How I Learned the Difference Between Love and Acceptance
I grew up the gay child of straight parents. Most gay children are born to straight parents. And I very much wanted my parents to accept and celebrate me for exactly who I was. And my parents struggled with that a certain amount. When I was very little I had been diagnosed with dyslexia and my mother worked with me very closely to help turn around my disadvantages in that department. So while I’m still dyslexic I’ve learned to compensate for it very well. And I think the family was not entirely at ease with the possibility that I was gay.
I remember being in a shoe store with my mother and my brother and the salesman asked us what kind of balloons we’d like when we were leaving. And my brother said he wanted a red balloon and I said I wanted a pink balloon. And my mother said, “I think actually you’d like a blue balloon.” And I said, “No, no. I really want the pink balloon.” And she reminded me that blue was my favorite color. The fact that blue now is my favorite color but I’m still gay is evidence both of my mother’s influence and its limits. So that was where we started off, as a family that was uncomfortable with who I was.
As I got to adolescence and really understood that I was gay and as I got into my twenties and told people, I was very angry about what I perceived as a lack of love from my parents. What I found over time was that I was experiencing not a lack of love but a lack of acceptance. And the research for my book in which I talked to many families of people who are different in some way taught me that love may be there most of the time but that acceptance always takes time. And that it was valid to hope for the love that I wanted from my family but the acceptance required an adjustment. And all things considered they adjusted relatively well and relatively quickly.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think’s studio.
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