To the surprise of many, I was not out to my mother. Heck, I wasn’t out to any in my family until some years back. The first family member I came out to was my sister about four years ago. Back then we agreed not to tell mom, and that she suspected nothing.
A few months ago I told my mother I was atheist–not that I was hiding any of that. It just happen to come up.
As she talks to me about her church routine and how my little brother has taken a liking to the youth group at church, she asks, “So, what about you?”
Me, “What about me?”
Mom, “Do you go to a church or anything up there?”
“No, mom. It’s not my thing.”
“I’m atheist,” I clear up.
“What? Since when?”
“I dunno, maybe ten years now.” I don’t see what the big deal is. “I just came to a certain realization.”
“And where do you think you come from? Monkeys or something?”
I try hard not to laugh. “No, mom. I come from you. That’s enough for me. For now.”
The topic is put to rest and she doesn’t pry any more. It passes. The conversation moves along and for a moment I think; If and when I decide to tell her I’m gay, I hope it’s this easy.
Some wonder why I’ve hid it from my family for so long. There are many reasons. After she said she wanted to die at the news that my high school sister was pregnant and dropping out, I thought it best not to tell her ever. Plus, her views on gays and lesbians has never been positive. She’s mentioned a few times how it disgusts her. She refers to gays and lesbians as “them” “they” “their kind”; obviously not in the best of light. When she recently agreed with my brother to allow him to attend a different high school than I did, because of the gays and lesbians at my old school, I knew telling her would be hard.
It hurts. To know both my mother, and now little brother, don’t like gays or lesbians. But it had to be done. If not now, when?
Because of my close relationship with my little brother I feared my mother would not only chastise me, but forbid me from talking to my brother. I couldn’t bear the thought.
My little brother is thirteen now, old enough to make his own decisions (on whether or not he wants me in his life) and surely old enough to think for himself. And so, if not now, when?
I’m not sure what else brought this on but I figured it was now or never.
I imagined all sorts of scenarios. I could hear her sobbing, her cries, and her yelling. I’ve been imagining this for as long as I can remember. I could hear her pleas to “reconsider” or even ask, “Are you sure?” “Have you tried everything?” And then I’d to explain Idaho, on how I ran away at 18 to convert, to change. I’d tell her how I was weeks away from shock therapy because I couldn’t bear being gay, I couldn’t bear being me. I’d be in a room, tied down to a cold plastic bed–where likely many patients before lost control of the bowels and plastic became easier to clean. With a jack-hammering heart and an uncomfortably hard mouth piece to prevent me from biting my own tongue, I’d nod to the person delivering the electricity. Shock after shock until it induced seizures, I’d remind myself that this was what my family wanted. Twisting and contorting, I’d imagine my mother just outside in some waiting room, oblivious to what was happening. Somewhere in all this, I’d question what parent would allow this to happen to their own child. I’d recall back to when I took my little brother to the emergency room, watching them plug IV tubes and how I couldn’t bear it. How the tears down my cheeks, and the pain in my chest was too much–despite it all being done for the greater good of my little brother–I couldn’t do it. Even something as small as that was too much and I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy.
But there I’d be, lying in a concrete room, waiting for another shock, bracing for another seizure.
A part of me would surely die. Aside from any gay tendencies being traumatized beyond the surface, what other qualities of me would suffer? Would I still like reading books as much? Would I still enjoy writing? Would I still have the same sense of humor? Would I even remember certain people? Where would I be? Who would I be?
I don’t know, but the thought scares me.
I call my mother up. I let her have her time, going over her routine, the latest family news. As she wraps up and reminds me how much she loves me, I hold on to her last words, as if to remind her.
“You really do love me, mom?” I ask.
“Of course, honey,” she replies without hesitation. “Of course I do.”
“I love you, too,” I say. “I have something to tell you mom.”
“Tell me, honey.”
“I’m not sure if you’d known and it’s been bothering me for the longest time–”
“What is it? Tell me.”
“It’s why I’ve been so distant with you. Ever since I was a little boy. I’ve always known I was different and why I never let any of you in.”
I realize at this point I could go on and on, going back to explain my behavior, reminding her how much I love her. I catch myself stalling.
“I’m gay,” I blurt out. And as I said it, I can’t believe it. It’s as if someone else in the room said it. It wasn’t me, was it?
There’s a long pause, and then, “hmm.”
I go to speak but she finally says something.
“Well, I didn’t know. I don’t think I’ve suspected. I mean, I can look back and probably think of a few instances were I went, ‘that wasn’t right,’ but I can’t think of anything.” She sighs. “But I love you. We all have our vices, our faults. I’m no one to judge. Screaming or yelling at you isn’t going to solve anything. I don’t want you to worry or think any less–that i’m going to treat you any less…”
My mind wanders. I can barely hear or understand her words any more. My mind is racing through all the terrible scenarios, the years of creating all these nightmares, they’re all suddenly happening at once. Time is compressing to this single outcome and I can barely hold on.
She says goodbye and I hang up.
I want nothing more than to cry, to unshackle the pent up emotions, but I can’t. A few dry heaves, fists to my bed and I realize I’m alone. There’s no real shoulder to cry on or someone to call. I swallow my emotions and concentrate on the positive; she loves me. I post on facebook real quickly about the news and I receive overwhelming support from great friends. But the only thing I want to do is shut down, rest, sleep.
I’m not really sure I can explain exactly how I felt at that moment. Elated. Happy. Relived. Perhaps even absolution. For the longest time I had hardened a part of my heart, for what I assumed would be inevitable disappointment, admonishment, and ultimate rejection. But suddenly that thorn in my heart was gone, and I was allowed to feel.
For now, it’s all new. A part of me still feels angst and guilt, like I took something away from my mother, more than just her dreams of grandchildren or of attending a wedding where I marry a woman, but her innocent boy. I’m sure questions will arise with time. Perhaps it’s too early to say exactly how things will be a year or two from now. However, for now… it’s now. The time is now.