Kara Coley was working as a bartender when a concerned mom called the bar to ask how to deal with her son coming out.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on April 15, 2022. It has since been updated.
Coming out can be frightening and more so if you're coming out to your parents. The way parents respond to their child coming out can potentially determine the future of their life. A support structure is very important for anyone from the LGBTQ community and that's why acceptance for who they are by their parents can mean everything to them. Rejection by important people in a gay person's life can have a negative influence on their well-being, especially during their formative years, according to the CDC. "A positive family environment, with high levels of parental support and low levels of conflict" helps them experience healthy emotional adjustment. Many parents are not sure how to respond to their child coming out and one such parent called a gay bar seeking advice. What followed was a wholesome conversation that gives us hope.
Kara Coley who has been a bartender for 17 years was working at the gay bar, Sipps. It was Coley who answered when a concerned and confused mother called. "Good evening," said Coley. "Thank you for calling Sipps!" The woman at the end of the line tentatively asked, "Is this a gay bar?" Coley said all kinds of people were welcome at Sipps and that most of its patrons were indeed from the LGBTQ community. After a moment's pause, the woman said, "Can I ask you a question? Are you gay?" Coley replied, "Yes, ma'am."
The woman then revealed why she was calling and that she needed help. "What was the one thing you wanted from your parents when you came out?" the woman asked. Coley was caught off guard. Never had someone asked such a personal question in her years at the bar. Before Coley could answer, the woman continued, "My son just came out to me," she said. "And I don't want to say anything that may mess him up in the head."
Coley racked her brain and wondered what she could possibly say. But she first wanted to gauge what the mother's reaction was to her son coming out. Coley asked if she had accepted her son. She replied, "Yes." Coley responded, "You should definitely let him know that you love and accept him! I think everything will be OK from there!" The woman thanked Coley for her insight.
Coley was overwhelmed at the thought of a parent accepting her child and having played her part in it, so she shared the incident on Facebook. She said it was one of the most random and wholesome things that happened to her. The post went viral and the comments section was filled with positive comments. "My heart is truly touched by this," wrote one person. "A parent wanting to support correctly, and a beautiful response. This is progress. This is love and acceptance in the rawest form." Another wrote, "Kara, this old granny lesbian is so grateful for you, and for a parent that thought outside the box to get advice! Keep being you!"
Seeing the response of people, she wrote, "Every day people wake up and there's so much negativity in the world — people just need a breath of fresh air!" She also urged her followers to educate themselves on LGBTQ issues. "Just knowing you have someone in your corner takes a little weight off your shoulders," she wrote. The bartender has since taken down her Facebook account.
It takes a lot of courage to come out as gay, especially when there is fear of persecution from parents, loved ones and society in general. In the case of adolescents from the LGBTQ community, it's important to have that support during the formative years to lead happy fulfilled lives. “Time and time again, we hear the same thing from patients: ‘Once my parents are behind me, I can handle anything else the world throws at me,’” explained Dr. Errol Fields, a Johns Hopkins pediatrician. “You’re their anchor, and your acceptance is key. In fact, research shows that LGBTQ adolescents who are supported by their families grow up to be happier and healthier adults.” Another Johns Hopkins pediatrician, Dr. Renata Sanders, added, “There's no right or wrong way to express love. Just be present and be open.”
If you're gay and are being subjected to abuse, or need any help, please contact LGBT National Hotline at 1-888-843-4564.