When I look back over the past few months, the one word that comes to mind is “progress.” When I started this blog, I hadn’t come out to anybody who hadn’t already come out to me at least ten times over… and now I can safely say that I’ve had “that conversation” with all of my closest straight friends, and they were overwhelming positive experiences across the board. I’ve told my best friend, my roommate, new friends from seminary and old friends from college, and out of the dozen or so people that I talked to, only one said the dreaded phrase that we all brace ourselves against: “I still love you, but…”

Mostly, what I heard instead went a bit like this:

“I don’t care, as long as you’re happy…” said my long term college friend, who once told me she was permanently boycotting IKEA after they showed a male couple with their arms around each other in a commercial for their furniture.

“You didn’t seriously think this would change things between us, did you? And don’t think this means you get off the hook either… whoever you date still has to be a Christian, you know” said my best friend of six years, and roommate all throughout college.

“Ok,…” said my current roommate, “But seriously, how cute is our dog?”

“Congratulations!” said one of my closest college friends “… but really, like I was saying, I honestly don’t know which of those three boys I should date.”

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised,” said another college friend, “but you can definitely call me whenever you want to talk about it…” as she proceeded to share with me several insightful connections between the challenges I will face in my relationship, and those she is already facing in her own biracial relationship.

And in some way or another, they all thanked me for sharing; for being vulnerable and honest… for the very things I had felt so saddened about omitting from my relationships this past year.

In short, these experiences were all varrying shades of beautiful. And so, I came home thinking that maybe, just maybe, I was ready for the one big step I have left to take… telling my parents.

My initial reaction, as soon as I arrived, was to chicken out entirely. I mean, things were going so well. And why would I want to screw up that? But then there is the little messy detail that I am actually dating someone now, and while I could justify not telling my parents the abstract idea that I had been questioning my sexuality, because abstract conversations are just not how we operate around here anyway, I am fairly certain they would want to know that I am in my first real relationship. I am fairly certain, given my complete lack of ability to hide things, that they will find out eventually anyway.

And so, I have been toying again with the idea of telling them, as my week here at home is wrapping up, and the amount of time that I would have to face them after the conversation is getting comfortably shorter.

But then, last night, the Grandchildren conversation suddenly popped up, and with absolutely no permission from my brain whatsoever, my mouth asked my parents: “If I had foster babies, or adopted, would you love them? Would you treat them like your own grandchildren?” Now, this is a conversation that the girl that I am dating and I have been having quite a bit lately, because a desire to go buy a house and fill it with the voices of children who have been forgotten by our society is what almost kept us each individually from coming to grad school in the first place, but it is certainly not a conversation that I meant to have with my parents.

“Sure, we would” said my mom, because she would, I know she would… just look at the way she squeals with joy every time she sees my dog, the same raggedy little lost puppy she told me firmly I couldn’t take in around this time last year.

My dad, though, my dad launched into a discussion of how said hypothetical-adopted-grandchild will almost certainly have antisocial personality disorder, or in layman’s terms, no conscience whatsoever, which is a leap in logic that I have never been able to convince him is lacking in several dimensions.

 A few minutes later, he is well into his famous “Speech on How You Have no Idea How Much Trouble Those Troubled-youth Can Be”… in which he always omits the fact that I have a fairly good idea indeed, having spent the past year working at a residential treatment center with aforementioned youth. When he is done with that speech, he is onto his all-time favorite: “You Would Be Much Better off to Pick a Nice Husband and Give Birth to Your Own Perfect Babies…”

At this point, I interrupt him: “but would you love them,” I ask… “If I did have foster babies, or adopt, would you still love them?”

He sighs dramatically. “I guess it would have to be on a case-by-case basis. If they were a lot of trouble, then no… but if they were really good kids, then yes, maybe we would.” My mom, still listening from the kitchen, nods her agreement to this case-by-case assessment. If they are good kids, if they behave themselves, then we will love them.

Now, rationally, I know that my parents are not talking about me… and this is not a fair way to assess how they will react to the news I am trying so hard to work up the nerve to tell them… but I can’t help but feel, at my very core, the implications of this message: if you are good, if you play by the rules, and continue to fit our standards of “the perfect child,” we will love you. Now, this is probably more my fault than it is their own, because I never fulfilled my teenage duty to test this assumption with a Class A Rebellion that would have proven to all of us, once and for all, that their love for me is not conditional…that they will still love me when they find out that my poster-child career is about to veer seriously away from the normal curve.

I know, deep within myself, that the time is coming. The time is coming for me to take a step of faith, and trust in the grace they hold deep within them… trust in the love we have been building up all these years now, just as I have already done with all the other people I hold close to my heart. But so far, that time is not quite here… not yet. I still have a little courage left to build… a little praying left to do.

But for now, in the pocket of time before I am ready to take this final major step in coming out to the people I hold dearest, I am content to sit in overwhelming gratitude for the grace that I have already been shown… for all the different ways my friends have shown me that I can step outside of their expectations without stepping outside of their love. I’d call that progress.