I hope I can articulate this with the words needed. This is personal and my personal leads to the public person most see fighting for the improvement of mental health for the LGBTQ community. Feel free not to read. First, I must pause and thank all the individuals that helped or hated me along the way.
Both were bumper pads that I bounced around on, creating who I am.
Each child /teen I help in the LGBTQ community I think, ‘that is one that might be able to do it different. With a healthy perspective they can move forward with the understanding that self-worth matters and is work. Growth is work.”
I fell in love in the 80’s but instead of being able to just say to myself or others, “I am in love” or “this is who I am in love with” (mind you, they were straight and did not know) I started my spinning. People would step in to be a friend or to have a relationship with me and they would be pulled into the cycle until they could take no more. In my head I truly believed; If they saw the real me they would never REALLY love me.
I hurt many people as I was trying to claw my way out of my own skin. I own that.
I was blessed with a son. Being a Mother, being his mother, was more important than anything else in life. He saved me on a daily basis. His smile. His giggle. His unconditional love. I had so much growing up still to do. Losing him was not an option. EVER.
I would have become anything I needed to be in order to keep that boy.
After talking to a counselor concerning how to tell him and then doing so, I was scared. I remember telling him that people may say things about me and that I was gay. He stated, ” Really Mom, isn’t that just between you and God?” ~ Yes, it should be.
I thought, ok, I will be gay in private and straight in public because his safety was my focus. At the time I really thought it would work. As long as I am honest with him and myself I am doing the right thing. I looked like I had it together. He saw the reality. He saw me split myself open and try to find the parts that were really mine. It was not always pretty to watch. We spoke with different counselors, off and on, to make sure we stayed going in a healthy direction.
I remember a conversation with him, my mom, and myself (this was years ago) when I was going to try to do it the RIGHT way. I just wanted peace and a life like others had. I wanted to have family dinners, family insurance, go on vacations and pay taxes as a family. You know, the things that all gay people with children, at that time, had to hide or do without. Anyway, I had dated a couple of guys later in life as an adult. I tried, I did. We had fun but nothing on the inside felt real. So, the three of us are sitting there and I told her I was going out with an interesting woman. Mom said (this is as close to what she said as I can remember), “ I had just hoped that you could keep trying to be straight.” Before I could say anything, because I did love my mother and my son and if I could; I would have been straight for them… My son says (as close as I can remember) , “ She is gay Grandma. She tried. It is weird to ask her to be something else.”
I dare to say when I came out of the closet no one really even had a reason to still be standing there. Some were however. Unconditional love is a crazy thing.
I had to do a lot of cleaning. My social skills were awful. I did not know how to interact with people honestly. Just like in an alcoholic life; I had spent years playing the role society told me to be in order to keep my son and I had mastered it, I thought.
When my mom died. She and I had come so far since the 90’s when I told her I was gay. She loved her God and her daughter; that was a long road to get to but worth the relationship we received. I had already been working for years on getting healthy and was proud of the growth. With her passing I needed real. I did not have the energy to do a fake representation of who I was at work or what I wanted in relationships. I could not do politically correct. I could not carry anything or anyone. I was raw and broken again; this time I realized it was in a healthy way.
I have been blessed with the powerful freedom of being responsible for my actions. I alone have to decide. Everyday. How will I respect others and myself today? The healthy love of my son, family and self was something I deserved and was willing to continue to work for.
This journey to self-worth was too long. I wasted years learning that sexuality does not decided if I am a worthwhile human. I work with teens in hopes that they don’t have to choke on self-hatred for being gay or live in a closet. I don’t want them to spend years clawing their way out.
Instead teens, I hope that you understand; this is who you are. Pick up the coat and get out of the closet. Society is not responsible for which coat you wear; You are. I hope that being responsible for your actions makes you proud. I hope the actions that don’t make you proud, you work to correct. I hope that you want to be responsible because you know to love yourselves and others as they are.
I am sharing this piece of my story because I can not stand quietly and pretend that there is not a real issue in front of us. I know what self shame, societal shame and bigotry feels and looks like. I don’t want that for our youth.
The wheels of hatred are in motion again towards the LGBTQ community. There will be losses and pain. I want to be standing anywhere but in the closet against it.