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 not with the narrow mindedness of ‘I’ but with that of ‘I am a part of….”
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. Being a good person, people would step in to be a friend or to have a relationship with me and they to would be pulled into the spinning. In my head I truly believed; If they saw 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 in order to keep that boy.
I thought, ok, I will be gay in private and straight is public. As long as I am honest with him and myself I am doing the right thing. I looked like I had it together. I gave my son the responsibility of loving me as me and had to hope that would be enough. He saw me split myself open and try to find the parts that were really mine.
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 pay taxes as a family, have insurance, go on vacations and have family dinners. You know the things that all gay people with children, at that time, had to hide. Anyway, I had dated a couple of guys as an adult. I tried, I did. We had fun but nothing on the inside was real. Anyway, the three of us are sitting there and she said (this is as close to what she said as I can remember), “ I had just hoped you know 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, 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 was choking on self-hatred and when I looked up my self-hatred had broken the hearts of people around me. I did this pattern over and over again until I was ready to just love myself as myself.
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. I had already been working for years on getting healthy and was proud of the growth. When she died it was the moment I could not do fake. 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 not in a bad way. I have been blessed with the powerful and scary freedom of being responsible for my actions. Alone. I had to decide. Everyday. Will I try to respect that today? I let go and picked up the pieces of my life.
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. If you like wearing it, great, but if not then put it back and get another. Society is not responsible for which one you wear. You are. I hope that being responsible for your actions make 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 what you have been taught; 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.