A beloved friend told me her coming out story tonight. As I listened in horror, this charming, intelligent woman described how two weeks ago her 70 year old mother summarily rejected her upon learning her daughter was gay. This supposed Christian refused to accept a kiss goodbye from her child, and has not spoken to her since.
I can’t even begin to tell you how angry I am at this moment. How outraged I am that a decent, caring human being can be rejected by the parent who gave them life, merely because they want to create a family of their own sort.
Coming In and Out of Your Life
My own coming out story happened over ten years ago and, luckily, was considerably less traumatic than my friend’s experience. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was living in Phoenix, working temp jobs and struggling to figure out who I was. My grandmother had died a few months ago, and my last visit with her was extremely upsetting for me. Due to pain and medication, she exhibited symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s. I sat and talked to this amazing woman, my grandmother, knowing she didn’t have a clue who I was. I’m not a crier, but I sobbed all the way to the airport and most of the way home from Louisiana to Arizona.
Several months after my grandmother’s death, I woke on a Wednesday morning in a cold sweat. I had dreamed my mother had Alzheimer’s and didn’t know me. The dream affected me profoundly, so much so that I sat up in my bed staring ahead and trembling for several minutes.
It occurred to me, in that moment, that I could not allow another day, another hour, to go by without my Mama knowing the truth. I picked up the phone and dialed home. (Yeah, I called long distance on a weekday in the morning; Girlfriend was serious.)
The Conversation We All Dread
The call to my mom went something like this:
Mama (worried, because I’m too broke to call at premium rates): Hey, Deb. What’s up?
Me: I have to tell you something.
Mama (really concerned): Ohkaayyy.
Me: Mama, you’ll love me no matter what, right?
Mama: Of course.
Me: I think I’m gay.
Mama (utter relief): Oh, don’t scare me like that. I thought there was something wrong.
We then went on to have a lovely and freeing conversation, and my mother has never said a negative word about my sexuality since.
I’m the Lucky One
\Several years ago, I made the decision to be open about being a lesbian. I had spent too much time in the closet, and I was never going back. Living a lie was just too damned exhausting. Once I found Fey (or she found me, as the case may be), there was no turning back. She was my wife and my life partner and that was all she wrote. We have been together ten years this October and are as married as any other couple I know. My family has accepted my openness, they treat my wife Fey as they would any other in-law, and I have the great blessing of being able to live an honest life with the important people in my life.
It’s not always so good. One friend of mine came out to his parents in high school, only to immediately be sent to a psychiatrist “to be cured.” I have a gay friend in his late 50s who has never come out to his mother, even though he’s been actively gay since the 1970s. His mother thinks he’s living a celibate life, and that fellow always at his side is his…business partner.
There are worse horror stories out there, stories of violence and verbal abuse and physical abandonment that would break your heart. Fortunately, none of my personal friends have endured such nightmares, but that doesn’t change the fact that they still exist.
Listening to my friend recount the psychological apocalypse that was her coming out only served to convince me that something has to be done. In Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, D.C., marriages for same-sex couples are legal and currently performed. Just recently, United States District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker overturned California’s heinous Proposition 8, which states “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
That’s seven states (plus the Coquille Indian Tribe in Oregon) that allow their gay population the same legal rights as heterosexuals.
On the other hand, there are still 43 states where same-sex marriage is not recognized. Twenty-nine of those states actively ban same-sex marriages. Heaven forbid gays try to adopt in Florida, Utah or Arkansas! In 30 states, homosexuals can be fired on the basis of their sexual orientation without legal recourse. One-fifth of all school age lesbians and almost one-half of all school age gay males have experienced verbal or physical abuse due to their orientation, and almost 80% report feelings of severe isolation from peers.
Glimmers of Hope
In the year 2010, homosexual celebrities, sports figures, and public officials are becoming more commonplace. Thanks to people like Ellen Degeneres and shows like Will & Grace, people are becoming more comfortable with idea of same-sex relationships.
I look around today and am amazed at the progress we’ve made. When I was in college, I secretly watched a television show because it had a lesbian character. I was terrified of anyone knowing I watched it, just in case somebody put two and two together. I didn’t meet my first out lesbian couple until my late 20s.
When I see kids talking about their same-sex boyfriends and girlfriends so easily these days, I think: Thank you ,Universe. Thank you that it’s getting better.
But we’re still not there. My darling friend has lost her mother, all because of hatred and bigotry. My heart breaks for her, and all those like her, who are still denied the basic dignity of being allowed to be themselves around their families.
We’ve come a long way, baby. But we ain’t there yet. Not by a long shot.