Excerpt from:
Out of the Closet Into Our Hearts
Celebrating Our Gay/Lesbian Family Members


We began collecting celebratory stories by family members of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people, to give greater voice to a population not often heard over the shouts of anger, hatred, and bigotry. How often do we hear about a mother's tender love for a daughter who has just announced, "I like girls"? ("Mother's Day" by Laura Lamb). Or about a grandfather who defends his grandson against the jeers of peer Army veterans ("A Grandfather's First Pride Parade" by Margaret DaRos). The voice of love is inherent in every one of these pieces.
We are both mothers of gay sons. Our children have enriched our lives beyond measure. They have introduced us to a vibrant, loving, and passionate community. Our children (collectively speaking) have taken us to our first drag performance as Rhea Murray delightfully describes in "Ms Razz-ma-tazz. They have introduced us to Gay Pride Celebrations and shown us how to receive more love than we ever knew possible ("I Met You at the Parade" by Bonnie Sublett). They have even let us ride on the back of motorcycles with Dykes on Bikes ("Passenger" by Shirley Powers).
These writers also show us a quieter kind of love. In fact, most of these pieces describe a love that we don't often see on the front page of newspapers. The love of a family sharing Christmas dinner together is described by Tom Starnes in "A Family's Blessings." The love and respect of two cousins who buy matching cloaks becomes a visible symbol of "The Way Our Lives Are Interwoven" (Jennifer Harris). And there's the love of a mother, Karen Torgerson Jackson ("What a Waste"), who manages to spend an entire day with her daughter without saying the word "lesbian" once. These are ordinary stories of love and celebration that are also extraordinary in a world that constantly attempts to disenfranchise our family members.
We have also written this book as a gift to all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people--to tell them they are indeed loved and celebrated. They are celebrated fiercely ("The Pride of a Lion" by James Pines). They are celebrated compassionately ("The Heart of a Flower" by Carole and Richard L. Fowler) and they are celebrated in the presence of God ("Alleluia" by Reverend Kurt A. Olson).
They are celebrated on the floor of the legislature ("Testimony" by 10-year-old Sol Kelley-Jones), at church ("Witness" by Betty Dorr) and at school ("Something joyous Within Me Broke I Through" by Betty Cornin).
We family members are literally bursting out of our closets. As the religious right shouts, "Gays are leading sinful lives," as full page newspaper ads state, "Gays can be cured"; these writers proclaim, "We are thrilled that our family members are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered. We wouldn't want them to 'be' any other way."
Many people have the perception that having a gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgendered family member is a problem to be overcome. Many people indeed go through various stages of denial, grief, anger, and fear. We have also collected these stories for families who are struggling--to show them what is possible if they open their hearts and simply love.
These stories show that it is not only possible to celebrate our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered family members--it is, natural, basic, and inherent in the family relationship.
Some of the contributors to this anthology refer to an organization called PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). PFLAG promotes the health and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons, their families and friends through: support, to cope with an adverse society; education, to enlighten an ill-informed public; and advocacy, to end discrimination and to secure civil rights. PFLAG provides an opportunity for dialogue about our sexual orientation and gender identity, and acts to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity. Serving over 80,000 members, PFLAG affiliates are located in more than 445 communities across the United States, and abroad. Whether you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered or a family member, PFLAG needs your support and presence to further its mission.
This anthology represents the voices of over 50 mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, children, nieces, nephews, and cousins; however, there are many more family members out there who celebrate. We encourage you to continue doing the most important job you can possibly do in your life--to show another person that they are loved, supported, and valued. And if the feeling strikes you to one day express that love publicly--do it!! join PFLAG, write letters, march in pride parades, speak out. That love and outreach will return to you in ways you never imagined. That love can reduce the risk of AIDS, suicide and drug use. If gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people are valued and celebrated, they will have a reason to love and celebrate themselves. One of the contributors to this anthology, Laura Lamb, has used a pseudonym out of respect for her daughter who is not yet "out" at high school. Another contributor, Dennis Shepard, honors his son Matthew after Matthew's brutal murder. We, the editors, hope that one day all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people will be able to live with more openness and acceptance--they no longer need to live in fear of coming out or being harmed. We see the day when stories like these will be the standard by which young gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people can be accepted and loved.

-Laura Siegel & Nancy Lamkin Olson

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