I was putting away towels in the hall when my wife came to me in a frenzy.
“Come here, quickly, Sydney needs to talk to both of us!” my wife exclaimed. “I think she’s going to tell us she’s gay. I’m not ready to handle this right now!”
When I got to the living room, Syd was already sitting in her favorite chair, her hair still wrapped in a towel from her shower. She’s 14.
“OK, Daddy is here too. So what did you need to talk to us about?” my wife asked.
Syd became uncomfortable. Fidgety. She readjusted her sitting position several times. She started to speak and then stopped a couple of times.
“Oh my gosh, why am I so nervous?” she asked. “You already know what I’m going to say, don’t you?”
My wife and I sat there looking at her patiently, waiting for her to speak. We didn’t want to put words in her mouth. We didn’t want to assume anything. I finally broke the ice, “Are you going to tell us you are gay?” I asked.
“Are you familiar with pansexual?” she countered.
My wife and I sat there dumbfounded. Nope. Not no clue. I thought I remembered Miley Cyrus had come out as Pansexual, but I wasn’t really clear about what that meant.
Syd explained Pansexuals identify as being attracted to all gender identities.
They differ from Bisexuals in a subtle way. Bisexuals are attracted to either Cis-Gender (biology and identity match), but Pansexuals can also be attracted to transgender, androgynous, asexual, and bi-gender.
We had a long discussion about the differences and Syd took her time making sure we were clear on the nuance involved. And then we moved forward. Syd advised us she has known them since 6th grade. She wanted to tell us many times but the timing just wasn’t right.
She apologized for lying to my wife because she had asked her point blank several times in the last year and a half, “Are you gay?” and Syd had always denied it.
So let’s go back. A little history.
If you are a listener of our podcast, “Seven Minutes to Bedtime,” you know we are a pretty liberal, tolerant family. ‘Gay’ is not an issue for us. We have had lots of discussions about intolerance, homophobia, transgender issues, and so on. Two of my wife’s sisters are lesbians. My ex-sister-in-law (who was in a relationship with one of my wife’s sisters) rents a room from us with her daughter. We have gay friends. We have worked with gay people all of our adult lives. Oh, and one more thing, our other daughter Lindsay, 20, came out 6 years ago.
‘Gay’ is not an issue for us. Yet, I sat there and I felt a tinge of disbelief creep in.
“No way!” I wanted to shout. “That’s not a thing. That’s a made-up identity. You have had boy posters on your wall all your life! You like boys!”
A piece of me sat wondering how long this “phase” would last. When would she tell us about a boyfriend? I felt sad that I might never get any grandchildren from my daughters. I might never have a son-in-law who treats her like a princess. Will I walk her down the aisle?
Those thoughts were short-lived. Her gender identity was none of my business. Her announcement didn’t change who she was.
She’s on a path where she is figuring tons of things out for herself, this is now on that list too. Son-in-law/Daughter-in-law — what do I care about as long as she’s treated with respect? If she marries, I’ll walk her down the aisle, regardless of who is waiting for her at the end. I’ll get my grandchildren, whether carried by my daughter or not. I love this girl — always have. I support who she is 100%.
I realized I was in ‘that moment. I was sitting in my living room, watching my 14-year-old daughter fidget and blush, stammer and stutter, start and stop as she struggled to tell us she was feeling something different on the inside than what she was outwardly showing to the rest of the world.
I watched the relief pour over her as she saw our response. I listened as her voice filled with confidence as she explained gender identity further. I was at that moment.
That moment happens every day all over the world. Nervous kids sit down to share the most honest and sometimes most hidden part of their lives with the people who are supposed to love and support them unconditionally every day and that moment doesn’t always go the way it went in our house.
Some kids are shamed. Some kids are banished. Some kids are killed. In our house, Syd was hugged at that moment. She was asked questions. She was given the same rules I have given all of my kids about boyfriends and girlfriends:
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As the night went on, Syd told us about how she had struggled with coming up with just the right way to tell us.
She was going to hint at it like, “There is this really pretty girl in class;” or, she was going to slip it in between two sentences like a subliminal suggestion, “Pass the butter, bythewayI’mpansexual, these biscuits are delicious.” She finally decided to sit us down and tell us directly. I think that was a pretty wise choice.
She was so nervous, and in our house, she didn’t need to be. I can’t imagine how it must feel for some kids.
Syd and I went on to discuss more in our nightly podcast as I put her to bed.
One of the things I said to her is something I have wanted her to know all her life. With us, as her mom and dad, if there was one thing we wanted her to take away from that night was the fact that no matter what it was she had to tell us — if she was in trouble, or got a bad grade, or screwed up really badly, or just wanted to tell us something really difficult — it is going to be OK. Everything is going to be OK. She was really nervous about telling us, but everything is going to be OK.
I kissed her goodnight. Everything is OK.
Rick Sanchez writes about relationships and being a father. He has been featured in Fox News, The Washington Post, The Good Men Project, Yakima Herald-Republic, and the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association.
This article was originally published at The Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission from the author.