Let me say right up front…I don’t like roller coasters! There has only been one I ever liked–the Zambezi Zinger that used to be at Worlds of Fun. It was a more gentle coaster–without so many of the harsh jerks and turning one upside down that seem to be common in so many.
However…life has become quite a roller coaster ride over the last several years! Sometimes it has been more gentle like the Zambezi Zinger, but more often than not, it has startled me with the wild jerks and the turning of life and expectations upside down.
It began with a phone call from my youngest brother. As soon as I answered the phone, I knew that something was wrong–and I was not terribly surprised to hear him tell me that he and his wife were getting a divorce. But there was more. He also was calling to let me know that he had finally decided he could no longer live the lie he had tried so hard to live for so many years–that he was finally acknowledging that he was gay. Okay…I was sorry about the divorce…not totally surprised about his coming out…and he was still my little brother who I loved…the little brother who had been the bane of my life when we were younger because of the way he and our other brother had ganged up on me to tease me. None of that had changed.
Because of his news, my husband and I began to get involved with an organization called GALA, a somewhat church-related organization of folks from the LGBT community. We made friends…learned more about the issues and challenges that so many faced–and came to realize the fear that my brother had had that we would turn away from him because of his news.
We came to know the man who is now his husband–a perfect fit for our family! He has the same wacky sense of humor, and it’s clear that the two of them are very much in love.
Fine! I had survived that roller coaster ride.
But life wasn’t through with me.
A few years after my brother came out, my husband told me (on our 40th anniversary) that he wanted to watch a movie again that we had watched when we were first learning about issues of sexuality. After it ended, he sat quietly for a few minutes and then turned my life upside down with two words: “I’m bisexual.” Wow! Talk about a roller coaster! We talked briefly and after he assured me that he wanted our marriage to last, the conversation ended, and I tried to come to grips with the way my life had totally changed.
Because of support from family and friends, I was able to learn more about this aspect of sexuality, and our marriage has not only survived but we have become more able to share with each other. Again, we have learned more about issues of sexuality that I didn’t dream about when I was younger.
Fine! I survived that roller coaster ride.
But life wasn’t through with me yet.
The past few years, we have been concerned for one of our grandchildren who has really been struggling. There have been a variety of reasons for those struggles, but the way in which they were being acted out raised some fears and concerns about this one’s future–and whether we would make it through the mental health/potential suicide issues that we dealt with in middle school.
Then one night in the car, coming back from a family visit, this child started me on another roller coaster ride–the most challenging one yet. The words were simple: “Grandma and Grandpa, I’m transgender lesbian.” But they’ve started us on yet another learning journey–this time finding out all we can about what it means to be transgender. We’re just beginning–right now, we’re probably more aware that there is so much we have yet to learn! We know that the next few years are going to be challenging for everyone–this loved grandchild, the families, our church community, the social community… We also know, though, that since finding a way to articulate this awareness, this child has become calmer and more at peace.
So…roller coasters? I still don’t like them…but I’m learning to accept them…learning how to ride them. Life has a way of doing that to you!