December 29, 2010

Mom, We Need To Talk...

Well, it's been about two hours since I've been back in Columbus, GA and I've already cried twice.

That's how I was going to start this blog post. I was then going to proceed to tell you all about why I was crying and how upset I was about being home and not being accepted by mom. I was going to rant about how I would never be the perfect son she wanted me to be but how I would do anything I could to make her happy. All in all, it was going to be one of my sadder posts. But, I never really finished it. I kept thinking of new details to add or take away and I just never got around to posting it. Now, I'm glad I did.

In the post, I was going to talk about how my mom refuses to accept that I'm gay or even talk about it. I was going to cry about not having a good relationship with her. But, after a week of being here, I've picked up on something my mom keeps asking me:

"Baby, are you happy?"- mom asks me.

"Yeah, I am."- I reply puzzled.

"Are you sure? Because you know that all mommy wants for you is to be happy. You know that right?"- she says kinda awkwardly.

"Yes, ma'am."- In my head I'm thinking, what you talking about momma?! (anyone get the reference?)

"Good, because as long as you're happy, that's all I care about. Do you understand?"- she replies with a smile.

"Yes, ma'am."- I say still confused and baffled but maybe getting a sense of what she's hinting at.

Well, I didn't really catch on the first time she said it, but she's repeated it to me several times. Now, I'm not gonna jump for joy over this. She still hasn't said the g-word (gay) or even hinted at my sexuality. So I'm not entirely sure if that's what she's alluding to or just speaking generally. Either way, I feel like it's a step in the right direction for her. It's a long way from the "You're gonna burn in hell" and "Don't go near your little cousins" speeches. In fact, now she urges me to go hang out with them since I only see them once a year. But it did get me to thinking, what if the reason my mom and I don't have a good relationship anymore is because I've been pushing her away from trying to fix it.

I pride myself on being a very open person. I'll tell you just about anything if you ask me. If I feel I can trust a person, I'll open up to them in a matter of minutes (maybe not the best thing to do but that's how I roll). But with my mom, it's so totally different. I clam up talking about anything with her because I feel she won't understand or will rush to judgment. I don't tell her much about my friends (she's always been critical of my friend choices). I don't tell her much about my fraternity ("Why would you join a white fraternity? Do you think you're too good for a black one?"). I definitely don't tell her anything about my sexual life or even the fact that I'm somewhat active in the gay community. The only thing I do tell her about is Rhythm and Blue, my a cappella group. But even that gets some scrutiny from her ("Are you sure that singing group isn't taking up too much of your time?"). So, I basically tiptoe around all subjects in my life creating a very one-sided relationship where I know everything about her life and she knows nothing about mine.

Do I feel bad about it? Yeah, I do. But when everything that is important to me seems distracting to her, I just don't feel comfortable talking about it. Well, at least I used to. But now, things are changing. She's asking more about my college life and not being so judgmental and scrutinizing every little detail. And so I have started to open up to her more except for in one area.

Yeah, being gay, obviously. I want to tell her about the awesome LGBT friends I have. I want to rant to her about this guy I'm practically in love with even though we've only really hung out once. I want to cry to her about the past guys that have broken my heart. I want to tell her that I'm happy, truly happy. I'm enjoying life and having fun. I want to show her that being gay hasn't hindered my life or made it worse like she thought it would. In fact, it's opened up so many doors to so many amazing people and adventures. Most of all, I want to finally come out to my family but I need her support to do that. But I can't talk to her about this yet. I feel like she's still not ready. I don't want to push her to talk about something she's not ready to talk about.

But, I think she's getting there. She's slowly making her way to the point where she's ready to talk about it. So far, she's still at the awkward asking of "So... are there any... boys, I mean, young men you're interested in?". At one point, I tried to use this as my chance to go a little further with her by telling her about a guy but she hurriedly retreated back to her usual "Are you sure there aren't any girls you like? Maybe you just haven't found the right one." So, I just let it drop. She hasn't asked me that in a while. Next time, I'll try again.

For now, I'll bide my time. It seems like she's making progress. Slow, minimal progress but it's progress nonetheless. I'd love any advice on how to deal with this or maybe speed up the process a little (jk, but actually). I want both of us to be ready to have these conversations but what do I do now that I am, but she's not?


  1. I think you'll find that mothers tend to love their children, no matter what. It may take them some years to come around though, but they finally do.

    I am very happy for you though. Right now it is sooner.

    I was very glad when I started including mine more in my life. But personally, I found that being in college dramatically improved our relationship.

  2. This sure sounded familiar... I've been keeping quiet about my life for years, just to avoid my mom's disparaging comments. She's noticed, though, and she doesn't want to be "that mom" so we're at a funny place where she asks about my life, and I answer, and she tries to respond supportively but then just ends the conversation. I actually want to tell her about my girlfriend but the conversation just can't get off the ground.

    I don't have any advice, I guess, but it really is a funny situation, isn't it?

    It's a step in the right direction, though, so I'm glad-- even if we are probably going to make each other miserable saying the wrong things, now that we're speaking again. It makes me hope that we'll get out the other end okay.

    So, you should be hopeful too! It will work out in time.

  3. Lawrence, what makes you hesitant to tell your mom about your girlfriend if you've been out as a lesbian for so long? As far as your mom knows, you're (still?) a girl and you're a dating another girl doesn't seem out of the ordinary. Do you not want to share that your girlfriend is a transwoman (due to fear of her reaction) but also not want to leave it out? Or is it something else?

  4. Hey AJ, thanks for posting this. I always love reading your stuff-it reminds me so much of this summer. =) I'm glad that your Mom has gotten to the point where she can ask you if there are any men you're dating...and maybe one day she'll stop following it up with asking about women. I definitely get that from some of my relatives too, so I know it's really hard. Your strength despite all this is still inspiring though. :D (p.s. who's the guy?! ;)

  5. Well, we're making progress in that I can now discuss how much I love Harry Potter, but I can't talk about how Dumbledore is totally gay or how Emma Watson is totally adorable without a bad reaction. When I say we weren't speaking, I mean we really weren't speaking. A girlfriend-- any girlfriend-- would be too concretely gay.

    But this particular girlfriend-- I am more myself with her than I am anywhere else, and I'm not sure I can talk about her while I'm pretending not to be myself. I definitely couldn't keep up the facade if someone was speaking critically of her, and while it wouldn't really bother me to leave out the fact that she's trans, my mom will likely object to, say, the fact that she's not a student. I love both of them too much to want to hear my mom's comments. So I'm waiting until my mom actually asks, in the hope that then she'll be able to hear the answer.

  6. AJ, I'm really sorry how hard it is for you to be home. I know how it feels to be treated like that by one's parents and to cry wishing for things to be different. BUT I'm also really inspired by your optimistic attitude. I think your relationship with your mom will really benefit from that. Maybe she'll never be able to give you exactly what you want/need, but I'm sure with your positive spirit it'll get a lot better than it has been. In the meantime, you have a lot of people here at Duke who love you and can empathize. Enjoy the rest of break and don't be afraid to bend our ears if you need somebody to listen :)

  7. Hey AJ,

    So, I can most definitely empathize with a lot of your thoughts and feelings. My parents have mentioned to me that they do not wish to be a part of this "gay" life of mine.

    I have dealt with this issue in much of the same way that the main character in "Lock and Key" by Sarah Dessen.

    “Family isn’t something that’s supposed to be static, or set. People marry in, divorce out. They’re born, they die. It’s always evolving, turning into something else.”

    “What is family? They were the people who claimed you. In good, in bad, in parts or in whole, they were the ones who showed up, who stayed in there, regardless. It wasn’t just about blood relations or shared chromosomes, but something wider, bigger. Cora was right- we had many families over time. Our family of origion, the family we created, as well as the gorups you moved thorugh while all of this was happening: friends, lovers, sometimes even strangers. None of them were perfect, and we couldn’t expect them to be. You couldn’t make any one person your world. The trick was to take what each could give you and build a world from it."

    -Sarah Dessen

    So, while my parents can only currently love parts of me, the friends that I have made at both Carolina and Duke love me for everything that I am. For now, my parents are still struggling to accept and love what they consider to be the "gay" part of my life and until they are able to, I just try to make do with the love that they are able to give me and try to build a world from their love and the loving community I have created for myself at both Duke and Carolina.