Peter made an appointment with us to come and see the drop-in centre Dundalk Outcomers. It was still in the basement of the Georgian building at that time. But of course it looked wonderful because it was all nicely painted – bright and cheerful – to buck the expectation that basements are dreary and not happy places to build foundations for transforming lives.
I remember Bernie and I showed him around, we made tea and we drank it together sitting on the couch. He asked us about our own story of how we told our parents that we were gay. Bernie said, “Sure, I didn’t need to tell me mam, ‘cos the whole town knows who I am”, or something like that. And I told him that I hadn’t told my parents yet. I told him that I was weighing up how much I needed them to know versus how much they needed to know – their need versus my-need approach. And I told him I felt their need not to know was more important for now.
And I remember how he said that this approach was not fair to me, and that it also wasn’t fair on them because maybe they wanted to support me, maybe they wanted to know the full story, etc. He said I was being robbed of my parents’ love and support for this part of my life, and I was equally robbing my parents of their chance to show me this kind of love.
I remember thinking, “What a wonderful father this man is … how lucky Edel and Martin are to have such a loving, supportive, brave father”. I also realised that I had never thought of my dilemma from the perspective he shared.
And so he gave me pause for thought. He helped me realise for the first time, in a very real way – because he was so real – that it was not selfish of me to want my parents to know that I’m gay. He helped me realise that it is normal for a daughter or son to want this from their parents. It is normal to wish to be known and accepted for who you are, wholly and truly. Such is the experience of being loved. Peter helped me realise it is OK to expect this from my parents.
Later, I did tell my parents. And in their own time, they did respond wonderfully, full of support and full of love. And I remember feeling lucky to have finally found this response from them. I remember a feeling of completion, of peace, of truth and arrival. And I remember my encounter with Peter with deep gratitude and as a gift to me.
Meeting Peter, brief though it was, turned out to be a significant step on my journey towards coming out to my parents. I have never underestimated the potential of brief encounters since.
May Peter be resting in peace and surrounded by love wherever he dwells. May these memories of his wonderful love for his rainbow kids inspire others like me to dare to believe in the immense love parents have for their children, and the potential of that love to embrace all of who we are.
And may Peter inspire more of us to take a step towards trusting our parents, and equally inspire our parents to take a step towards accepting us.
THANK you, Peter.