Dear Grandparents: Embrace the Joy That is So Near

Family Equality’s Family Speak Out Programs offers outspoken members of our community opportunities to raise their voices and share their stories. The following testimony comes from our Pearls of Wisdom Speak Out Program, which is designed to empower grandparents—both those who are allies and advocates for their LGBTQ+ children and grandchildren or LGBTQ+ themselves—and elders in the LGBTQ community to share their wisdom and love. If you’re interested in joining the Speak Out Program, click here.

The best place to begin talking about Adam and his family is at the start: Adam came out to me at a very young age, and my initial reaction was not good. It broke his heart.  But, as he helped me work through my ignorance, our relationship evolved in a way that allowed me to support him. His bravery made it possible for us to put him into a high school where he could be himself and blossom into a confident, wonderful person.

As he continued pursuing his education, I was happy to support Adam by encouraging him to bring his romantic interests to my home for holidays—in some cases, his friends had parents who were not as accepting, which was hard to see.  Then, soon after the Supreme Court knocked down legal hurdles, he met his ‘forever’ partner (finally) and they hosted a fabulous wedding in California.

Being the proud parent of an LGBTQ+ child has enriched my life by leaps and bounds, especially as he began to build his home and family.  I decided to sell my home in North Carolina and move to Philadelphia to be near Adam, his husband Stephen, and my glorious grandchild, Edie.  This year I marched in my first Gay Pride parade in downtown and wore my ‘Free Mom Hugs’ t-shirt.  I was pleasantly surprised by how many young and old folk would come up and ask for one of my hugs!  As a southerner, hugs are a way of life and a way to show people that they matter and mean something to me. 

The upcoming holidays will be as diverse as our family.  We celebrate Christmas at my house, decorating a tree and eating snacks sometime after Thanksgiving.  Then we go to their home to enjoy the blessings of Chanukah, lighting the candles, singing, and eating some traditional goodies.

Our unique celebration of the holiday season is just one opportunity to see how my son and son-in-law parent—which has been a real eye-opener.  Their obvious love and devotion to raising a daughter has been a joy to watch.  I love that they teach her independence and that she is a special little person.  I am especially proud of how they are teaching her to respect herself and that her body is hers alone to care for.  Do we always agree on parenting?  No, and we have plenty of ‘discussions’.  They seem to intuitively do the right things with her, so I try to resist commenting.

Of course, their parental intuition is made all the better by the input and support of their community. Stephen and Adam have been active members of Philadelphia Family Pride and seeing that there are other loving families in the area to support one other is wonderful.  My granddaughter can learn in these settings that the family unit can be beautiful and diverse.  She is so proud that she has TWO daddies!

And I am too! I invite the ‘gang’ to my condo for visits and ice cream socials, and I love to introduce my son, son-in-law, and grandchild to all of the other residents.  It is critical to me that they see our family as ‘normal’, made up of loving members who have fun together. (Besides, they are just plain gorgeous people, all of them!  But then again, I am biased.)  If I could talk to other grandparents with LGBTQ+ families, I would encourage them to embrace the joy that is so near.

Pat Thomas is the proud grandmother to a three-year-old, Edith.  She’s mom and mother-in-law to Adam and Stephen, and lives outside of Philadelphia, near her family.  A retired banker, she enjoys cooking, reading, and spending time with her family.