DES MOINES, IOWA
Daniel Kennback’s story is familiar to many. When he first came out to his family and community, he was met with hostility, rejection, and disappointment.
Kennback’s mother, Lillian, confesses, “We never really understood why he couldn’t be queer, or at least try. Even as a child he was always looking at girls. I guess we always knew but we never admitted it to ourselves. The signs were all there.”
After a 12 year estrangement, Kennback and his family have been reunited, thanks in large part to the efforts of “Getting things nice and Straight,” a community straight advocacy group who offers counseling services to families with straight children.
Rev. Rufus Farnsworth, founder and leader of GTNAS, told The Daily Flogger, “most families today are looking for something interesting from their kids. Bi curious, lesbian, gay, leather, even a little kinky. No one wants their kid to be straight and vanilla. Every message we get from the media tells us “kink is in” and “gay is good.” No one thinks about the message that is sending to straight vanilla folks.”
Kennback knew his parent’s wouldn’t understand when he brought his first girlfriend home at the age of 17. “Her name was Stephanie. I will never forget her. She held my hand while we stood in front of my parents and I told them I was straight. It wasn’t going to change and it wasn’t going away.”
His parents reacted as many do, by throwing him out of the house and limiting their contact with him. Kennback would still visit for holidays, but the gatherings were always tense and uncomfortable.
Kennback will never forget his mother’s tears and his father’s angry taunts, “Go, run off. Go be a banker or a CEO or some kind of computer software engineer. That is what you straight people do, isn’t it?”
That all changed when Farnsworth reached out to the family on Kennback’s behalf.
Psychologist Sylvia Weaver, PsyD, MD, PhD, MA, told The Daily Flogger that this response is increasingly common, particularly among straight married couples. Though Kennback’s mother did “experiment once with another woman while she was at college,” she has mostly led a straight, heterosexual lifestyle. According to Weaver, “these parents see their children as a way to embrace the tolerance, sexual exploration, and ‘hipness’ they never had access to. Even though they are straight themselves, they have deeply embedded issues of shame, guilt, and fear which drive them to want gay, kinky and bisexual children.” The effects of a having a straight child Weaver says “can be devastating. Not just personally, but socially as well.”
After years of having to hide their wedding bands when visiting home, Kennback and his wife Martha now wear them around his parents.
“It takes some getting used to,” Kennback’s Father Elmer said, “I don’t know why they have to be so “in your face” about it. You’re married, you’re straight, we get it. Those rings are just a constant reminder, flaunting it.”
Reverend Farnsworth, himself a closeted gay man, said “I really feel for Daniel, it’s hard enough being white and male. When you add the straight component, he is really a three time loser. I offered to help out by having sex with him, but he wouldn’t have any of it. I was just trying to help.”
photo credit: teresatrimm cc