Do you remember when I “came out”? I felt so vulnerable. Moments before I forced out the truth that I imprisoned for so many years, I worried thinking, ‘Will you be angry? Will you ever speak to me again?’ I couldn’t look you in your eyes. But you surprised me. Instead of making my fears a reality, your verbatim response was a nonchalant, “You can fuck aardvarks for all I care.” You assured me that I would always be your son and that you loved me. But are you aware that those words instilled confidence in me to learn more about myself without feeling ashamed? I didn’t fuck aardvarks (or any other type of species except for this one guy that liked to call himself a butt monster), but I did allow myself to relive my sexual adolescence and learn about gay culture.
I don’t know if you were conveying support or guiding me towards self-acceptance (it doesn’t matter, really), but you used my love of reading to introduce me to a world of gay writers (both fiction and non-fiction) that would soon be my role models. I’ll never forget you presenting a Christopher Rice novel to me and saying, “You’ll like him. He’s gay, too.” I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but I never told you that I threw the book away halfway through. Rubbish. Sorry. I really tried to like it. But for every Christopher Rice there was an Augusten Burroughs or David Sedaris or Michael Chabon. I hope to make you and dad proud by one day becoming one of those role models. Time will tell. Unfortunately, it’s all about the anal and masturbation jokes for now. I must purge the anal and masturbation jokes out of my system.
However, one memory outshines the rest. It was a Friday afternoon sometime in 2001. I mentioned that I was going out later, you expressed interest in joining me, I suggested you to take a nap, and eight hours later, you sat next to me at a drag show in Memphis’s best/only gay club with a microphone pointed to your face. Just seconds before, the emcee of the show (a hulking creature with a strained, high voice and a dress hanging on its large frame) approached you between sets and asked whom you were with.
“My son,” you proudly replied.
This mannish transvestite then attempted a cheap and low form of comedy to entertain the audience (shock value) by asking, “Does he like suckin’ cock?”
You didn’t recoil with shock or even express the slightest consternation. Instead, you leaned into the mic and said, “He sure does.”
And the crowd loved it.
After the show, we closed the night on the dance floor, moving under a circus of lights in sync to the loud music. By about 2 am, I drove you home over an hour away. The people in my world still partied, dancing beneath the carnival of lights and loud music, but those in yours slumbered. You fell asleep in the passenger seat, indifferent to the occasional street lamp on the highway that glared on your face and faded out just as quickly as it shined in. As you rested, I realized that my fear of sharing my sexuality those many months ago was foolish. I will speak millions of words to you in my lifetime, but isn’t it strange how the combination of only two words (“I’m gay.”) caused me so much fear and anxiety?
I’m very lucky you’re Mom. I wish you could be everyone’s Mom. But since you can’t, I at least hope other Moms read this to learn how unfaltering support can be the most powerful weapon against fear and shame.
From the Heart,