OutCasting youth participant Alex, guests Mimi and Jerry Goodman. Photo by Jim MacLean.
Part 1 (January 1, 2019)
Part 2 (February 1, 2019)
Parents often assume that their children are heterosexual and cisgender, and many may think that it would be quite awful if they weren’t. From the moment a child is born, many parents make all kinds of assumptions about what the child’s life will look like. Many of these assumptions are based in norms, expectations, and stereotypes that follow the assumption that the child will be heterosexual and cisgender. Parents might envision their daughter walking down the aisle in a wedding dress, marrying a man, in the distant future. The parents may think about how proud they’ll be in that moment, and how they’ll know they’ve been successful in raising their child.
But when a child is gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, gender nonconforming, or otherwise a member of a sexual or gender minority, those assumptions may be challenged. And a lot of people might feel that if their child doesn’t fit those expectations, it speaks negatively about their parenting abilities. Ultimately, it’s rooted in the idea the being LGBTQ, or having LGBTQ children, is a bad thing, or at least not as good as having straight, cisgender children. This can be very damaging.
Emma was an OutCasting youth participant during their high school years. (Emma uses they/them pronouns.) They spoke on an edition of OutCasting Overtime about how, after coming out, their mother went through all of the stages of grief except acceptance, called a psychiatrist, told Emma "it's just a phase,” and functionally forced Emma back into the closet, shutting down a big part of Emma’s identity.
And it can get worse than that. Some parents actually disown their children when they find out that they’re LGBTQ.
The implications of family rejection for LGBTQ youth are alarming. According to the Human Rights Campaign, LGBTQ youth are more than twice as likely to be homeless than heterosexual cisgender youth. The Trevor Project reports that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are almost five times as likely as heterosexual youth to have attempted suicide. Family rejection makes a lesbian, gay, or bisexual person more than eight times as likely to attempt suicide. The suicide rate is even higher for transgender people, with 40% of trans adults reporting having attempted suicide, the vast majority when they were under 25.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. How much better a world we could have if parents did what all parents should do — just love their children, whether those children are straight and cisgender or LGBTQ.
On this two part OutCasting series, OutCaster Alex talks with Mimi and Jerry Goodman of New York. Both of their now-grown children — Jesse and Sara — are gay. That experience has turned them into highly respected LGBTQ activists, connected them to people they might have never known, and broadened their world view. They look back at what they did right, what they might do differently, and what they would advise other parents who are in their position.
Mimi was a guest on an earlier edition of OutCasting about binational couples and how the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), then in effect, had forced Jesse and his partner to move overseas in order to stay together.