A PARENT SPEAKS: My Mother’s Introduction
When my son told me he was gay, it hurt me to the bottom of my foot. Sure, I’d thought it. Others had said it to me but I didn’t want to believe it—not them nor him. No mother wants her son to be gay. It’s the last thing I wanted to hear. For days after he told me, I cried to the point that I became exhausted. I worried about him getting hurt. I worried about him hurting other people, particularly children. I wondered who might have hurt him as a child and thought how I might have failed to protect him from that kind of harm. I defensively blamed his father declaring the “gay” gene came from his side of the family. His father and I split before my son was born, and he died before the two of them ever met. I wondered if this contributed to my son being gay—that there was no father figure in his life. For the longest time my son walked like me, talked like me, and even his penmanship was like mine! I was a single mother raising a boy to be a man and somehow I had failed.
He lived in another state when he told me he was gay, and I immediately flew to see him. As if his sexuality was something that words could change, I tried to talk him out of being gay. I researched and quoted scripture. I walked and paced and read the Bible out loud so he could hear the voice of God but he wasn’t listening or didn’t seem to be. In my effort to correct him, I kept making things worse. Just as he had hid his homosexuality from me, I wanted to hide it from others: “It’s nobody’s business!” I told him. “Keep this between us for now.” I wondered if he would. Finally, I stopped talking. I packed my bags and I left.
For several months, he and I barely spoke and never about his sexuality. My resolve was that it was his life, not mine, so he could do whatever he wanted. Yet as a mother it was hard, if not impossible, not to worry about my estranged child. I missed the person who was my son—the one who made me laugh and cry, and now the one who made me think. That’s why I called him home. I loved him more than I hated his sexuality and for love, I was willing to reconsider those ideas about homosexuality I’d become locked into believing were right.
Our talks lasted hours and took place over several years. Between him and my readings of E. Lynn Harris’s novels, I learned to respect and appreciate innate differences about sexuality, particularly homosexuality. Our talks became the basis for this book. I was flattered when he asked me to write the introduction but also apprehensive. I knew he’d planned on exposing some things about gay men I wasn’t sure people needed to hear. Nevertheless, we agreed the conversation was necessary and important to share, including from my perspective as a mother since we are all so intimately connected—children to parents and people to persons.
Based on the title, it’s easy to guess this book is for and about gays. However, its substance centers on issues of humanity: moving from excess to purpose, from angst to calm, and from feeling trapped to being free. The many personal stories of my son and the men he’s met and known reveal the often overlooked and underscore the dynamic aspects of gay life from the point of self-discovery and its struggles, to self-acceptance and its triumphs; from its history to its language and everything else that comes out of this life both good and tragic. I see it as a reality cry with lessons that are overt and subtle, yet, personal, cultural, and spiritual all tangled in sheets of passionately written vignettes that leave a reader wanting to learn more. That was the case when I read about the religious history of homosexuality and why it was so reviled. Fortunately, I was able to call my son, which brings me to my only real criticism. Some of the chapters are too short. Since there are nine chapters each could have easily been its own book. Yet, my son’s purpose is to give voice to gay men who live in silence and who too often are misunderstood. To that aim, the book meets its purpose. Parents of gay children should read it so they understand some of what their children go through and those curious about homosexuality should so they can get facts about gays.
Communication makes all the difference. It allows us to expand the narrow lens through which we view life, others and our own. Yet, while communication matters, even with the best of talks and a pried open mind, I still have concerns. I’ve never stopped hoping for a biological grandchild from my son, and I sometimes still hope this is just a phase. Yet, I know that whatever happens or becomes of him, in sickness (one of my constant concerns), or in health, I’m by his side. I brought him into this world and I won’t let what happens in this world be a force to separate us. Not if I can help it. I am his mother.
To the gays stay strong. To the curious have at it. To parents with gay sons: brace yourselves. Like I did, you’re about to learn more about your sons than perhaps you want to know, but it’s stuff you probably should have paid attention to a long time ago.