When you want to talk about some of the more delicate issues in your own sexuality or your children’s sexuality, it is fine for you to say that these issues actually belong to your friends or your friends’ children. I’m really fine talking in those terms. I will go out of my way to say “your friend” rather than “you.” I know the pain that comes with feeling embarrassed or ashamed that you or your children made a certain choice, but you still need to know the answer to the question or talk through the next steps.
Regardless of whether you choose to own the actions as your own, I promise you that there have been other people who have come to me with the same issue, that I will not be shocked or think any less of you, your children, your lovers, or your would-be-lovers. Mistakes and misjudgments happen everywhere, all the time, and the stature and grace with which you move forward is often far more telling than what happened in the first place.
But even though all of this is true, I will still know when we are talking about you and your loved ones versus the times when you really do have a question about a friend. I will know from the shaking of your hands, the occasional leaked tear, the unbearable pain in your voice, and from when you say, “My friend doesn’t have any friends – none – who will listen to her or support her. My friend just doesn’t know who to turn to.”
Some of you know we are playing a kind of a game, and we both enter into this conversation about your “friend” willingly to ease the discomfort. Some of you really think you are fooling me, think that I believe your friend made these choices rather than you making them.
But you aren’t fooling me.
Because here’s the thing: Even knowing that you made these decisions, I still want you in my classroom and I still think the world of you. In fact, I deeply respect the fact that you have been able to reach out for help, and I will do everything I can to help you move forward.