As I was growing up, I was among the youngest in a large family. I saw my older brothers and sisters date and then marry a woman or a man, then start a family. I saw all of my cousins — all 179 of them — do that too. Yeah, as I said, I have a LARGE family. We occupy a small country to the east of … well, there I go again, digressing on yet another tangent 🙂
I grew up expecting that I was straight. I never wanted to be anything other than straight. I had no reason to expect that I wasn’t straight. My admiration of boys my age were of respect of those who were much more athletically inclined (like my twin brother) or their boots. Honestly, that was it. I took a liking to boots on guys a long, long time ago. But I had no idea — no fathom of a thought — that I could or would like men in the way that straight guys like women.
But I finally figured it out, and have explained that process on this blog in many posts over years. But the hardest part after coming out to myself was coming out to my mother. See this post from a year ago about how my Mom learned to accept and continue to love me, regardless of my sexual orientation. This post is about how I “came out” to her.
You would think, being the 14th kid of 15 in the family, that my Mom had “seen it all.” She pretty much had seen everything. Not a thing a kid could do or say that would cause her to be caught off-guard. Until….
The conversation that I had with my Mom on the day after I first introduced her to the man who has been my partner since 1993 and I later married (when we legally could) — that caught my Mom in such a way that she didn’t know how to respond. I think it was the first time ever in my life that she was speechless.
It began like this,
Mom: “you seemed to be very fond of your friend.”
Me: “Yes, he’s a great guy.”
Mom: “do you double date?” (expecting or hoping, once again, that I was dating women. Any woman, but a woman not a man.)
Me: “Mom, you can say that we are dating each other.”
I don’t remember much more of that conversation, other than reaching, stretching, groping for words that wouldn’t come. I so never wanted to disappoint my mother, but at the same time, I never would lie to her either. It would have been easy to make up some story, but I couldn’t live with myself by lying — both to myself and my Mom.
That’s how I “came out.” I never sat her down and said those words, “Mom, I’m gay.” But when you tell her that you are dating a man, it’s not hard to figure out!
What I credit my Mom with are two huge things–
* She continued to speak to me. She didn’t shut me out, refuse to let me come to visit, or reject me. Yes, I was tentative or fearful to visit after I first made it clear that I was gay, but I didn’t look for excuses not to visit, either. We both made a commitment to continue to keep the in-person dialogue open and ongoing. Bless her; I have read and heard so many personal horror stories from gay men whose parents flat-out disowned them. In my case, that never happened, nor did my Mom ever consider such a thing.
* She asked people she trusted lots of questions. The conversation began with my oldest sister, who gave her information from a nascent organization that has subsequently become known as “PFLAG” (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). She asked my twin brother, whose response was, “heck, Mom, I knew he was gay before he did. So what, he’s still the same guy!” (I am truly fortunate that ALL of my siblings remain close. Yes, a few “blinked” when they found out, and they went through a similar “learning curve” as my Mom did.)
My Mom always had an open mind and remained a life-long learner. She asked thousands of questions. She sought answers. She called huge federal agencies, small non-profits — lots of people. She pursued learning more so she would know more about a side of her son that she didn’t know before.
As I began this post, I never wanted to be anything other than straight. I didn’t know until much later in life that I was gay although I am convinced that I was born gay and just didn’t come to full acknowledgment or realization that I was gay until much later in life. I celebrate that my partner/fiance and I met when we did, and we’ve been happily living as united souls thereafter.
Today my Mom would have been 95 years old, if she were still living. However, she remains alive in my heart, my family’s hearts, and my fiance’s heart. I am very pleased that my Mom and my fiance learned to love one another before she died — so she can tell my Dad that all of her children are in stable, happy relationships with a partner who loves, protects, and cherishes their children.
Life is short: thanking my Mom for her enduring love.
Addendum: some of you who are newer to this blog may not know that my Dad died when I was 12, thus by the time I figured out in my adult life that I was gay, the only parent I had to “come out” to was my Mom.