by Edna Berry-Berg

Ed. note: Last week Edna Berry-Berg, a long-time resident of Mt. Airy, wrote about her difficulty in getting used to the idea that her daughter, Alex, now 30, “the little girl who wore pink dresses and princess crowns around the house growing up,” has come out as gay. Here is more of Edna’s story:

I realized that I needed to accept my child for who she is and not my version or fantasy. As I was trying to understand and accept my child’s sexuality, I stumbled upon the PFLAG website.

“PFLAG began in 1972 when Jeanne Manford marched with her son, Morty, in New York’s Christopher Street Liberation Day March, the precursor to today’s Pride parade. After many gay and lesbian people ran up to Jeanne during the parade and begged her to tell their parents, she decided to begin a support group. Through word of mouth and community need, similar groups sprang up around the country.”

I felt that I wanted to talk to parents who had experienced what I was feeling. I remember feeling scared as I walked into the room. I was not sure if the parents would criticize me for feeling the way that I did. Also, I knew when I walked through that door that what I believed to be true was not.

My expectations about my child were just that, my expectations. At PFLAG I heard many coming-out stories and felt reassured by hearing so many heartfelt experiences. I was not criticized for what I felt; I was reassured that I would feel differently over time.

I was especially encouraged by the 80-year-old parents who supported their son (for many years) when attitudes toward LGBTQ people were primitive. And more importantly, I was able to develop a healthy perspective on my child’s sexuality.

It did take time, but now I am fully accepting of my daughter and proud of her in every way. Alex is in a long-term relationship with her girlfriend, Lisa. I can say that I love Lisa, and my daughter will jokingly accuse me of loving Lisa more than her.

The normalcy, respect and love in their relationship are impressive. I would not change anything about my daughter. And she is still wearing pink princess dresses! So what advice would I give to those of you who might be dealing with what I was feeling? Some advice:

•Be very careful of what you say when you initially learn this about your child.

•You do not need to say everything you think or feel. Remember this is the child that you love and is the same child you loved before you knew.

•Respect the fact that your child is talking to you and being open about who he/she is.

•Understand that your child will need your support and love, as always.

•As for your feelings, give yourself time to accept and process this information.

•Allow your child the space and support to be who he/she is without your judgments.

•Remember how much you love your child!!!!!

•Make Google your best friend! Research articles and read accounts from others to open your mind.

•Become an advocate and support LGBTQ rights. Check out the PFLAG National site: www.pflag.org/media.

I am forever grateful for the support that I received at PFLAG Philadelphia.

I am now on the PFLAG board of directors. We meet every third Sunday of the month at the Robert Schoenberg Carriage House (LGBTQ Center) on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. The address is 3907 Spruce St. and the meetings are 2 to 5 p.m.

All are welcome! More information at pflagphila@yahoo.com or ednadbb@hotmail.com.

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