Outing Ourselves

Harry Potter 7 CoverApparently, there had been rumors, but I hadn’t heard them. And I didn’t see this coming at all. I guess my literary gaydar’s not that good—or perhaps Albus Dumbledore had cast a spell to throw off the gaydar frequencies. Let’s just say J.K. Rowling’s outing of Harry Potter’s beloved headmaster threw me for a big loop.

Not because of the gay factor itself. But because it’s so odd to have read through that whole huge series, spent so much time with wonderfully developed characters and not know this huge part of someone I thought I “knew.”

Actually, I think I’m most bothered by this whole thing because it’s so familiar—the feeling that you can spend a lot of time with someone, think you know them, and then later discover you’d missed a big, important piece of who they are. 

This happened to me over the summer while reading through a book a former colleague and good friend had written years before (see MYTH OF THE PERFECT MOTHER on my book sidebar and buy this fantastic book!). When I came to her incredible chapter on depression—and her honest, beautiful, and heart-wrenching writings of her experience with it—I cried for an hour. It felt awful to know a good friend had experienced this—and that it shaped her life so profoundly–and that I hadn’t known—until I read it in her book!

Same thing happened a few weeks ago when my brother emailed to say he read something in my blog that he didn’t know was going on in my life. But just as Dumbledore never outed himself—perhaps out of fear for his reputation—we don’t do it too easily ourselves. It’s not easy to say, “Hey, I’m depressed!” or “Hey, my life has gotten rough lately!”

I think this is especially so for moms. We’ve got enough to worry about without having to deal with about any potential backlash or shame or criticism that may come from sharing an important—even if scary to admit—side of ourselves. And yet, when we don’t do this, we’re kept lonely, unknown, misunderstood. 

The good news, as I see it, is that we can go back. Just as this bit of news adds getting to know and understand Professor Dumbledore better to the litany of good reasons to reread Harry Potter 1-7, so was reading about my friend’s depression a good reason to reconnect with her in a deeper way. I even took the risk to “out” areas of myself in the process. Same with my brother.

I wonder what would happen if all moms—all women, men, for that matter!—took that risk.

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