Coming out: A mother’s perspective

By Donna F. Orchard
Guest contributor

In the fall of 1998, while driving home from an afternoon movie, my 19-year-old son began to shake, his  knuckles tightening on the steering wheel. Our lighthearted mood suddenly changed when he said, “Hey  guys, I have something to tell you.”

“Okay,” his stepdad said as we nodded our heads.

My son looked over his shoulder at us and made the following announcement: “I’m gay.”

I looked at my beautiful son, who was on the dean’s list as he worked his way through college as a tenor section leader in an Episcopal church.

My response, I suspect, was typical of many in that era. I cried the way he had cried in the mall when he looked up at me after discovering there was no Santa. I squalled about AIDS and not having grandchildren.

My mind raced: Will my son be relegated to singles bars and multiple partners and never find love? What if he steps into the wrong bar in Alabama? Life is hard enough without this! My son is tender and warm and knows nothing of violence. How can I protect him? Will he be treated fairly on a job or be fired if his boss finds out? Will he have to live far away from me in San Francisco or New York to be safer? Will we be separated by miles and by a lifestyle that I do not understand?

Thirty minutes later, we got out of the car. I reached for my son and hugged him tight. My body relaxed into a perfect peace.

I said, “Benjamin, there’s nothing you could tell me that would make me love my boy any less.”          

I went from “Life is hard enough…” to, well, of course, Benjamin is gay.

And today I can’t imagine my son not being gay.

Postscript: Benjamin remembers understanding just why he was different at the age of 10. When he was taking a load of clothes to the washer, at that exact moment, he realized, Oh, yeah, I like boys.

And, yes, he does live far away! His first partner was Dutch. Benjamin is a teacher and Assistant Director of Studies for a language firm in Amsterdam.

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