Betty DeGeneris: What Messages Should we Send as Parents?

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Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty

Foreword for the Book “Straight Parents, Gay Children: Keeping Families Together”

"I’ve heard of parents who took the coming out of their kids totally in stride. They already had suspicions, or not, but were immediately accepting and understanding. My hat is off to them. It seems that most of us need an adjustment period- a time to refocus, to step back and realize that our children have to live their lives as they were meant to, and not just live out some preconceived idea of what we envision for them.

I’ll always be grateful that when Ellen came out twenty five years ago, she gave me the time I needed to adjust to her surprising news. It is also vital that we kept the lines of communication open. During that time, she wrote me a letter in which she said: "…I don’t think you will ever understand.” Well, I’m happy to say that I think I have proved her wrong on that one.

In 1997 when Ellen came out publicly, I guess I did, too. I feel privileged to have been the first non-gay spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign’s National Coming Out Project. I’ve traveled all over the US, speaking at universities and corporations, speaking at universities and corporations, speaking out against intolerance and speaking for equal rights for our gay sons and daughters. In the last five and a half years I’ve been truly blessed with making and keeping many close, dear friends among the gay men and women I’ve met along the way. I can honestly say that some of the finest people I have ever met in my life are among these gay men and women. They can’t be “just as good as”. They have to prove themselves time and again. And they live their lives courageously. We, heterosexuals, don’t think about this enough – what it would be like to go through life as a contributing, taxpaying, law-abiding citizen, yet always knowing in your heart that there are those who despise you without even knowing you. That takes a kind of bravery that most of us can’t even imagine. As parents we must send the message that discrimination against our loved ones is not OK."

Betty DeGeneris, mother of Ellen DeGeneris