“When I walk in the room, it is such a relief to know I can talk about my real feelings and know other members of the Group have been through the same thing and know what I feel is normal”.
“The Group has given us a lot of comfort and we know we can discuss the subject with parents who have been through the same trauma”.
“The fact that you can meet with a group of parents who have similar problems coming to terms with their children’s sexuality is of great comfort. It certainly helps to be able to discuss with other parents the fears and problems that may be encountered”.
“It is very comforting to know that I am not alone having a gay Jewish son. We are all able to speak our innermost feelings in relaxed surroundings”.
“I found it good to come to the meetings because I can openly talk about it getting any prejudice”.
“Although I am in the minority by having a lesbian daughter, it is very comforting to be able to talk and listen to others with similar ‘problems’ or who understand the situation”.
“It is so good not to feel isolated and to be able to share the feelings with other Jewish parents”.
A Mother’s Story
The shock of hearing our son say he is gay is one we will always live with. Although I had my suspicions, until he put it into words, you hope it will just not be true. My husband had no idea and was utterly devastated, as too was I. My son wanted this kept a secret for the moment so there was no one we could talk to and felt there was no way of sharing this sadness and our unhappiness, and being Jewish made it no easier. We adore our son and still do but we didn’t know which way to turn for help.
We went through all the possible emotions you could think of and I even went to see a psychiatrist to see if that would help me over the depression I felt. I read in the paper an advertisement for a
help group called FFLAG (Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). In desperation I phoned the number and without giving a name told a very nice man about our situation. When I mentioned I was Jewish he gave me the number of the Support Group for Parents of Jewish Gays and Lesbians. Eventually I plucked up the courage to phone, all the time wondering what if I know the person on the other end? What if this person knows my son and tells someone?
I had no need to worry because everything I told the lady who spoke to me was in the strictest confidence. At that time I didn’t give my surname or my son’s name but that wasn’t a problem because she let me tell her what I wanted to, and when I felt ready to reveal more she was there to listen. She asked me if we would like to come to a meeting that took place every two months in different people’s homes, but at the time I wasn’t up to that and my husband didn’t want to go.
It took us eighteen months for us to be ready to go to a meeting and by then my son had told most of his close friends though not his work colleagues and we had told some of our family. They were
very supportive but they couldn’t really understand because they were not in the same situation.
Two weeks ago we went to our first meeting; of course we were absolutely terrified we didn’t know what type of people would be there or again, if we would know someone. We arrived and sat outside for ten minutes trying to pluck up the courage to go in. Eventually we did and we received a very warm welcome, it made us realize that we were not the only family in the world going through this. Also it wouldn’t have mattered if we would have known anyone (which we didn’t) as everyone was in the same boat and had had the same experiences to lesser or greater degrees.
We went round the room and everyone there told their story. We thought we wouldn’t say anything, which would have been fine too, but halfway through, we found ourselves speaking about our experiences and we were relieved to find out that we could talk to people without being judged and who knew exactly what we were talking about. It was such a relief to be honest with a room full of people for the first time in a long time without having to make excuses about why our son wasn’t going out with a nice girl.
We will go back to the meetings to join in again with other people like ourselves, ordinary families who just happen to have a gay child. I hope that we can also help others to see that there is help out there if you want it. Nothing can ever take the sadness away of not having grandchildren or not seeing our child get married, but we are learning slowly that there are worst things in life that can happen to you and we still have a son who we love and respect and always will.
A Mother’s Story
My daughter left home at 19 to (as I found out later) find herself! Some time later she came home for a weekend and asked if she could speak to me without her father being present. I guessed something was wrong and immediately asked if she was on drugs or was she pregnant? She denied both of these and I then asked her if she was gay.
By this time she was crying her eyes out and could only nod and asked how I had guessed. We fell into each other’s arms and both of us cried buckets. I told her that nothing had changed and that she was still our daughter and that we loved her very much.
After about 20 minutes, during which we just hugged and cried, she said she was so happy as I hadn’t pushed her away or disowned her as many of her friends’ parents had with their children. She then went out for a cigarette and to calm herself down and I went to tell her Dad! He just cried and asked me two questions:-
“Does that mean I won’t be able to cuddle her anymore?” and “Does that mean I will never walk her down the aisle?”
When my daughter came back in she and her Dad had a long tearful cuddle (which answered his first question) and I again reassured her, and her Dad, that she was still the same person we had known 2 hours earlier and that we still loved her to bits. I asked her if she was sure about being a Lesbian and that it was not just a passing phase and asked her to delay ‘coming out’ for 6 months to make sure. This she agreed to do.
Deep down both my husband and I were devastated and worried about her future. It felt as though my heart had been broken in two but, looking back, this was because of all the things I would miss out on i.e. a wedding and grandchildren. Purely selfish reasons. She was HAPPY!!! which really is all that matters.
Later, when I was asked to help form a Committee for the parents of Jewish Gays and Lesbians I jumped at the idea. I needed desperately to talk to other people in my position. My husband did not want to attend any meetings as he said he didn’t need to talk about It. He did really but, being a very private person, he could not express how he felt in public. I felt the opposite and needed and hear other peoples’ stories. In the early days this was a lifeline for me.
My daughter now has a super partner that we like (not like some earlier relationships) and we have accepted her as another member of our family. Long may it last!
Although we know her future will be tough as long as she is happy we will be happy too. We love her unconditionally and are very proud of her in all she does.
A Mother’s story
When my daughter, Joanne, finally admitted to me, after much questioning on my part, that she had a ‘girl friend’, she promised me that it was just a phase and would not last. I thought she was mad but I kept my cool in front of her and told her it would not come between us. I knew this girl, Jackie, who had been her flat-mate for some time. Joanne had also told me a couple of years previously that this girl was in a relationship with another girl she knew. I was glad when I heard that the two of them had moved to New York – Jackie being kept by the other girl, Fiona, who was in a very good job.
Now it appeared that she had returned from New York and was living with and being supported by my daughter, who also had a very good job as a well respected financial journalist, whilst she, Jackie was in a very mediocre office job. However, it did not pass. I was angry that I had been deceived and that this girl had been presented to me and my family as a flat-mate. I was angry that she could be so foolish as to waste her time with an uneducated girl when she had had the opportunity to go out with many professional men who were all smitten with her (one of whom, a surgeon she had lived with and he wanted to marry her). I was angry that my daughter had put me in a position to feel ashamed and embarrassed about her. I was angry that I felt I had to lie or circle round the truth about her to my friends and family. Finally, I was angry that she was denying me the chance of seeing her married with a family.
I must have cried every day for years. I only told one friend about her and she was very sympathetic. I could not tell anyone else, except my partner ( later my husband) as I did not want anyone to talk about her behind my back. I also prayed that this relationship would end and no-one would be any the wiser.
Joanne and I talked about my distress often. She tried to reassure me. She loved me and I loved her, but I hated the way she was living. She just kept saying to me that she was the same person and it shouldn’t make any difference to us. But it did. She hardly mentioned Jackie and where she went and what she did. I was horrified to learn that they had been to “gay clubs’ and that many of their friends were gay and lesbian. I questioned myself and how she had been brought up. I blamed myself and the break up of my marriage to her father, thinking that if she had seen a stable relationship between her parents (whose marriage had lasted 26 years) then she would have had a good role model of a man and woman together, instead of a model of a father who was too involved in his gambling etc., to spend any time with her or her brother.
Even though her relationship floundered once or twice, to my delight, they went back together. Once it floundered because Joanne said she wanted a baby and Jackie flounced out. I thought she had at last seen sense.
At this point I found Kenneth and Mavis through a Helpline list. When I first spoke to Kenneth he was kind and understanding. He told me about the Support Group and I went along to Myma’s flat one evening with my husband. I cried the whole evening. I found the whole experience so emotional, I could hardly speak. Myrna was so calm and warm towards me, I finally felt I could speak my mind to her and others in the group who were in the same situation as me. Others felt they could not share their problems with their family and friends. Others felt disappointed in what life had dealt them and others felt angry that they were being denied the delights of a wedding and of grandchildren.
The end result is that Joanne now does have a baby – a wonderful boy, Jared, who is nearly two. The father is a gay friend of Joanne’s who, with his partner, are the four parents of this wonderful boy. Jackie really pulls her weight with bringing up Jared.
I have got to know her better and find that she is thoughtful and generous. She and Joanne are happy and want to be together. I have accepted the situation. All my friends and family know about her. I’m sure they are all glad that it has not happened to them, but I don’t worry about that now.
My daughter and I have the most wonderful relationship, which I cherish. I am blessed with a gorgeous grandson who is a huge part of my life and my husband’s. Joanne has blossomed since she became a mother and Jackie has become far more responsible. David, Jared’s father, and his partner, have become part of my family. As I say, I have two sons-in-law for the price of one. I do worry about the future for Joanne and Jared. I just hope she will always be as happy as she is now.
I thank all those at the Support Group for their support to me at a time in my life when I was desperately unhappy. They made me realise that life does not stop and if you make the best of it, the best happens.
A Mother’s story
Mark, the second of my four sons, came out to his elder brother fourteen years ago. He was living in America at the time. It was just after his thirtieth birthday and he was very agitated and emotional. He had been living in America since my husband passed away nine years earlier. Immediately I telephoned him and told him to return home, which he did. To know that his brothers and myself supported him gave him a more positive outlook on his life. You see, he didn’t want to be gay or different from his brothers.
Mark said he had known since he was very young and carried his secret into adulthood but could no longer live a lie.
Of course, it was a shock as I and my sons had no idea of his sexuality and it saddened us to realise that all the years growing up he had this secret. I felt like many other Jewish parents-“who can I tell or talk to”. Fourteen years ago there was no organisation that I knew of. I made enquiries at the time from my doctor who could give little help. I loved my son, he was the same lovely boy as he always was.
As time passed by, I gradually told my family and a few friends; most were supportive. It was impossible to speak to my Rabbi as the position of the United Synagogue was to ignore the issue.
Then about six years ago, Richard Morris, Mavis and Ken’s son, telephoned me. He had read a letter which the Jewish Chronicle had published in which I came out as a Jewish mother and wanted to know if I would be interested in stating a support group which his parents had told him they would like to do. Richard was great and got a few couples together- then followed the birth of the Support Group for Parents of Jewish Gays and Lesbians.
How wonderful are our meetings; so many parents have come to us and have been able to talk freely and learn from our experiences, when before they had felt so alone. Now we all help each other. New parents come to our meetings and within a short while-mostly- know they are amongst friends. Of course, some take longer than others to come to terms, but eventually they do.
I bless Richard for instigating such a group. We give each other confidence and support and in that way help and support our children. Long may our Support Group continue.
A Son’s Letter to his parents
(left on the kitchen floor for them to pick up)
Mum and Dad,
I hate the fact that I’m actually writing what I have to say in a letter, but I can’t bring myself to say it to your face.
Over the past year, something has been bottling up inside and things were somewhat confirmed over the summer. After camp and even now, I’ve put coming home off because I’ve been scared to be honest.
University has changed me a lot, you may not see it because that’s the actor in me. What’s changed has been me coming to terms with something since I was about 13, which I never wanted to because I didn’t like it, but have accepted it and cannot change it.
I don’t know if it will surprise you or not, but I’m sure you’ve had your suspicions, and now I write the word that makes things that extra bit more real. After 6 almost 7 years, I’ve realised I’m GAY.
There you go, I’ve said it and I cry as I write. I want to get married and have children, but I’ve spent months accepting that I can’t.
I’m sure you want to ask and question me loads and tell me that it’s a phase….but honestly it’s not and I am who I am finally.
Me being what I am does not change my personality or how I am, it’s just another thing you’ve learnt about me, like me getting a new hairstyle!
I know that people see homosexuality as an issue, I did and that’s why I tried to ignore it; but let me tell you that I have met so many gay people at uni and they are normal people at the end of the day.
I may not be making much sense, but I hope you can comprehend at least some of what I’ve written.
I hope that now you know, you don’t start trying to question me because there’s no need. You’ve just found out that I don’t fancy girls, okay?
I’ve never ever told you who I was going out with, etc, don’t know why, but that’s how it seems to be. So I don’t need to tell you what I get up to as a gay person, like I never did when I was younger – unless you’re really that interested.
I hope it hasn’t come as a shock. Yes, there are stereotypes and I hope you didn’t spot it – girls as friends, dancing, dolls, hair, etc – the signs were there all along and I could not shore them away.
So, that’s that. I’ve gone out now, so that you can spend time reading this and hopefully accepting it as another thing. I wish I wasn’t gay, but I am and there’s no changing me. I’m happy, my friends are happy for me and my life in Bournemouth is great. I wish it could be the same here.
I don’t know if telling my brothers is a good idea. If you don’t think you can handle it as a secret, fine. Up to you two.
So, I’ll be back later tonight. All I ask is for you to write something back on this, so I know I can come back home in comfort.
I never say this, and have never shared this, but I love you both very much and the reason I’ve been the troublesome teenager I have been is because of this 7 year long secret. Now that it’s out, perhaps things will be better.
I love you both very much.