is rightly avoided due to it’s origins. It refers to disabled people who had no employment prospects and were turfed out as beggars on the streets and had to beg for money using a ‘cap in their hand’ so, in fact, it is an extremely derogatory term and the very use of it contradicts the point of equality that you are correctly trying to make.
Th’tas going to make things a lot easier from here on out.
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As someone who is queer /and/ has physical disabilities I find the idea…somewhat problematic. True, not having children is a Thing for many people (I never plan on having any, so there’s my two cents).
However, living with a physical disability tends to affect every part of your life, for better or for worse. If it is a “visible” disability requiring an assistive device like a walker or motorized scooter, there are people staring at you or who sometimes start asking super-personal questions. Not to mention the atrocious *lack* of ramps even when they are legally required (see: New York City subway or London Underground for two very good examples of inaccessible places that should be accessible). If you have an “invisible” disability such as fibromyalgia, MS, chronic migraines, cancer…then you get folks who sometimes think that they should check whether you “really” need the handicapped parking space, or who just don’t know that you /really/ need to sit down and don’t give up their seat on the bus/metro/waiting room/whatever, or who wear really strong cologne/perfume everywhere and are oblivious to the fact that it is physically causing you pain.
This is aside from days when it is difficult to physically get in or out of bed, not to mention washing your own hair.
Everyone’s experience is different, and I’m not saying that LGBTQ folks have an easy time (as I certainly know as well). But kids — kids are optional. No one says you have to have kids, much less biologically-related kids, as much as you might want them. (My mom would probably argue this point with me here, but that’s another story.)
Handicapped may be WiFi wired in a town with no WiFi, yet.
The world is handicapped. It is a challenge to live in a world handicapped by homophobia.
Homophobia is like not being online.
Enjoyed your story and experience of becoming more human and infecting humanity with more humanity.
Thought it brings guy folks hardship, the the only handicap is the closed mind. You mentioned, facilitating a better life for the handicapped… Here’s your sign! Is what I feel like saying to victims of the closed mind syndrome. But, I remember I’m a recovering bigot myself. I don’t want to look at my own sign all day.
Irrelevant, works best. Homophobia is essentially irrelevant. And so it will be.
Your experience and your mother’s growth and how she stood up for you, your story, relationships, this will always be relevant, though.
Going from homophobic to human is an interesting journey as well.
I really enjoyed your post and this is what it made me wonder about. Never thought of this before, and I love to find perspectives so thank you for your delightful inspiration.
Well written and touching
Thanks for sharing! I find it interesting the way people who struggle with homosexuality find different ways to adjust those views when someone they love comes out. So many people struggle with families who can’t overcome those views.
Reblogged this on The Daily Advocate By Painspeaks.
Idea of homosexuality as a handicap strikes me as a funny (i.e. strange) concept. I am a bisexual female (cisfemale) who cannot bear children. I had my hysterectomy when I was 29. One of my transmale friends bore his own child. My lesbian couples (and bi female friends with female partners) have had more children collectively than my friends who are straight couples – and I have more straight friends.
My mother, who in the 70s nursed the physically handicapped (and acted as caregiver to those young adults when they went to their private space, an apartment in the gay village in Toronto, in order to have sex) saw my bisexuality as a handicap. She would have preferred if I had been a lesbian because to her mind, lesbians have “normal” (read: monogamous) relationships. My mother would have related my pervy nature with my bisexuality, when in fact one really has nothing to do with the other – if I had be straight I still would have likely been a perv.
In Toronto, while homo, bi, and trans phobia is still rife, lgbt rights are still taken as a given – getting married and having children is the “norm” in the lgbt communities. Same-sex parents make up big numbers of the Pride parade every year. Indeed, those lgbt *with* handicaps notwithstanding – and there are many of those, myself included as I am bipolar 2 – these days the only “handicap” the communities are concerned about is old age, as the numbers seniors in the queer community increasing every year.
Biphobia aside, I have learned not to underestimate my mother, and many of our mothers, when it comes to queer issues. As I garnered from Margaret Cho (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpqjErGfJ9c) some mothers are wiser than we give them credit for.
Of course it is a handicap… I mean: not being able to make a child with the love of your life, seems like a handicap to me. Makes sense in a world where all of nature is based on reproduction right?!
Now I know a lot of people probably are already pissed off like hell when they read these words, but I am not against gays or something. Far from it, everyone should do what they like best. But if you are pissed off if I find gays handicapped I find that offensive to people in wheelchairs. It means you think handicapped people are less in some way.
Where I say they are not less, there are just certain things they can not do. Some can’t walk because they’re paralyzed and some can’t make babies with their partner because they like the same gender. In both cases just be glad mankind developed ways to have a happy life with this handicaps!