Father of Gay Son Explains the Meaning of “LGBTQ”

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.

The Briggiler-Gualdoni Family: Back row: Marcos, Victoria, and Ivan; Front row: Maria and Lucas

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.)

13 replies
  1. Friends
    Friends says:

    A very inspiring and moving story. However, I’m just wondering how one can discern the sexual identity or preference of a five-year-old child. I’ve certainly heard anecdotal stories about boys at that age wanting to wear girls’ clothing, or vice-versa. Obviously, five-year-olds are not sexually awakened at that age. But it suggests to me that we may be born with a past-lifetime memory of having been a person who was of the gender that the child is now choosing to manifest. I do indeed believe that souls may experience sequentially incarnations into our human world, and that the memory of a prior incarnation into an oppositely-gendered body may be very strong. It’s totally irrelevant to me whether Catholic doctrine accepts the notion of sequential incarnations, since so many other aspects of Catholic doctrine are plainly ignorant and wrong-headed, as all of us now understand. And of course, Buddhism and Hinduism have no problem at all with the doctrine of sequential incarnations. I’d be very curious to hear other readers’ comments on the possibility that this is what’s happening: i.e., the child’s recollection of a previous lifetime in a body which was differently-gendered.

    Reply
    • Brownie Ellis Mackie
      Brownie Ellis Mackie says:

      Previous lifetimes are merely figments of our imagination. That’s all they can be. I can also predict if a small child will be gay or not. The signs are there…some subtle…some not so subtle…..early in life. As early as four or five.

      Reply
      • Friends
        Friends says:

        Brownie, I’d really like to know what those signs are, and what might be their causation. Is it a social or genetic or experiential causation? I find it hard to believe that such indicators could arise out of a void of “nothingness”, absent any underlying causation. Past lifetime experience is one possibility, of course; but causation of any type is not yet proved empirically. I personally believe a soul incarnates with a consciously predetermined life agenda of some kind. It comes here to develop a particular type of human experience. Would anybody else care to weigh in with an opinion (or an intuition) about this mystery?

        Reply
  2. Kris
    Kris says:

    What wonderful parents!

    Love (TRUE love) overcomes all barriers, even such high barriers as homophobic prejudice.

    Marcos is blessed: not every parent truly loves his child. Too many young people are thrown out of their homes just for being LGBT. And this injustice is facilitated by those aspects of Church teaching which denigrate a God-given sexuality as ‘disordered’.

    Marcos’ parents can justly be proud of themselves, especially his dad. What a champion for LGBT this man is! Having the courage to ‘come out’ to others as the father of a gay son. Your courage, sir, may help other families to accept (love) any LGBT children they might have.

    Well done, good and faithful servants! For your unconditional love is a foretaste of the love your heavenly Father has for you all: LGBT, straight; black or white; rich or poor…

    Reply
  3. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    Dear “Friends”,
    I am not a psychologist, but I am gay and I knew I was different from others from my earliest memories; well before I knew what gay was. I don’t believe in past lives. My self-understanding is that young children may act out born homosexual behavior until they learn even sub-consciously it isn’t acceptable in society. As they grow older LGBT individuals become self-aware and eventually join the dots and come out as happened in this family. Now that in some locations homosexual behavior is more acceptable, it will be interesting to observe if coming out will be an earlier experience than in the past. To paraphrase an invitation to swimming – come on out the world is fine.

    Reply
  4. Marc Roselli
    Marc Roselli says:

    Your honesty, candor and vulnerability demonstrate the goodness of your character and the authenticity of your faith. I am confident that your sharing will inspire, help and guide others who may be struggling to find their own way in this situation.

    Reply
  5. Ann Tucker
    Ann Tucker says:

    What a beautiful example of true agape love. Yes, I think the signs are there at a very young age if a person is gay. At the age of 3 the signs were there for our son and due to our lack of education and understanding of LGBTQ (this was 53 years ago), we made a lot of mistakes on how to handle the situation even though we both showered him with love. Love without understanding was not enough. My goal is to help educate so that others won’t make the same blunders we did. Our son died at the age of 29 of AIDS in 1991. We have learned a lot since that time. God Bless you for sharing.

    Reply
  6. Kerri O'Donnell
    Kerri O'Donnell says:

    Beautifully written, Ivan.

    I am a proud mother of an amazing gay daughter, and all through Australia’s horrible Marriage Equality ‘debate’ I struggled to write a post such as this. I was never happy with my words, so instead I will share your words on my Resilience pages. They are beautiful.

    All the best to your family,
    Kerri

    Reply
  7. Geraldine Birch Hurst
    Geraldine Birch Hurst says:

    Your son is truly a lucky man to be born into your family. I worked with some families of AIDS back in the 1980s and my heart broke for the sick men whose families deserted them in their time of great need. It is hard for so many to understand that LOVE is not control. We raise our children to live good lives of their choosing and trust that we have instilled values that encourage them to become good citizens of the world and kind and accepting human beings, intolerant only of the truly intolerable. Please continue your loving parenting as you also teach much by your role modeling. Good luck.

    Reply
  8. Michele Becker
    Michele Becker says:

    What wonderful, heartfelt words for all of us to use, and share, and spread all over the earth. Thank you for this loving example! Blessings to you and all your wonderful family! This! Is! Love!

    Reply

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