Like many other LGBT teens, I used to wonder what it would be like to have parents who knew how to support and guide all that I was going through. We want to think that love prevails in all matters of guiding and supporting our children, but often that is harder in practice than in concept. Even when parents don’t have biases, supporting queer kids can be new and choppy waters to navigate, and parents can feel adrift without guidance of their own.
Given that pro sports is one of the last institutions to evolve into an open and affirming environment for out gay people, who would have thought that Magic Johnson would emerge as a leading parenting model for fathers of LGBT children?
Retired basketball great Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr. is now a co-owner of the L.A. Dodgers. A powerful business leader, is also an accomplished advocate building awareness about HIV and safe sex, a noted motivational speaker and a philanthropist.
His 20-year-old son, EJ, recently caught media attention while out with his boyfriend, prompting Magic to talk to TMZ in a 3-part interview about having a gay son. His support was inspired coaching for any parent who wonders how to support their own child.
The biggest support offered to EJ by Magic, in my opinion, was that EJ’s parents helped him come out. They approached him about the topic instead of waiting for him to come to them. Changing that “coming out” dynamic is so radically important for parents. If parents would simply be gay-inclusive while talking about other birds-and-bees issues, instead of assuming their children are straight until they come out as gay, LGBTQ children would be better protected physically and emotionally, and could be assured of parental support all along the way. Magic went the extra mile and directly asked his 13-year-old son “are you gay?” If you can do that without shame or accusation, but with compassion, care and interest, it’s a massively affirming way to parent.
In the interview, Magic also discussed pushback from the African American community, how he hopes his son will inspire professional athletes to come out and how as a team owner he would support an openly gay player.
His son’s response:
in the midst of all this media attention i would like to say that i am truly blessed to have parents that love and support me @magicjohnson
—EJ Johnson (@prince_ej) April 3, 2013
The awesome thing about one person stepping up and speaking out is that it paves the way for others to do so, too. We’re already seeing a ripple effect from this with high-stature athletes such as Kobe Bryant responding positively to Magic’s interview, and that could be really helpful to creating an inclusive and affirming environment for gay athletes. Hopefully Magic’s outspokenness will encourage other parents to follow his lead with similar support for their own children.
I wish Magic would adopt me! Watch the videos and see what you think. Does parenting the Magic way seem like something you could see yourself doing?
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