- October 9, 2015
Post submitted by Maria McGee Al-Shamma, mother of HRC Youth Ambassador Laila Al-Shamma
My daughter Laila came out to me when she was 13.
She blurted it out on the drive home from school. “Mom I think I’m gay,” she exclaimed.
I saw the worried and agitated look on her face that she had been grappling with this for a while. What’s a parent to say when their child comes out?
I said something along the lines of “It’s going to be okay” and “We love you.” While I was worried for her safety and felt unprepared to help her, I was absolutely honored that she told me.
As soon as she came out, I looked for support for Laila and our family. I found a support group for LGBTQ teens and met other parents of LGBTQ youth. I connected with some folks to help my husband and me process Laila’s coming out through PFLAG and I continue to attend meetings to support others and continue to learn.
As we approach National Coming Out Day, I know now, more than ever, that coming out is different for everyone. The emotions and struggles that come with coming out depend on the circumstances, such as supportive family and friends, education and access to resources.
After I saw first hand how hard it was for Laila to come out, I decided to help others in our community and Laila did too. Throughout high school she participated in her school’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), helping support LGBTQ teens and working to promote acceptance in the community. Under her leadership the GSA expanded and made a significant change in the campus climate for LGBTQ students. She is now a Youth Ambassador for HRC.
At the same time, I discovered a local group of committed LGBTQ activists working to establish the first LGBTQ Resource Center in our North San Diego County community. I started volunteering at their annual gala and sit on the Board of Directors. I now volunteer as the Director of Project Youth.
It’s been five years since Laila came out and we are all doing well. My husband and I are grateful that Laila was able to share her true, authentic self with us and are thankful for all of the people who’ve helped us through this process.
While Laila is away at college, I’ll always remember every National Coming Out Day how her honesty and identity changed our family for the better. It’s a great joy to be a part of the LGBTQ and allied community and as the mother of a queer child, I will continue to jump in and do whatever part I can, big or small, to support the community.