Keeping Families Together
The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog
June 7, 2013
A Change In Reality Is An Opportunity To Learn
By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA
In one of the di Rosa’s galleries in Napa, there is a piece of art that depicts a book lying on its side, on top is a saucer with a cupcake and next to the cupcake, a burnt match stick. We looked at it and tried to read what the artist is saying. We walked around it, moved closer, and suddenly realized the whole thing is made of ceramic. It was amazing. In the moment we grasped that the work was not made of real objects, but from carefully crafted ceramic, our idea of what we were seeing changed radically.
An API mother sits with her daughter, leisurely breakfasting. The daughter is home from college, and she and her mother are talking about school, the future, expectations. Then the daughter carefully tells her mother that she is a lesbian. In the moment the mother grasps what she is really hearing, the daughter in front of her changes from a beloved daughter to an unknown girl.
This is probably what people mean when they say everything is subjective. Still, it is amazing to experience an abrupt change in reality caused by a sudden awareness. It also makes the work API Family Pride does difficult. We tried to counsel parents: “The child you see in front of you, is the same child they were the second before you were told.” That doesn’t work, because it isn’t true. The sudden awareness changed the son or daughter from a person known and bragged about to one unknown and difficult to talk about. We believe, though, that in that moment begins a journey of learning.
The son or daughter in front of you represents a reality you are unprepared for, but one thing has not changed: they are still your child; start with that. They told you something fundamental about themselves, something you don’t know anything about because sex or sexuality or gender identity was not ever discussed. Your son or daughter did not offend you, on the contrary, they told you who they were because you are important in their lives and they want you to be part of their lives.
The journey of learning has but one purpose: to make come true the statement: “The child you see in front of you, is the same child they were the second before you were told.” It sounds contradictory and it is difficult, but that is where you will arrive if you make the effort. During your journey you will examine believes that you thought were true and discover that, just as the reality of your child changed when you were told they were LGBT, the believes you held dear for so long are changed and some of them no longer apply.
From our own experience we can tell you that once on the path of discovery, the insights you’ll gain bring great satisfaction. When we faltered, there were always the truths we clung to as life vests: He is our son, he does not purposely offend us. A very religious mother told us that at first she couldn’t understand why her son “wanted to be gay,” but “God made him, and God wouldn’t make him bad” was her life vest to keep learning.
One more thing, perhaps the most important thing, always maintain the conversation, make yourself approachable and keep yourself available, because here is where the child teaches the parent.
Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org