Joseanne Peregin relates her story of how one of her children came out as a gay son, the emotional upheaval she went through and the blessings that they have received as a family through this experience.
When my 17-year old son ‘came out’ to me, he imagined the worst. He had listened to many sad stories before, of staunch Catholics not accepting their gay son or daughter. Yet, despite the odds, he had the courage and the love, to tell me anyway. Although my husband and I had to deal with the initial shock and confusion like most parents, today I am ultimately very grateful that my son was honest with me and open with this truth about himself. Despite my insufficient knowledge on the subject and my fear of society’s stigma, I slowly journeyed through various obstacles that have helped me (and my family) to grow from this unexpected experience.
The hurdles of social prejudice
The emotional upheaval that I went through, from the moment my son told me about his same-sex orientation until coming to full acceptance, positively marked not just me, but also the entire family. At first, when the news was out, we had overnight become ‘the others’, ‘the outsiders,’ the talk of the town around the gossip tables. So I was unsure how best to react to people’s hurtful judgements. But as I struggled through the hurdles of social prejudice, I noticed that a spiritual process was slowly unfolding. I recognised that I was living at the heart of a beautiful mystery – the purity of unconditional love. This called for some profound changes in attitudes and perceptions towards embracing other minorities.
Mothering a gay son
Combining my role as a mother, (including the instinctual reaction to protect and safeguard my child) and my role as a committed Catholic, (the call to be transformed by the love of God), I refuse to cower up in some corner and hide. Instead, my energy is directed to help champion a cause that is riddled with myths and misconceptions. Becoming more sensitive to matters related to discrimination, I am actively seeking to understand something that even the universal church and its leaders, are in a dilemma about. I co-founded a support group for Catholic parents of LGBTs called the Drachma Parents’ Group (Luke15). Drachma offers a safe space for parents struggling with their child’s ‘coming out’. Parents feel safe to share their difficult stories and grow in their acceptance process, accompanied by others. They are more able to live their faith journey with others who too feel wounded, rejected and outcast, yet who can understand them and walk with them. Yes, this is an urgent and universal need that touches many families.
Walking with LGBTIQ families
It is a joy to see how accompanying families find strength in sharing their human and faith journeys. They encourage one another to walk the talk of ‘loving unconditionally’. When thinking about all those young LGBTIQs struggling to know what or how to tell their parents about their sexuality, I recall the wonderful transformation this moment has had on my faith and life journey. I am grateful for being blessed with a son who had the nerve to ‘come out’ to me at such a young age and who, eventually matured and developed, reaching his full potential. I am thankful for all the confusion, darkness, interior struggle and challenging moments in my ‘acceptance’ journey, that gradually helped me to grow in faith, hope and love. Deep down I feel blessed to be chosen for this ministry of consoling love and I consider myself very fortunate indeed.
Becoming an inclusive Church
The only sad thing is that my three children, although baptised Catholics look at the hierarchy of the Church as being judgmental and irrational on matters pertaining to sexuality. They find contradiction in some Vatican pronouncements which contrast with Jesus’ love and mercy towards the sinners, the poor, the lame and the blind. They wonder why the church has not yet reached out to homosexuals with the same passion and consistency as it does to defend the unborn child. Rather than leaving LGBTIQs hidden in their closets or condemning them from the pulpits, the Church has the duty to celebrate their gifts and qualities and to consider EVERY child as a son and daughter of God. We are all invited to come around the same table and to include, welcome and share our bread with all. We must be beacons of love, ALWAYS!