Dear Mom and Dad,
When I was a kid you taught us the importance of family. You taught my sister and brother and I to stand up for each other no matter what and we took that to heart. When that bully on our ball team was going to beat up my little brother, Fiona and I ran all the way home from the diamond to get you, Mom. That day I learned just how tough you could be when you told that kid off. Family meant everything and I knew you both were going to be there to support us… for always.
You made us understand that being kind and tolerant, sticking up for the underdog, sticking up for ourselves and telling the truth were the right things to do. I didn’t need much convincing with regards to honesty. It was in my nature to tell the truth, try to please and never disappoint. When I did lie, I felt sick to my stomach. But the thing was, no matter how scared I was to come to you and no matter what horrible thing I’d done, you always forgave me and helped me figure things out.
Mom, remember when I was eight and I cheated on that history test? I glanced at someone else’s paper and saw the right answer and snatched it as if it were my own. A few nights later you came into my room to kiss me good night. Then you sat down on my bed and asked me what was wrong. As I bawled out my confession, you scooped me into your lap and rested your chin on top of my head. We sat on my bed like that for a long time and, as the winter wind growled at my window, you told me you’d cheated on a math test in grade four. With my ear resting against your chest, I listened to your confession and I knew it would be okay. You made mistakes too. The next day you drove me to school and stood by my side while I admitted my guilt to Mrs. Morris. And you know, Mom, I just felt safe with you there with me.
Dad, remember when I was sixteen and you went away for a week and left your car in the driveway? I wasn’t allowed to take your car out but temptation took hold and I told myself you wouldn’t find out. The hockey game was a blast and after I dropped off my girlfriends, I shook out the mats, straightened the seatbelts, returned your radio station to the CBC and carefully parked your Oldsmobile exactly as I’d found it, ignoring the niggle of guilt in my belly. And, as always, you were one step ahead. You had taken the mileage before you left. So, when I came to you a few days later and confessed, you just gave me your sidelong glance and told me you already knew. You didn’t tell me how disappointed you were. You didn’t need to.
I think it was shortly after my sixteenth birthday when I started to understand the way I felt inside was not right, not something I could talk about. And it was the beginning of the biggest lie I would tell; the biggest secret I would keep; the longest I would feel sick to my stomach.
I was gay.
And I couldn’t change the way I felt no matter how hard I tried to ignore it.
Five years passed. I dated boys. Heck, I liked boys. I brought different boys home to meet you both. I pretended it felt right. But inside it didn’t feel right at all. Inside I felt hollow. And alone. And my smile started to slip.
And then I met her. Her smile filled my heart with sunshine. My fingers laced in hers felt right. I didn’t want to flinch at her feather touch. I giggled at her bold words. We cuddled and I realized how natural I felt with her. She made me forget my stomachache. She encouraged me to be me.
For a while that was enough. But I’m not a good pretender and Mom, when you told me I looked so happy I was glowing, I wanted so badly to tell you the truth. My truth.
Another six months passed until I searched inside and found my courage. I knew you would be shocked. And I thought you might be very upset. But I never doubted you’d still love me.
In the scenario I’d played over and over in my mind, you cried with me, told me you were proud of me for having the courage to tell you. You loved me just as much as you had yesterday and you and Dad wrapped me in your arms and let me know everything was okay.
But that’s not what happened and I never could have guessed.
Mom, you told me you couldn’t accept it; wouldn’t accept it. You told me it was just a phase. You blamed my friends. They had corrupted me, turned me gay. Dad, you stayed silent. You would not meet my eyes. Your silence hurt the most.
I tried to explain between the tears. I tried to remind you both about truth. About honesty. About family. How you had always told me to come to you when I had nowhere else to turn.
And then, I realized I did have somewhere to turn; someone to turn to. And she was waiting for me.
I felt sad. For me. For you and Dad. For us. For what might have been.
I didn’t let the screen door slam as I left last night. And I didn’t look back. I felt Cleo’s rough tongue at my hand as I walked to my car. I bent down and gave that German Shepherd’s big old head a hug and she nuzzled my neck and lapped at my tears as I buried my face in her fur.
I slowly backed away from my childhood home. I did wait for a moment, Mom, for your wave at the living room window. It’s the first time you didn’t raise your hand and blow me a kiss. I maneuvered past the pond and out the long drive.
Mom and Dad, you broke my heart last night and I’m sorry I broke yours too. I didn’t mean to. But I can’t change. I didn’t choose to be gay. But I did choose to tell you the truth. Just like you taught me. I hope one day you’ll remember, I’m still me. I’m still your daughter, still your family, still your little girl… for always…
Any daughter or son, whose parents have turned their backs