Cooper was my first son and the second of my five kids. The day he came home from the hospital, his cheeks were so fat they jiggled from the ride of the car. He cried, I’d sing, and he would stop. He grew and grew as babies do and everyone we knew adored him. He mastered unlocking locks. He climbed everything, including inside the washing machine where I once found him at 3 a.m. He made messes everywhere he went and it was hard to get mad because I could see his mind was just curious. He walked late and talked later but his heart was ahead of its time. He was an old soul with tight blonde curls. He was tender hearted, compassionate, and strong from the start. He grew and grew as toddlers do and loved umbrellas.
He enjoyed learning about science, the weather, and America. He loved Jesus and he literally slept with a hymn book and his Bible. He wrote hilarious poems for his first grade teacher and combed his hair different every day. Recesses were spent on swings and although he spent much time alone, he really liked the other kids and they seemed to like him. He was quiet and pensive, and he loved to laugh. When he laughed, anyone watching laughed. He was polite, even proper, and kind. He was much like Christopher Robin.
He became a teenager. Life was often intense, frustrating, and full of deep pain. Words can’t adequately explain what it was like for me to look into his eyes and see discomfort that seemed difficult to address. I always had a feeling things would be better when he went to high school, and they were. He had the opportunity to develop his own interests and friends. School became a place where he was just Cooper, not another one of the handful of kids in this family. Coop’s years of great struggle seemed to fade as he found his own interests, largely in the La Habra High School Theater Guild. (I remember, in my ignorance, being worried he might meet some gay kids there. Now I’d say he should only be so lucky!) He was liked and loved by many. He was thoughtful, generous, very quick witted, smart, and kind. Still the same quiet person, kids from all different social circles would call out to him and he would just smile and flash them a peace sign. He grew a little more and thought a lot. He was becoming a young man.
Right after his 16th birthday, Cooper did something quite brave. He pulled me into his room, sat down on his bed and asked me to sit. Then seemingly out of nowhere, he told me he is gay. In that moment, the thoughts that screamed at me were silenced by the peace he held. I thought to myself how differently this moment could have looked and the first feeling I felt was gratefulness. Grateful to hear it from a son who was alive and seemingly comfortable. I had one task to do as his mom and he needed to know I was still ready for the job. I knew I would love him unconditionally and accept him and his truth, even though I wasn’t conditioned to do this with anyone, and didn’t realize what kind of change this would immediately bring about in my whole life. That didn’t matter. I couldn’t control anyone but myself. Especially since I had previously spoken of homosexuality being inappropriate, he absolutely had to know and feel my whole hearted acceptance. Any other thoughts, feelings, and adjustments could remain inside my head for me to look at because in that moment, they were nothing. After I listened to his statements, I asked if I could ask him some questions and he articulately answered them, assuring me this was not a phase or a season of questioning. I couldn’t ignore his relief in finally being able to be honestly known. I put my hands on both of his arms, looked straight into his eyes, and I spoke to him slowly and deliberately, saying,
“Cooper….I will love you FOREVER. Thank you, so much, for sharing this with me. You being gay doesn’t change my love for you. YOU will ALWAYS be MY son……….and I will ALWAYS be proud of YOU.“
He looked at me with no real surprise and simply said, “Thank you. I love you too.” For the first time ever, he seemed 100% comfortable in his own skin.
He came out the next day with his family. His little brother was only in first grade, and asked, “Does that mean you want to be a girl?” Before I could say a word, Cooper said, “No. It means when I grow up I want to marry a man.” And that was that. One day in the summer, I awoke to discover he had come out on social media. He continued to attend our church and youth group for awhile. He had his first boyfriend. He went to gay mixers for youth. He just lived HIS life the way he was created to live it.
We have gone on as a family to feel the warmth of acceptance from some and tried to ignore insensitive and sometimes hateful comments of others about LGBT+ in general. He had some family that sent cards of congratulations, glad he discovered who he was at such a young age. He had other family members who became pretty silent when they realized this wasn’t viewed in our home as a problem. He carries no shame. The way he was received by others also communicates to the rest of our family who among those we know are safe to be honest with and who aren’t. We have stood in word and deed right by his side. I took a good year to adjust my mindset towards the LGBTQ community, and it didn’t happen without an internal struggle. That is the job I signed up for when I had kids. It was never an option to respond any other way once I heard the words, “Mom, I’m gay” come out of his mouth. I have loved all of Cooper from day one for one reason and it won’t ever fade. Because he’s mine.