“My 12-year-old daughter, Sophie, appeared in the kitchen after school while I was up to my elbows in dirty dishes. She started a conversation the same way she always does – ‘MOM! Guess what?!,’ except this time it wasn’t followed with, ‘Kate likes so-and-so’ or ‘Mrs. O gave us so much homework!’ This time her face lit up and she squealed, ‘Will is gay!! And he told me first! Mom, I’m the first person to know! I mean, I kinda already guessed, but like, he actually told me before anyone else!’
I was happy for her that she was honored her friend confided in her, but immediately got nervous for him. My sister is gay and came out in 2004, while she was in college. My parents were awesome and accepting, but not everyone else was. My grandparents uninvited her to a family vacation and didn’t speak to her for several months. She and her wife actually had to drive to another state to get married, and their marriage wasn’t even recognized in their home state for years afterwards. I became hyperaware of homophobia over the years and knew that even though things were getting better, it still wasn’t perfect. I was scared for Will and made a silent wish that coming out would be easy and painless and his friends would surround him in love and lift him up, but there wasn’t much more I could do than cross my fingers for him.
I tried not to pry in Sophie and Will’s friendship, but I asked every once in awhile if Will had told his parents yet or anymore of his friends. The answer was ‘No,’ for a while, but then a few months later Sophie approached me and told me that he had talked to his parents. She didn’t say much, but that it had gone well, and his parents already knew he was gay before he officially told them. I had assumed it would be fine, I knew his parents a little bit from photographing his family when Will was just 7 years old, but was relieved the conversation had taken place and his family was able to move forward without issue.
Over the next few months Sophie and Will were inseparable. If Sophie wasn’t at his house, he was at ours. Will’s mom, Kristen, and I started chatting more and more too. The night before Will’s 13th birthday party, I got a text from Kristen with a picture of his birthday cake – a big rainbow themed cake with his favorite artist- Taylor Swift front and center. She was SO excited about that cake, and my heart was just beaming with pride to see what incredible allies Will’s parents were already. They didn’t push back and try and talk him out of being gay, they didn’t turn their back or tell him to keep it quiet. They just picked up those rainbow flags and started waving them right beside him.
Kristen messaged me one day to set up some family portraits, claiming they were long overdue. She mentioned Sophie tagging along to get a few pictures of her and Will together, and then said, ‘Maybe I’ll get some Pride shirts for them to wear.’ Her idea got my gears spinning and I thought Will should have his own session celebrating coming out. Something separate from family photos. Something big. Something empowering and inspiring. Kristen and I worked together and planned a ‘Pride Tribe’ session for Will. We gathered tons of rainbow flags, rainbow shirts, and a pack of his most supportive friends. We got ready at my studio, putting Pride tattoos on teenage cheeks, munching on pizza, and celebrating Will.
Once we were ready, everyone piled in cars and in a caravan we drove to our location- and there stood Will, cool as a cucumber, surrounded in love. Even covered in rainbows, he was just Will, with his mop of sandy blonde hair perpetually falling in front of his blue eyes. He came out to his friends and his parents, and now the world, but it didn’t even phase him because he’d always been surrounded in love and kindness. I made another silent wish that somewhere out there another kid would see these pictures and gather the strength to come out too, and that it would be so seamless and simple for them as well, just the way it should be.
I hope life always keeps Sophie and Will close, I love listening to the two of them bicker like an old married couple and laugh hysterically at whatever nonsense they’re posting on Snapchat. Whatever life takes him though, I have a feeling he will be just fine.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Erika Mills of Harmony Portraits. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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