Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September 30, 2006

Back in the age of MySpace, a mere three years ago, something very monumental happened to me on this day. I came out to my mom. I bring up MySpace because there was a place on the profile page to list your heroes. My mother became my hero that day.

This story starts back in April 2006. I got a phone call from my sister and she told me that Mom knew I was gay. She said Mom asked her directly and, not wanting to lie, my sister told her the truth. My reaction was one of relief mingled with curiosity. My sister had basically done the hard part for me. I wanted to call my mother, but my sister suggested that I wait for her to reach out to me.

Jump forward to September. My mom came to visit me for a week. It was a stressful week as the roommate I had at the time was packing and moving out. He and I didn't particularly get along so there was a lot of tension in the apartment. It actually took the entire week for the conversation to happen. I didn't really know if it was going to happen. I wanted to bring it up, but I was waiting, per my sister's suggestion, for my mom to bring it up in her time. I was being a coward under the guise of not making my mom uncomfortable. Finally on Saturday night it happened.

We went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant on Ninth Avenue called El Azteca. We sat near the back at a little two top table and enjoyed our meal. We talked about everything except the elephant in the room until mom was paying the bill. I can't imagine the courage it took for her to place her hands on the table, palms up, and say to me, "I know." I in turn placed my hands in hers and said, "I know you know." The memory brings tears to my eyes even now. The dialogue was opened. There were tears and laughter. There were questions and explanations. There was, "What did I do wrong?" There was talk of God. Forty-five minutes later the fear I'd been carrying with me for 13 years as an out gay man, wanting to tell his mother, melted away. The gray area suddenly had color. My mother didn't reject me. In fact, she loved me. She embraced me. She believed that I was born gay and that it wasn't a choice.

I've always had a special relationship with my mother. Of course we had our ups and downs when I was growing up. Those of you who know me know that I have attitude for days. How many spankings did I get for that as a child!?! I am the first born. I don't have nearly the same relationship with my father and it seems that my mom was always having to take sides between the two of us. There are high hopes and expectations placed on the first born. I'm from a small town that I like to refer to as Population 600. One stop sign, one caution light, two mini-marts. Imagine knowing you're gay in a place that small in the 80's and trying to come to terms with it. The church tells you you're going to hell. Many of your classmates call you "queer" and "fag." You know you're gay, but deny it because you have to. And you don't feel you can reach out for support and comfort from the people you should be able to trust the most because your mind tells you they feel the same way as the church and your classmates. To the fear, frustration, anger, and confusion, add a dash of disappointing your parents and you've got the volatile concoction that was me for many years.

Every gay person has a story about coming out. They all range from disastrous to supportive. One is not more special than the other. They are moments in our lives that bind us together as humans. I was blessed to have a wonderful experience that I wish I could have had years earlier. Looking back I can recall at least two phone conversations where my mother told me there was nothing I could ever do to make her stop loving me. I wondered at the time if she was trying to get me to tell her the truth. I do believe that things happen at the right time though, and September 30, 2006, was my time.

My relationship with my mom continues to evolve and get stronger. I continue to push the boundaries of what I can talk to her about regarding my life. I do my best to respect her and not embarrass her or put her into a situation that makes her uncomfortable. I believe neither of us are as delicate as I might have once believed.

Changing a person's perception means letting that person see how a life different from their's is just different, not necessarily bad.