The recent holiday season has come and gone, and my four adult children have returned to their day-to-day lives of college or work. In typical father-like fashion, I am still, years later, in disbelief that my wife and I are now empty nesters. This season quickly crept up on us, and that’s why it’s so special to spend time with my kids whenever possible.
As my youngest child returns to his spring semester of college, I’m full of pride for the man he is becoming. Several years ago, he forever changed our lives when he shared his truth that he was a transgender boy. I am still in awe of the courage and fortitude that came from my then-14-year-old. At first, I’ll admit I feared the unknown (and at times still do), but I am proud to say that with my wonderful wife leading the way, our family pulled together, and these past years have been filled with growth, learning and acceptance.
Similar to most fathers, I worry about what my children might encounter as they continue out in a world that can be less than welcoming. Times like these are especially reflective on wishes for my youngest son. As a proud LGBT+ ally and parent, I wanted to share my recent message to him, in the hopes that it will inspire anyone going through a similar journey to live authentically.
Never lose your sense of humor or compassion. Both have been the backbone of your growth. Even in the hardest of times, your sense of humor and ability to laugh at the situation have been your saving grace. Your compassion for yourself and others has given you a renewed focus for your purpose on this earth. Exercising these two qualities daily will keep you happy and empathetic.
Throughout life, seek out friends that accept you exactly as you are. The people you thought were friends disappeared when you started to live as your authentic self. The few friends that remained true were your safeguard from the storm. Through college and beyond, befriend those who appreciate you for the amazing person you are, and form real friendships full of trust and positivity.
Continue to be curious and open to new ideas. You always were an inquisitive child, but in recent years have expressed a newfound curiosity of people and life. Your constant questioning and researching have given you an abundance of knowledge and allow you to see things from different perspectives. Always find ways to learn and dive deeper than the surface.
Never give up on your faith. Your mother and I did our best to raise you and your siblings in a faith-based home. You’ve embraced that faith since you were a small child and I am so happy that your beliefs have given you comfort and strength to be who you really are. God will always be by your side, be grateful for his grace and turn to him for peace and understanding in the tough times.
Work for a company that appreciates your differences. Whatever career path you choose, my dream would be that by the time you finish college, more organizations are like EY and support and encourage differences. I also wish for the 30+ states that still currently allow some form of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity to change their policies so that equality is no longer something we need to fight for. Since both you and I know the battle is long, I hope you continue to be an advocate for you and your peers and speak loudly so you’re heard. I give you my promise — I will do the same as an LGBT+ ally and as a father.
Since you and I know the battle is long… speak loudly so you’re heard. And when they try to shut their ears to you or knock you down, speak your truth even louder and meet them with resilience: the same resilience that helped you emerge to be the son I know and love so much. For the truth you speak, in its unapologetic transmission to the world, stems from nothing, but love in its most authentic form. The type of love that at the end of the day every single person in the world desires for themselves deep down. Unbiased, abiding, and unconditional love.
There is so much I hope for you, and as I have watched you grow into this young man before me, I know your strength and confidence in who you are will take you through the winding road of life. You are a trailblazer, and because of your courage I continue to evolve as a person each and every day.
Please always know that you have very proud parents who support you and will continue to do our part to make the world a more inclusive place.