I will never forget the night…the night my son first told my husband and me he was gay. As distraught as I was, I remember having a flash of insight, though it didn’t last long, that somehow, I would come through this time of upheaval with a deeper understanding and love of my son. It would take many years for that to happen, but eventually it became a reality.

For the longest time I was filled with grief and shame, and unable to accept my son. When the day finally came and the struggle was behind me, I knew I could help other parents going through this often difficult journey. Over the years I toyed with the idea of writing a book about my coming-out experience. I had visions of sitting down at my computer and writing my story from beginning to end with ease. Not quite. Writing a book, I soon discovered, was a lot harder than I had ever imagined—especially one as personal as this. I started writing parts of the book dozens of times but became discouraged and daunted by the task and would put it aside, working on it only intermittently. It was a little like running on a treadmill and going nowhere fast.

Then I heard from Brian, one of my son’s oldest and dearest gay friends. Devastated, he called me after coming out to his parents. They told him they would never accept him being gay. As far as they were concerned they wanted no part of this Brian—the gay Brian. In spite of their disapproval and judgment, Brian knew his parents loved him and that his news couldn’t be easy for them to accept. But what he hadn’t expected was how ashamed they were of him. He wondered if he could remain the confident, self-assured man he had always been when his own parents treated him as a disgrace and an embarrassment. He longed for his parents to understand that he was born gay, that he hadn’t chosen it. But as far as they were concerned he made the choice to become gay, for what reason they couldn’t fathom.

No matter how many times Brian told his parents he wasn’t interested in finding the “right” girl, there continued to be desperate attempts by them to find her, so he could live what they saw as a “normal” life. For them that meant getting married and having children. But what would have been normal for Brian was the freedom and acceptance to live his life “out and proud” as a gay man.

Brian needed some advice on how to handle the situation. He sent me a copy of the letter he wrote to his parents wanting my perspective. It was heartbreaking on many levels. “What do I have to do?” Brian asked his parents. “Live a lie and deny the truth about myself to keep you happy? Do you think I owe you that? Why can’t we be real with each other? Am I supposed to be a ‘Yes’ son who only tells you what you want to hear? If we can’t talk about issues regarding my sexual orientation, an integral part of my being, then what kind of a relationship will we have?”

Why was it so hard for Brian’s parents, and for so many other parents, to understand and accept their gay child? Why indeed? A complicated question.

Reading Brian’s letter brought me back to my son’s coming out and how similarly to Brian’s parents my husband and I had reacted; it was the way so many parents react. In many ways Brian’s parent’s story was like my own, and I couldn’t help but recognize the universality of it. It wasn’t hard to imagine how many families experienced a version of that story after hearing the words “I’m gay” from their child. I felt compelled to do something to change the way those families thought about homosexuality, to help them have greater understanding and compassion, so that they too might go the rest of the way back to their child. I became more determined than ever to finish the book.

It is my sincerest hope that this book will be read by those with a gay family member and that they will find some understanding and comfort in these pages recounting my journey. And most importantly, that they will find a place of acceptance for their child, as my family did, and as Brian’s family eventually did as well.