Coming out as a member of or an ally to the LGBTQ community not only requires bravery, it makes others more likely to support equality under the law if they know someone who identifies as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or allied.
Oct. 11 marks the 28th anniversary of National Coming Out Day. Here at Newsy, we are launching a new series titled "Let Me Get This Straight" where we'll bring you a range of stories from the LGBTQ community.
On National Coming Out Day, we are heading to Mascoutah, Illinois — a single-stoplight town outside St. Louis, Missouri — and home to some American heroes who know a thing or two about witnessing a walk out of the closet. Those heroes are my parents.
My dad maintains that all three of his kids, two girls and a boy, have very different personalities. What I think he means is one is a lesbian, one isn't a lesbian and one is gay.
My parents were sent down a same-sex street less traveled and admit their first go-round at acceptance for my older sister wasn't ideal. I sat down with them and discussed their lessons learned.
NEWSY'S CODY LAGROW: Do you wish you would have handled my older sister's coming out differently?
DAD: I remember, Ashley was in her teen years, and I think she was trying to tell me, and said, 'Dad, people don't choose to be gay. You're born that way.' But I kind of contested her and I challenged her. And that was wrong of me.
MOM: We probably didn't handle it right initially. But like you said, getting educated, being smart, and just through talking and loving our children, and we have better support systems.
CL: How do you think you handled it differently with me?
MOM: Our eyes were open more to see the signs. We were just waiting for you to tell us.
DAD: We've accepted it. I hark back to what I still want for you. I'm not going to just say "happiness" because life is a grind and that's always been my concern with you guys being gay. Is it going to it be a tougher grind? Yes, probably, you know. The least you need is lack of support from Mom and I. This needs to be a safe place. And when you come home, you need to know you're loved unconditionally.
CL: What would you tell a parent who maybe has reservations that their kid just came out to them?
DAD: Let's call it what it is: It's tolerance. We need more tolerance in this world. Communicate.
MOM: Love them. Don't ostracize them. Don't lose connection with them, because it's very important to them to keep that connection.
DAD: If it helps one kid, or one parent, let them know they're not alone. Parents are frightful to come out and say, 'I have two gay kids.' Back to what your mom said, it comes down to loving you unconditionally.
MOM: I don't care who you love. Just that you have love in your life.
CL: We're working on it.
DAD: I think it takes a real open mind and progressive mind. Our true friends will understand, but there will be some people there who will watch this interview who don't know me from Adam, and they'll already stereotype us.
CL: Don't you think there's kind of room just to say, "**** those people"?
DAD: Well, that's why I'm here, because my kids are the most important thing to me. But watch your language.