Lessons in Good Parenting

This is Katherine Patrick, the 18-year-old daughter of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, soon-to-be Smith College freshman, MassEquality intern and, oh yeah, a now extremely out lesbian. She and her family sat down to an interview with Bay Windows this week, in no small part because they realized someone was about to do a hit job piece and make her parents seem less accepting of her sexuality (which she disclosed to them last summer) than they are. And if that PFLAG video made you cry, get your Kleenex before you continue reading because Deval Patrick's response to his daughter's disclosure of her sexuality was, "I don't think we thought about who they loved - more that they knew what love was and that they would have love in their lives." Sniff.

So, Katherine realized a couple of years ago that she was a lesbian, came to grips with it, and told both her parents at once because she didn't want them to think she liked one of them more than the other. She still remembers the day because, like a lot of my gay friends, she approached the disclosure about her sexuality with a degree of trepidation despite being the daughter of one of the politicians responsible for defeating an anti gay marriage amendment to Massachusetts' constitution. This is what she said about watching him speak on that day:

"Because, of course, he didn't know that I was gay then," the 18-year-old recalls. "So, for someone so publicly to fight for something that doesn't even affect him was just like, 'That’s my dad,' you know?" she says with a laugh. "That’s all I could think. I was very, very proud to be part of this family, and this state in general."

"It was great. I'm very glad," she adds, looking at her father. "Don't cry, Dad." Patrick's eyes are brimming with tears, prompting some good-natured teasing from his daughter. "He's done some good things," she says with a laugh, patting his arm. "I appreciate it. Want a tissue? Oh, God. He's a crier."

Shit, I think I might be a crier, too.

Neither of her parents initiated the interview with the paper, though they agreed to it because their daughter asked them to do it and they thought it was a good decision to, as a public family, make this aspect of their lives public on their terms, rather than the terms of a newspaper like the Boston Herald. Said Deval and his wife Diane:

And while Katherine is comfortable with her very public coming out, her parents remain wary. Patrick's misgivings stem partly from the fact that his daughter wouldn't do an interview to announce that she is straight. "But the world is such and my job is such that rather than have someone do a 'gotcha' and our giving the misimpression that this wasn't completely natural in our family, then we thought, 'Alright, let's just say it and move on,'" he says.

Diane's concerns stem from a mother's instinct to protect her daughter and her desire to keep both of her daughters "from the burdens of public life." It's why she doesn't see herself becoming the proverbial PFLAG parent and advocating publicly for LGBT issues. "This issue involves one of my children and I have really wanted them to not have to feel, frankly, answerable to the public and I still don't want it," Diane explains. "As a mother my instinct is to protect my children from discomfort and so that would be the reason why I would not relish [an advocacy] role, because it would be about her."

In that aspect, she's totally right. Who among us straight Jezebels had to announce our sexual preference to our parents? Who had to even discuss it, unless you got caught doing something? The only conversation I ever had about my sexual proclivities with my parents at that age was one in which my mother demanded my father ascertain from me which of my dude friends I was fucking (she was sure it was at least 3 of them), a conversation that ended up with me yelling at him that I was offended that they thought I was such a slut and we never talked about it again. For the record, Dad (since I know you're reading), I was sleeping with Dennis. Sorry. But it wasn't any of your business, anyway.

Anyway, so Katherine has way more courage and honesty than I did at her age, and her parents are way more accepting of her homosexuality than my parents were of my slutty heterosexuality at that age and the whole thing sort of made me tear up because you just know for every lucky Katherine Patrick there's at least one unlucky Maya Marcel-Keyes, whose father, politician Alan Keyes, kicked her out of his house, stopped speaking to her and stopped contributing to her education when she came out.

With Love And Pride, Governor Deval Patrick's Daughter Comes Out Publicly [Bay Windows, picture courtesy of Marilyn Humphries]
Alan Keyes' Daughter Coming Out [CBS News]