We Are Metro DC PFLAG
Dr. Anne Slonim Rafal is a licensed Social Worker, with a Ph. D in Social work, who has become actively involved in her PFLAG community.
In 2002, when my daughter was 14, she came out. We lived in Charlottesville, VA. I was surprised and wanted to deal with it as well as I could and get support on my own journey. So I looked for support groups for me. That is when I found PFLAG.
At that time, I did not have friends with gay children, although now many of my friends have gay children who have come out. We all say it’s a parallel process: we come out, the same way our children do. I was coming out to family, or her friends’ parents, or my friends for my support too. Their reactions were varied. I went to PFLAG at the same I was doing this coming out thing, and I met a woman who was very helpful, and she then moved away. I became the head of PFLAG in Charlottesville. My husband and I are both very supportive of gay rights.
I have a gay brother; we both have gay cousins. We tried to help our daughter maneuver it and then figure out how it was going to affect our parenting and our relationships with her. Perhaps we overdid it—I dragged her and the rest of the family to social events in Richmond and Charlottesville for gay teens. I was glad when she met a few girls on the internet.
I actually do a lot of grief work with clients when they go through different life events, and I think you go through those different stages when your kid comes out. You go through denial, thinking it might just be a stage. As a parent, you question yourself: was it something I did? Even though we know that it wasn’t.
I started questioning my own sexuality. A lot of my friends said, “Well haven’t you wanted to know it was like to feel the touch of a woman?” I started thinking maybe I was just in denial about my own sexuality and who I am. It questions your identity when your kid starts questioning theirs, because their identity is different than you thought. You start to have your own identity issues.
I am doing some writing on this topic so I have been thinking about the stages a lot, and I guess I also had anger when people didn’t accept it. That was another stage I went through. And then of course, you get to acceptance. For me, the whole process took about two years, and that was with having all the knowledge and support. It takes a while; it’s a journey. Being a part of this community has expanded my life. I’ve grown as a person, and gotten closer with my daughter.
In the beginning, my daughter had two friends she was close with. We were part of a synagogue in this little town. One of the girls said, “Oh, you can’t be that way, you’re not my friend anymore,” and the other one just sort of freaked out. I had relationships with their parents too. Whenever my daughter was in pain or isolated, so was I, it was hard to deal with. It worked out though It does get better.
This generation is not what I thought it would be; everyone has been so fabulous. I don’t think marriage equality is the end all be all though. That’s just one piece of the rights they wanted. It’s good; it’s a great thing. But I think the LGBT community is fragmented. It doesn’t seem like they come together very much, unless there is an event like Pride. As a group, they could be stronger. Marriage isn’t the end; it’s just the beginning, and it is not what everyone wants. Everyone wants support and acceptance.