Love, Family

What Parents Of Straight Kids Will NEVER Understand About Orlando

Photo: Lori & Bob Hollander
Hollander Family

I finally cried this morning. My friend Cathy reached out to ask how my husband, Bob, and I were doing after the horrific Orlando shooting. None of my other friends called.

I know they care. They just don’t understand what it’s like to be the parent of a gay child ... and we have two gay kids.

Saturday we marched in the DC Pride Parade — proud parents of 2 gay kids. Marching with PFLAG has become a ritual for us. We march to send a message of love, to our son and daughter. To parents who love their kids but might be too shy to shout it out. To parents still struggling to accept their children and especially to the LGBTQ community of young people.

We want them to know they are loved, even if their parents or religion reject them.

We awoke Sunday to the tragic and devastating news that there had been 49 children killed and 53 injured during a terror attack in an Orlando gay nightclub.

We were horrified thinking about what the kids experienced inside the club, and traumatized by hearing the parents on the news, uncertain about the fate of their children.

What affected me most was the mom who received texts from her son, Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, trapped inside the club.

ABC News

He then went silent. He was among the 49 who didn't make it. 

I can hardly stand to read this again.

That could be my son. That IS my son. That’s what parents of straight kids don’t get.

Here’s what I want parents of straight kids (and others) to understand: Our gay kids are innocent. They were born this way. They did nothing to deserve being disliked, hated or bullied — yet so often they are. No matter how high their self-esteem, they often feel hurt. 

As parents, it KILLS us that we can’t protect them from the world.

Our own kids first came out before the Supreme Court upheld Marriage Equality. Like lightening, it hit me that they wouldn’t be able to get married. I felt outraged.

What do you mean I can’t dance at my children’s wedding? Being gay doesn’t mean you don’t fall in love and want to marry.

The message our kids heard from those against Marriage Equality: 

You are different from your peers because of who you are. You are not good enough. You are a second-class citizen. You are unlikable. Photographers and bakers are sickened by the fact that you are who you are. You’re disgusting, a demon trying to ruin our traditional society and destroy families.

We fought hard for two years alongside Equality Maryland to attain the right for our kids to marry. We and our kids even testified before the Maryland legislature.

Many people who testified against the bill actually described gay people as “pedophiles, child abusers, lower than animals, and sexual predators.”

I was outraged. Those are my children you are talking about! And they are sitting right here. I still shake with rage when I think about it.

Last time I looked, the predators were a GOP House Speaker, a Penn State Football Coach and some Catholic priests.

Our son, more than our daughter, has been ridiculed, called derogatory names, had a friend who was severely beaten ... for just being gay. The threat of violence, for just being who he is, is often on his mind.

Our kids can’t show any expression of love or affection to a partner in public, without fear of being ridiculed or worse yet violently attacked.

My kids can’t walk down the street with a partner holding hands on a date. Or give a hug or a kiss. Their public display of affection might make someone uncomfortable. They have to hide their affection. I’m furious!

Our son explained to us that one of the few safe spaces for their community is a gay club. It’s a place where they can fully be themselves. They can dance, they can touch, they can express affection without any judgment, without any fear, without feeling something is wrong with them.

Now even THAT has been violated.

Every time they meet someone new, our kids fear being judged. When a new co-worker, boss or doctor asks if they’re dating anyone, they have to lie or come out all over again. The fear of judgment and rejection is chronic.

Our children can be fired from a job or denied housing because they are gay. Sexual orientation and gender identity has not been added as a protected class, as are race, religion, color, sex, and national origin.

We can’t protect them from this. And my government won’t. What country do I live in?!

When we march at Pride, you can’t imagine how many young people approach us and say, “Thank you for loving your kids.” I don’t even know how to respond to this.

Thank you for loving your kids? I tell them they are our kids, and we love them!

When others talk about gay people, they are talking about our children.

It’s been quite a journey, one I wouldn’t change for anything in the world. Our two gay kids have brought more depth, meaning, love, understanding, compassion, warmth, joy and richness to our lives than I ever could have imagined.

Here's what you can do:

  • Share this article with everyone you know. Post it on Facebook and social media.
  • Contact PFLAG or Straight for Equality and ask how to help.
  • Learn more about the LGBTQ community.
  • Speak up when you hear offensive jokes, language or comments.
  • March with us and PFLAG in a Pride Parade as an ally. 
  • Contact your Local and State representatives to: 
    • Support legislation that adds sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class. 
    • Speak up against legislation that discriminates against the LGBTQ community.

Thank you for your support.