So this week, I had a very significant anniversary. It was my three-year anniversary of coming out to my parents, which in my life—and in many of my LGBT friends’ lives—marks one of the single most significant moments in my life. It was the moment when I committed to never hiding who I was again. It was the moment when I began to start the process of becoming a whole person.
I call it my “Gayday.” It’s like my birthday, but for me it’s so much more significant. After all, on my birthday, most of the work was left to my mom; on my Gayday, I did all of the work.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. For me, my Gayday was the culmination of years of work, of self-discovery, and of building courage, but for my parents, it was only the beginning of all of the work that they had to do. My parents had to begin to do the work of understanding what it would be like to live with a gay son, which is no small task.
So at any rate, yesterday, December 15th, was my Gayday.
That makes me three-years-old, and with all of the profound insight of a three-year-old, I’d like to take some time to reflect on the one person who is most important to every three-year-old: my mom.
I’ll never forget how my mom reacted on the night I came out. After watching a Goosebumps marathon on Nickelodeon and feeling nostalgic as all hell, I decided that, for whatever reason, that was the night I was going to come out. I was just going to do it. I was just going to march downstairs and tell them. First I called my best friend Paige to make sure that she was on call in case things went badly and I needed a pick-up, and I called my brother to let him know that I was finally going to do it. For whatever reason, I couldn’t seem to find my parents in the same room that night. So I spent a few minutes wandering around the house trying to see if they’d naturally settle in the same place; when it became abundantly clear that they wouldn’t, I just asked them both to come downstairs, “I just have something I want to talk to you about.”
“What’s wrong sweetie?” asked my mom.
“Nothing, I just want to talk, that’s all.”
So now my mother and my father are standing across the island in our kitchen, we’re all standing up, and I jump in.
“There’s not really a way to preface this, so I’m just going to say it…Mom, Dad, I’m gay.” The words dropped to the floor, and my father let them crash and shatter at his feet, but my mom swooped down, caught them, and cradled them gently in her arms.
My mother’s reaction was remarkable. All she did was ask questions, as if it was a new hobby that I was picking up and she was curious. She asked things like “how long have you known?” and “who else knows?”—you know—basic sorts of things.
My father didn’t react quite as positively, but that is a post for another day, and rest assured, it’s a story that ends well. But for the moment, fast-forward a few minutes and I’m out the door. I wasn’t running away for good: I just needed some space. So I went to Paige’s house, drank hot cocoa, and cried for all that I thought I had lost.
My mom called at around 9:00 and only wanted to know if I was safe, and if she could pick me up. I said that she could and that I had never planned to run away forever. She said that she knew and that she understood.
When we got home, we sat down on our favorite couch, she held my hand, I leaned on her shoulder, and we talked until 2 am in front of our fireplace. I have never felt more loved by my mother than at that moment, when she sat there holding me, and telling me all the things that I needed to hear. She told me that my father would come around, that he just needed some time. She told me that she loved me no matter what, and that I was her son and nothing could take that away. She told me that she was amazed by my bravery, by my courage to be myself. She told me that she had had a sneaking suspicion that I was gay since I was 4, and that she had even talked to a therapist about what to do if her son was gay. She told me that her only worry, her only concern, was that I wouldn’t be able to live the life that she had always wanted for me—a life free of discrimination, free of hurt, and free of the prejudice of others. In the midst of everything that she could have focused on, she only focused on me. All she wanted was for me to be happy regardless of my sexual orientation. On a sillier note, she also made me pinky-promise that I wouldn’t get HIV, which I assured her wasn’t even a concern given my current lack of a dating life at the time.
And I told her a few things. I told her that she should still expect a beautiful marriage, that she should expect to meet my boyfriends as they came, and that she should still expect grandchildren—beautiful, adopted, wonderful grandchildren.
From that point on my mother has been my pillar. It was her who supported me when I began to get involved with my high school’s GSA, and it was her who claimed me as her son when I came out to 2,000 Methodist church leaders at the NC Methodist Annual Conference. It was her who lent me a shoulder to cry on when I faced the pain of religious marginalization, and it was her who was the first to congratulate me on a successful youth march at the NC Pride Parade or a great meeting of the Triangle GSA Council.
So to all mothers out there who support their gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender children, know that you are our rock, know that you are loved, and know that you make more of a difference in our lives than you could ever understand. And thank you. Thank you so much for being everything that you are.
And to those of you whose mothers have not been supportive, know that they love you. They truly, truly do. Your mothers love you more than you could know, no matter how terrible they are showing it. I promise.
I started this post by talking about how yesterday was my 3rd Gayday and yesterday my mother, because she is hip and wonderful and the best mother that I could ever, ever ask for, sent me a text message that I will never delete:
“I just realized that it’s the third anniversary of your coming out to us. It was the night before our cantata at church, which is tomorrow…I know, a very strange association. I just want to say thank you for helping me to see the world in a better way. You are still the bravest man I’ve ever known and I love you very much! Mom”
I love you Mom. Merry Christmas.