Last week the world learned what basketball great Magic Johnson and his wife Cookie had known for many years—that their son, Earvin Magic Johnson, Jr. was gay. If you didn’t already respect Magic for appearing to be a stand up guy, a philanthropist and a businessman who has invested heavily in inner-cities, then perhaps he’ll earn it with his response to the “outing” of his namesake: “Cookie and I have always been proud of EJ and will always support him.”
I think most people with children have wondered at one point or another how we would react to learning that they were gay.
Decades ago, parents had excuses for not handling the news as well as Magic and Cookie. Back then there were few, if any, examples to follow. There was no Oprah or Dr. Phil out there to remind people that others were experiencing the same things that they were.
No matter what your religion, politics, or upbringing has taught you, when it comes to people, even our children, some things just are as they are. Some are left handed, some have freckles, some are attracted to the same sex as they are, and some will never feel normal living as a boy when they feel like a girl and vice versa.
The latter is the most complicated. As some people pointed out when they saw the video of EJ sporting a boa and purse, gay is one thing, “flaming” is another. Chastity Bono, the daughter of singer Cher, was so certain that she was intended to be male that she got gender reassignment surgery, hormone shots and is now living as a male.
Magic and Cher will tell you that these situations didn’t come up over night. In fact, Magic says, EJ’s identity was so noticeable that he and Cookie approached him when he was 13 and he admitted that he was gay.
What is a parent to do? Yell, cry, ignore the truth, shun, condemn? It sounds bad when you say it, but those are all real and honest reactions for some. We have an image of what and who our children will be and when it’s not even close to our imaginary blueprint, that can throw us way off. We have to deal with our disappointment, fear and sometimes anger, then with how we think others will react. Not easy by any stretch. But if you’re a parent, a real parent who loves unconditionally, then the question you should ask is, do I want my child to live a life of happiness or misery? Growing up is tough, no matter who you are, and the role of parents is to help our children maneuver through with guidance, patience, instruction, and love.
For youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death. It results in approximately 4,600 lost lives each year.
Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth were significantly more likely to attempt suicide in the previous 12 months, compared with heterosexuals (21.5% vs 4.2%). Among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth, the risk of attempting suicide was 20% greater in unsupportive environments compared to supportive environments.
I’m not a psychologist but it doesn’t take one to know that no parent should ever allow their child to suffer needlessly.
Whether you believe one is born gay or that it’s a choice isn’t the issue. The real issue is that as parents, we have the option to choose love. And like Magic and Cookie, we should.