If Katherine Patrick’s coming out story taught us anything, it’s that coming out to a supportive, loving family is the best thing that can happen to an LGBTQ youth.
Unfortunately, these high profile coming out stories don’t always have such happy endings. Remember acting governor Jane Swift’s public dust-up with her gay stepson over her opposition to marriage equality? (Okay, maybe I’m the only one who remembers that.) Or Alan Keyes, the professional right-winger and former U.S. ambassador cutting off his lesbian daughter Maya? How about Lynne Cheney denying on national television that her daughter Mary had ever come out as a lesbian, despite the fact that Mary had been out publicly for, oh, about a decade, including a stint as a community liaison for Coors Brewing Company?
Perhaps that’s why Patrick’s story struck such a chord, rocketing around the globe via the blogosphere, social media and mainstream news outlets with a speed that astounded her: the story was that was no story. Three years later, Patrick still sounds incredulous as she recalls the flood of well-wishes and gratitude she received on the day the news of her coming out was published.
"People came out of the woodwork to share their stories," she said. "The day of [publication], I’ve never gotten so many Facebook messages, phone calls, emails. I got messages from people I have never met before -- kids in some Central American state saying that a friend of a friend of a friend forwarded them my story and they just wanted to say thanks. And it just lifts you up in a way that nothing else does to know that something that for me was so simple and was so easy that it could touch somebody that is, you know, ten degrees of separation away from me, it’s amazing. It was an incredible experience."
Meanwhile, like any parent concerned about their child’s happiness and well-being, Diane Patrick approached her daughter’s very public coming out warily. "I wasn’t sure what kind of reaction we were going to get," the First Lady explains. "I think I can say we were supportive of Katherine, [but] we were also very worried that, you know, it’s not a friendly world out there and we didn’t want her to be subjected to any kind of harassment or bullying or anything like that. So I went forward with the public announcement with a lot of trepidation for myself, for Katherine and my family. At the end of the day, I have to say people can say some hateful things but they tend to do it on the anonymous message boards in the paper. But to the extent people had some issues at least in my world professionally and personally they sure didn’t reveal it.
"And more than that, we just got a lot of love," she adds. "People saying, that’s brave that’s strong, thank you; and parents of gay children who felt like they were alone in the world didn’t feel so alone anymore."