About a week ago, I had dinner with a bunch of Subud people, in town for a meeting of the region. One woman who was there is an old family friend, who has always been very dear to my heart. I’ve taken care of her kids at various times, and her oldest daughter and I share almost the same name. When I’m in DC, they are the people I stay with. It’s been about a year since I’ve seen M, and we quickly caught up on the details while we walked over to Creisham Valley Cottage for dinner, a couple of steps ahead of the rest of the group.
I asked how her oldest was, and she said, “She’s still living in Portland, engaged to a woman.”
While it was new information to me that her daughter was a lesbian, I was really thrilled to hear that she was doing so well, and seemed to be happy.
I innocently asked M, “How do you feel about this?”
I was not prepared for the answer that I got, which was, “Heart sick.”
This statement took me aback and saddened me. She wasn’t surprised or acclimating to the news, she was feeling deeply pained. I realize that for many parents, having a child who comes out as gay or lesbian isn’t their very first choice, but I really thought that these days it had become pretty normalized. That it had become one of the known possibilities. I realize as I write that last sentence, the depths of my innocence, because if this woman, who in my experience has always been extremely liberal and accepting, was having a hard time adjusting to her daughter’s sexual orientation, then there are many more people with even more deeply seated positions of prejudice and rejection.
I listened to her continue to tell me how she wasn’t even sure if she was going to go to the wedding, which is planned for next summer. This is the point at which I did something that continues to disappoint me. I said nothing. I nodding and listened, and let her think that in some way I agreed with her.
I didn’t say what I was thinking, which was, “This is your daughter you are talking about. I don’t care whether you like the fact that she has chosen a woman to be her partner or not, you need to give her your support. The idea that you would skip her wedding and somehow act in a way as to reduce her happiness is inexcusable. Get over it and walk that which has been your talk for as long as I’ve known you.”
Each time I’ve gone back and relived this exchange, I’ve felt a little sadness for not speaking up. I know why I did it, I wanted to protect my relationship with M. I was afraid that if I spoke up and disagreed with her on such a personal topic, our friendship, which has meant much to me over the years, would end in an instant. But in protecting that relationship, I did a disservice to my friendship with her daughter. I thought I went with my instincts in the situation, but now I’m certain I went with my fear. I know that all I can do now is chalk it up as a learning situation and behave differently in the future.