Helen Bonser – Parenting

“Parents don’t need to be scared.”

A lot of times parents worry more about themselves. “What’s my family going to think of me? How’d I fail? How’d I raise this gay anomaly here? What’s going to happen to me now? What are people going to think of me? How are they going to judge me? How could I possibly share this with people?” That’s what I call the “get over yourself part,” because eventually they have to get over that and move on.

You actually find out, as parents, as you come out. [Parents] have their own coming out process. All parents, family members, and friends have their own process, their own journey to make, from ignorance and prejudice to grief. It’s kind of like a death, because the child and the person you thought you had, isn’t who you thought they were. So, they have to go through all these stages to reaching acceptance and moving on. What stops them from that . . . First it would be, “Well, now something’s changed. It’s all different. Now we’ve got this ugly thing that we have to deal with in the middle of us.”

This was what I found—why parents don’t need to be scared about coming out, or non-gay people don’t need to be scared about being allies—is that really people don’t care that much, not nearly as much as we think they would. When I first told somebody my daughter was gay, [it] was my staff at the library, because I ran the Outreach Division for the public library. We were going somewhere in the outreach van. One of them was saying she’d been in a gay bar. And the other was saying, “Well, I’ve been in one too.” They were talking about this, and so I just said, “Well, Terri’s gay.” And they said, “Oh, that’s nice. Where shall we go for lunch?”[1]

I thought the sky was going to fall, but nothing happened. The more I did that, the more I said—“She’s given me permission to share with you that she’s [a lesbian]”—people would go, “Well, how are you doing with that?” Or it was just nothing. You find out that people aren’t as interested in you and your family as you think they are. Or they’re more supportive than you think. Either neutral or supportive.


I’ll never forget Harry Urbanek, Katie’s husband, talking. He would always say, “I’m just a dad.” But he was, of course, a wonderful dad. He would say, “I didn’t know until he was . . .”—because their boy was a grown man before he came out to them—“until he was such-and-such an age. But he’s still my son and I love him just as much as I . . .” Standing up and talking to the [legislature] in Olympia. He was one of the first ones to do that. And when a Dad spoke, they often made an impact.



[1]HB recalled that is was in the early 1980s.


Source: Interview with Laura S. Hodgman on 14 March 2013.