You might not know this about me, but I have rainbow children. You know, kids with alphabet soup letters attached to them, specifically LGBTQ?
It’s partly why I made these wings on the front of my gallery. I mean, I started them with the idea that I was going to participate in a fundraiser/publicity event. If you haven’t heard about it, the local hospital started an endowment to help local cancer patients to pay for their care. The people of Ludington decided to go for a Guiness World Record for the most sand angels to raise awareness. A lot of businesses in town decided to make angel wings for people (or their pets) to pose in front of and to encourage people to donate to the fund. That’s what I was doing, too, when I created these wings.
I put them on my big front picture window in front of the gallery with the intent of filling them in with blue and aqua and green, like a macaw’s wings. But when I got to the point where I needed to add the colors, I reached for the red instead, and before I knew it I had made rainbow wings.
I have a history of rainbow-izing things. Way back when I decided to paint the wrought iron pillars on my porch in rainbow colors. At that time I was already a rainbow mom, but I didn’t know it yet. Eventually my daughter told me she liked girls and I hoped like hell it was a phase she was going through. I advised her to wait and see if things changed. And bless her heart, she did try to date boys. It didn’t work very well.
But I still wasn’t ready to accept her as gay. Her dad’s reaction was so much better. When she told him, he said, “I totally understand, because I like girls, too.”
And then when my middle child told me she was trans, I still couldn’t accept it. I thought, this is because of the internet! Instead of feeling lucky that my kid felt secure enough to share this very personal thing with me, I did everything I could to convince myself and her that she’d made a mistake. Was she sure she wanted to be this way when the whole world was going to hate her for it?
What a dumb question! Who chooses to be reviled and hated? No one, that’s who. We all want to be loved. We all deserve to be loved, no matter who we love.
But I had issues. I thought I had everything all figured out. But I couldn’t get my head around this.
Growing up, I had no experience with gay, unless you count bad ones. My brothers used to brag about “beating up queers” in Saugatuck. No one censured them for it. Gay people were viewed as twisted in my family, and “asking for it.” I had a vague idea that this was not right, but I never did anything about it. It didn’t touch me, personally. I didn’t know anyone who was gay, or if I did, I wasn’t aware of it.
My mom used to reminisce about her favorite cousin. He was a snazzy dresser, he had a convertible, he used to take her and her sister out dancing. And he was so polite! A real gentleman, she said. Later, I figured out that he was gay. She never talked about him that way because, you know, it wasn’t talked about when she was young.
I had no early training on how to be a parent to gay kids, unless it was negative training. And I carried this with me through my adult life. When my kids came out to me, my first thought was, “What will my family think?” Because that really scared me. I was afraid my family would disapprove and that they would blame me for the way my kids were.
Thank god for my husband. He was so normal about it all, that it helped me think of it as normal, too. And I did a lot of reading. I talked to people. I wrote about it. I mean, I love my kids, all of them, no matter their gender. They’re my kids. They’re the people I’m the most passionate about, the ones I’d defend with my life. I want them to be happy, more than I want my parents or siblings to be happy.
I’m still figuring it out, of course. And these wings are part of my process. I made them for all the rainbow children and rainbow parents here in Ludington. The wings are part of the fundraiser, too, but mostly they’re for my tribe, my rainbow people. Fly, be free.