We have a few newish drivers in our house and I am the worst person to take them out to learn to drive. I white-knuckle my way through every harder-than-necessary brake. I suck in breath when they get a little closer to the side of the road than I think is comfortable. I grab onto the door for dear life when they take a turn too fast. I have abdicated all driving lessons to their dad or step-dad because if I’m in the car, my fears will absolutely not help them learn to drive well. Teaching my kids to drive requires a courage that I do not possess.
There are lots of moments in parenting that require bravery. We need to be brave when we send our kids off to school. We are brave when we let them cook their first meal and then eat it with them. We are brave when we let them hang out with friends at the mall or go on dates or put them in the church nursery. Honestly, just about everything we do as parents requires us to exercise some level of courage. We’re raising human beings, after all. That’s a pretty massive charge.
One area where we don’t usually need to exhibit any kind of exceptional fortitude is in the way that we show love to our kids. For the most part, that happens automatically. We don’t generally point to parents who love their kids as behaving in a particularly heroic fashion. Loving our offspring tends to be our natural response as parents. In fact, our love is what drives the fears we need to overcome in all other area. Fear of car crashes, fear of broken hearts, fear of any kind of harm. We love our kids, so we have to be brave when we let them do things that could put them in any kind of danger.
People have told me that I’m brave for speaking out for my LGBTQ kids, but the truth is, that isn’t bravery, it’s just love. My kids are funny, smart, talented, interesting people, and sharing about them is easy for me. Keeping parts of them hidden is much harder for me because I always want them to know just how much I love them and how proud I am of them.
What makes it brave to share about all aspects of my kids is that many have made it clear that I should not be proud of all of the parts of my kids. They look at things like gender expression or orientation as negative traits that at the very least, I should be ashamed of and not speak about.
If simply speaking about my kids the way any proud parent speaks about their kids make me brave, then you need to compliment my kids and the LGBTQ population way more. Because support is, for the most part, easy. Actually living your life authentically as an LGBTQ person requires far more courage. It can mean losing jobs. It can mean losing housing. It can mean putting yourself in physical danger. It can mean experiencing state sanctioned bigotry. It can mean being kicked out of a church. It can mean being rejected by the people who should find it the easiest to love you.
Allies who receive that treatment do so only because the opinion of LGBTQ people is so low that even saying, “Hey, I affirm their humanity,” is too much to handle. Because affirming humanity should be a relatively simple thing for all of us to do. Especially if we’re parents.
I’m brave only because people have made it dangerous for me to do the most natural thing a mom does: love her kids.