Like millions of people around the globe, my family and I are celebrating lesbian l, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) Pride Month.
It is the first time we are participating in the annual June festivities since my daughter Isabella announced openly with all of our family and friends that she is a bisexual woman. How she (and we) got here is a journey that began 3 years ago, inspiring me, giving me courage and sometimes frightening me.
I hope this short Love Wins story helps parents and their LGBTQ children go from anxiety to comfort.
“I’m bisexual”, she said heaving a long sigh of relief. I literally saw the heavy weight lifting from my twelve-year-old daughter’s shoulders and just as quickly felt a similar weight landing on mine.
My family and I were eating out at a neighborhood restaurant, discussing the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of marriage equality, making same-sex marriage legal across the country. The #LoveWins movement was a hot topic in the summer of 2015 that we often talked about with support. My wife, Adriana and I have close gay and lesbian friends who feel discriminated by laws that do not give them the same rights as heterosexual couples. Sometime between the appetizer and main course, Isabella decided it was the right time to share she is a bisexual woman. Adriana and I would have preferred she come out to us at home where we can talk in private, but we have learned the right time and place for our children isn’t always the right time and place for us and so we often pivot accordingly.
In a matter of seconds, I went through a barrage of emotions and grabbed on to pride and admiration. Adriana, Esteban (my son) and I complimented Isabella on the courage it took to share with us that she was bisexual and professed our love and support. I had millions of questions of course and still needed to sort out some of my feelings, but at that moment, the most important thing for me was to blanket my daughter with love.
Johns Hopkins pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist Errol Fields agrees, “Time and time again, we hear the same thing from patients: ‘Once my parents are behind me, I can handle anything else the world throws at me.” “You’re their anchor, and your acceptance is key. In fact, research shows that LGBTQ adolescents who are supported by their families grow up to be happier and healthier adults.
What Does This Mean?
The weeks and months following Isabella’s revelation were consumed with questions. While not on the same journey as my daughter, I sought to learn more about bisexuality. My journalism skills in researching and asking questions were an asset, but my heterosexual bias at times tried to oversimplify the intricacies of sexual orientation.
My wife and I have a transparent relationship with our children. They ask us a question and we answer it truthfully regardless of social taboos conditioning parents not to talk to their children (until a certain age) about subjects like sex. We already had the conversation about where babies come from a long time ago with Isabella and Esteban. While the lesson focused on biology, we framed it from a Papa and Mama point of view. Now that we were talking about bisexuality in our nuclear family, I was lost.
Michael Newcomb, associate director for scientific development for the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine says research finds that there can be more incentive for LGBTQ teens to hide relationships or sexual aspects of their lives if they’re more afraid of being judged or misunderstood by adults than straight teens.
A strong relationship with Isabella afforded me a safe space to learn. She didn’t beat up on her old man too much when I asked ignorant and at times stereotypical questions because she knew I just wanted to better understand her. She is at an age of self-discovery and relationship building that is challenging for any adolescent, with the added difficulty of being a minority. I know she must go through life lessons’ highs and lows, but pray she will not suffer through many prejudices. That fear was quickly put to the test when she told me she was dating a young woman.
Adriana and I worried about our daughter’s life at school; we feared she would feel isolated. While increased visibility in society often provides better understanding and change, schools often fall behind in providing a safe and supportive environment for LGBTQ youth. Some time had passed since Isabella came out to us before she started dating. I was excited and anxious when she told me about a young girl she liked during one of our Daddy, Daughter dates.
It was wonderful to listen to her speak about the person she was seeing, her excitement was written all over her face. She gave me the 411 on how they met, what they had in common, what made her special, about plans to go to the movies and a potential first kiss. I felt comfortable giving my daughter advice about relationships, but failed in warning her about the possible harassment they would face in public. A report released earlier this year by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and other advocacy groups finds that nearly three-quarters of the teens responding to an online survey said they have been threatened verbally because of their sexual identity.
I should have spoken to Isabella about my concerns, but I didn’t want to rain on her parade, more than that, I didn’t want her to feel she couldn’t be 100% of herself in public. There will be enough people throughout her life who will tell her what she can’t do, try to bring her down, I wasn’t going to be one of them. Still, as a parent who is responsible for protecting his child, I should’ve discussed the hostility against the LGBTQ community by some people. It’s not that she wasn’t aware of it, it’s that I just didn’t want to deal with it at that moment: Isabella was telling her Papa about an incredible life milestone and I wasn’t going to burst that bubble.
The night of her date, I was nervously waiting for her text asking me to pick her up from the movie theater. I wanted to know she had a great time and that she was safe. I worried what would happen if a bigot saw public displays of affection by my daughter and her girlfriend. Isabella finally did reach out and to my relief the night met her expectations including that first kiss.
On the way home after picking her up, I couldn’t help smiling at my daughter retelling the details of the evening with all of the excitement of a young crush. I’m sure there will be some trying times ahead, but that drive home was all about chatting with my daughter about the awkwardness and wonderment of a first date.
From the start, Adriana and I discussed with Isabella a plan to share with the rest of our family that she was a bisexual woman. The timing was completely up to her; we wanted to make sure she was comfortable with telling others. Isabella was concerned not so much about any rejection towards her from family, but any rift caused between family members. I appreciated her worry, but reassured her that she need not compromise herself for anyone. I’m blessed with a loving family. I was confident that their love and support for Isabella would not waiver upon learning her truth. Still, there was a part of me that shared in Isabella’s dread.
This past March Isabella celebrated her fifteenth birthday, Quinceañera. The choice to host the Hispanic tradition of celebrating a young girl’s coming of age was her decision. My wife and I did not want to force Isabella to have the party because we wanted to and were delighted when she agreed. Isabella, a third generation Latina born in the United States made a few adjustments to the cultural celebration in order for it to best reflect her essence. Understanding that a Quinceañera symbolizes the transition from childhood to young womanhood, she decided this was the moment when she would completely come out to the world.
The plan that we adopted was for my wife and I to reach out to close family and friends (many of whom were invited to her party) to share Isabella’s story during the year-end holiday season. We would be seeing many of them between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve (months ahead of Isabella’s birthday), providing the right opportunity for us to give the news. You don’t really know people until defining moments; I was about to find out my loved ones commitment to Isabella and our family. To our delight, person after person…parents, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends were quick to send their support and love to my Isabella.
One of the proudest moments at Isabella’s Quinceañera was to see her dance surrounded by cheering family and friends as she waved a pink, lavendar and blue flag symbolizing her bisexuality.
Love, as the Roman poet Virgil said, “Conquers all things.”
Love gave Isabella the strength to come out at the age of twelfth.
Love provided the foundation to learn and understand.
Love was put to the test and won.
Love Wins…then, now and always.
Traducción al español: El Amor Gana ❤️🏳️🌈
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