Dear Grandparenting: Nobody saw this one coming down, especially nobody in our family. We were always so All-American dull and ordinary, with everyone living around the big family farm we’ve owned nearly 100 years going back four generations. Then one day out of the blue, my husband’s mother — the very grandmother of my children, mind you — up and announces she has officially come out of the closet. The lady is a very gay 76 years old!
Your readers can probably guess what held her back. Her biggest worry was what her grandchildren would think. Then she had to wait for her husband to die. I know she loved him and wanted to spare him from being viciously gossiped about and such. The last piece was finding the right partner. It had to be worth her while, because there’s always a price to pay for coming out.
After thinking this over for 10 days, I’m starting to come around. It’s not like she’s changed in any way. I give her high marks for courage. If an old conservative like me can live with it, so will others. But do you think the grandchildren will keep away from their grandmother like she’s radioactive or something? Boo, McMinnville, Tennessee
Dear Boo: We have gay members of Congress, gay athletes and business titans, news anchors and celebrities galore. Men and women of every sexual stripe are coming out of the closet, but have you ever wondered why we so seldom hear about gay grandparents? Because there’s a price to pay, and it’s a hard, cruel world to be old and without supports — unloved, unwanted, uncared for, radioactive for all intents and purposes.
But among all the generations, that kind of reception seems most unlikely from grandchildren. Different sexual orientations still arouse strong passions in many households; throw in the best interest of children and it can become combustible. But outside the home, society’s drift toward inclusion and greater tolerance is pervasive and all-powerful — enforced by law, practiced in school, supported by institutions and spread via Internet-based global connectivity.
So the results of a recent Gallup poll of 120,000 adults came as no surprise: Those aged 18-29 were three times more likely than seniors to self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). According to UCLA’s Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and the Law, 4.1 percent of seniors admit they belong in LGBT population. That may be low, since many seniors fear being marginalized. Several million either way, we’re talking about a whole lot of LGBT grandparents.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Bev Arnold of Seattle, Washington, doesn’t go to a lot of fuss over “the menu” when her grandchildren visit. “I don’t want to get stuck in the kitchen so I stick to the basics — soda, juice, cookies and ice-cream. I tell all my grandkids they have two choices. Take it or leave it.”
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.