A turning point in the relationship of Dalia and Itzik began when their son, Gilad, came out as gay and ran away from home, and Itzik refused to accept him: “I said to him, I can’t replace my child, but I can replace a husband.”
A turning point in the relationship of Dalia and Itzik began when their son, Gilad, came out as gay and ran away from home, and Itzik refused to accept him.
“I felt disappointment that led to a terrible anger,” recalls Dalia in an interview with Israel website WDG.”I felt as if a contract between us was breached. I never thought that the father of my children would do such a thing, which led to feelings of guilt about choosing a father for the children. I eventually realized that I had to face reality and prove to my child that I would not give up on him nor betray him as a mother.”
After Gilad came out, Dalia kept urging her husband to contact their son, but Itzik refused. “On one of our trips we saw Gilad cross the road right in front of our vehicle, and then Itzik beeped and flashed the lights at him, and as soon as Gilad saw it, he fled,” Dalia said. “I started running after him. After this incident Itzik told me: ‘I don’t ever want to see him. To me he’s dead.’
“When I realized where we were, I said to him, “Either you’re with us or you leave. I can’t replace my child, but I can replace a husband. And this sentence made a turning point, because he understood that if he kept up this way, he would lose not only his son, but his whole family.”
Dalia and her husband Itzik lived a quiet and peaceful family life with their four sons, until their son Gilad turned 17 and one day came out of his room with full goth make up on. “Itzik got very angry when Gilad refused to take off the makeup and shouted:’Look at yourself in the mirror, you look like a whore at the central bus station.’ At that moment Gilad took his bag and fled.”
At first, Dalia and Itzik thought it was just a case of the rebellion of adolescence and that Gilad would come back home soon. After Gilad had not returned, they began looking for him. They found that he was staying at a friend’s home. After three weeks there, he moved to Beit HaShanti (a youth at risk home) in Tel Aviv.
“All my attempts to speak with Gilad fell on deaf ears,” says Dalia. “He didn’t want to talk at all, and created a total disconnection with his father. I realized that I had to keep in touch with him because he’s still my son, no matter what.”
Dalia and Gilad met once a week by the beach in Tel Aviv, and the mom took care of a meeting between him and his other three brothers every Saturday. “In retrospect, that was my message to my children – you do not desert anybody in the family,” she said. “The only thing I knew was that I needed to keep in constant contact with the child. It is the duty of every parent to his children from their creation until the day we die.”
“One day he said to me: Mom, I need to talk to you,” says Dalia. I thought he got into trouble with money or drugs or that he got into some kind of a cult. I did not know what to think. Everything occurred to me apart from the issue of sexuality.”
Dalia and Gilad were sitting in a cafe when Gilad told her: ‘Mom, I’m gay.’
“At that moment I felt so relieved,” says Dalia. “The first sentence I said to him was ‘Is that all?This is the whole story? Gilad, you’re my boy, I love you and nothing can change that.” He looked at me and said, ‘Mom, you know? The only one I could trust is you,’and this is how my child came out of the closet.”
Though she was accepting of her son’s sexuality, it wasn’t all perfect for Dalia.
“The difficulty began when I said goodbye to him and got on the bus,” she says. “I started to understand what it was that my son was actually telling me. I started to cry because of guilt. I thought, Good Lord what kind of mother are you? How did you not see it? Go figure how much he suffered and you didn’t see, and it tore me apart. I had a feeling of failure in every sense of the word.”
Then there was the part of telling the rest of the family. “When I got home, my husband saw me crying and never asked why,” Dalia recalls. “I didn’t dare to even think what to tell him. I first told my eldest son Itay, who then was a soldier. He said, ‘Leave it up to me.’ He took Itzik outside and told him everything, and when they returned home Itzik looked at me accusingly, as if it was all my fault.”
After leaving him no choice but to accept his gay son or lose his whole family, Itzik met and talked with a friend from their kibbutz who recently came out, and later started joining Dalia at meetings of the Israeli PFLAG organization, Tehila.
Today Dalia is a private clinic owner in Yishuv Harutzim. She specializes in helping parents with LGBT children. She’s also an activist on behalf of Tehila and lectures throughout the country to students and parents.
“I have an awesome son and I am proud of him, but even today after 17 years, I can’t tell you that aren’t times that are difficult for me. Gilad’s brothers are married with children and sometimes I have thoughts on whether Gilad will marry and whether he will have children. Sometimes I cry and that’s fine. We don’t need to be the perfect parents and know everything about our children, but we do need to be there when they engage us and need help. Parents think that if their boys marry women, then everything’s coming up roses. It isn’t. Even when they are ‘normal’ you can’t be sure everything is perfect. Who said that their relationship will hold up and everything will go smoothly? Most important is that they will be happy.”
“I tell parents not to stay with it alone,” Dalia concludes. “Consult, come to Tehila, talk to me. If you can’t come to the meetings, and I understand it and don’t judge anyone, you can call anonymously and get advice. There are many parents who accept their children but don’t talk about it outside. I tell them: it’s our job, the parents, to make sure that our children’s life will be better. I’m not asking them to hang rainbow flags in the city streets. I don’t believe in it. I believe in work in the field, that these parents will talk about it everywhere, in order to help themselves, their children and other parents.”