Today’s post is from guest blogger Ivan Briggiler. He and his wife, Maria Gualdoni, are orignally from Argentina, and they have been parishioners at St. Ignatius Loyola Parish, Manhattan, New York, for the past 20 years. At a recent panel presentation sponsored by the parish’s “LGBT Catholics and Friends” ministry, Ivan shared his family’s spiritual journey with his gay son. The following is the text of his talk:
God has blessed my wife and me with three children. My oldest son, Marcos, is gay.
When Marcos was around five, my wife began saying that she thought Marcos might be gay. My reaction at the time was cold and rational. I said it was too early to tell, and I wanted Marcos to figure this out and to let me know on his own terms. In other words, I was telling my wife that it was not possible for her to know this about our child at such a young age.
I was wrong.
Looking back, I can see that I was not ready to accept the possibility that my child might be gay. I could have been more supportive of my wife. I could have been more open to dialogue. I could have been more sensitive and open-minded to the possibility that, yes, kids can start expressing their true selves at a young age.
My wife’s instinct was correct. She could sense something different in Marcos even before he did. All she needed was for me to listen to her, and I chose not to. She walked a lonely road for quite a few years until Marcos came out. I’m sorry for not being more supportive and open minded.
But even if we weren’t sure, or couldn’t agree on whether Marcos was gay or not, from the beginning we both agreed on something: we wanted to make sure that we created an environment where our son would feel comfortable and safe growing in our family. We wanted to make sure Marcos would come out first to his family.
When Marcos came out it was a true moment of joy for all of us. I remember it as a happy moment, and also as a relief: finally we knew and would be able to move on.
And that is when my inner voice said “Now is your time to run with the ball.” I told myself that if my son had the courage to come out so should I. I chose to come out as the father of a gay man. I chose to start telling my boss, clients, colleagues and friends.
To me this has been a learning process, and I still have a lot to learn. The best way to begin the process was by asking Marcos questions because I was curious and eager to learn. I also wanted to show my love and support by asking questions. It was my way of trying to tell Marcos that I was by his side.
And the first thing that I needed to learn was the meaning of each of the letters of “LGBTQ”. This is what I have learned so far:
L stands for Love and also for Learn
Through my son I’m learning new ways to love. And the best way to learn is by being curious, by asking questions, by engaging in conversations, by being willing to meet other people where they are.
G stands for Grace
By God’s grace. I have Marcos in my life. Marcos is God’s creation and I’m lucky to be an instrument chosen to take care of him.
B stands for Born and Being
My son was born gay. That is an important lesson that I learned. My son did not choose to be gay: my son was born gay. This Is part of his being.
T stands for Trust and also for Time
Trust your inner voice. And it is time. Some people have been waiting for decades to be welcomed in our Church, to be welcomed and accepted in our Church, to be who they are, to have no fear of being rejected. It is time for us, as members of the Church, to come out and welcome them. All of them are part of God’s creation. I’m a middle-aged man but my mind is not of a man from the Middle Ages.
Q might stand for Question
Maybe I’m wrong in my beliefs or preconceptions?
Maybe I’m not welcoming enough?
Maybe God is giving me a break compared to others, by blessing me with someone special that will show me new ways to love and respect others?
Q could also represent the unknown— what I can’t understand or explain. And that is fine. I don’t need to understand all of God’s plan, all I need to do is love God’s Creation.
I want to share a few of my hopes. I hope that in our family we are planting the seeds for our future generations, where any person of any of the LGBTQ letters will feel loved and welcomed and safe.
I used to dread about giving my daughter to another man. Now I dream about the day when Marcos will introduce us to our new son in law joining our family. I dream and hope about grandchildren. And I hope I can walk together with my son down the aisle.
To finish, I want to go back to the first letter L for Love. Fr. Anthony de Mello, the Jesuit spiritual writer, says that there are two forces in the world: fear and love. So, I make the following hope-filled declarations:
I choose to move from fear to love.
I choose not to fear about what might go wrong.
I choose to dream about what can go right.
I choose to love for the greater glory of God.
—Ivan Briggiler, St. Ignatius Parish, Manhattan, January 7, 2018 (The talk was originally presented to his parish on December 7, 2017.)