I’ve never hidden feeling like an embarrassment to my family, especially with my mom after my time in military prison. She’s been in denial about my years spent pursuing men sexually and my current same-sex attraction (SSA). She’s never once asked me about any of these things: my time in prison, being kicked out of all those churches for being gay, working in a gay drug rehab center during the AIDS pandemic, whether I ever practiced safe sex with men, why I attempted suicide so many times, or anything about YOB.
I started having feelings for guys in eighth grade, when I first started using communal showers after PE. Of course, I kept these feelings to myself; I never acted on them until I was 17. My mom was the last person I told, after our church kicked me out upon learning of my homosexuality.
Sadly, my mom and sister kept attending that church for another 36 years, even after I was kicked out. My mom kept my sexuality from my sister and continues to do so all these years later.
My mom didn’t want to know who or what I was, and in her mind the church did nothing wrong to kick me out. Needless to say, she and I don’t have the best of relationships — and never really have since then.
I previously wrote about joining the Army to be “more of a man,” and while that was true I also left home to get away from my mother and the rest of my family. I felt like I was being stifled and definitely not supported. Some of you might relate.
I secretly signed up for the Army, then sneaked out of the house early one morning to meet the recruiter on the corner. My family didn’t know where I’d gone for four months.
Instead of her always ignoring my sexuality, I sometimes try to imagine my mom being this loving and caring woman who accepts me for who I am. But then I always find myself snapping back to reality.
Even if I were to use my most vivid imagination, I couldn’t imagine my mom being so loving and caring, and for good reason: it’s because I’ve never seen her do it.
In the last 43 years, my mom and I have had the kind of relationship where she tells me she loves me, and I say it back, mainly to make her feel better and not necessarily because I love her. She didn’t start saying she loved me until she became a Christian in the early 80’s. Now she says it almost every day, and I feel like she’s doing it to make up for all those lost years.
As far as I’m concerned, those “I love you’s” are empty because she’s been saying it to the straight Michael she’s always preferred instead of the Michael actually in front of her. And because of that, I’ve learned to tolerate her acknowledged denial of my life.
Will my mom ever accept me for me?
Who knows. Like I said, she’s had 43 years to change, so I doubt I’ll see it happen in my lifetime. Of course, God could always prove me wrong.
Four days after my 58th birthday, I had a straightforward conversation with my mom about all the things she’s refused to talk about. Granted, I did most of the talking. She mostly just sat there and cried. The only thing that stood out to me was her saying, “Michael, you have to understand that it’s going to take time for me to wrap my head around this.”
And I remember responding, “You’ve had 58 years. How much more time do you need?!”
She left crying, and she’s never brought up the conversation again. I didn’t expect her to. Like I said, she’s been in denial my whole life.
She never even knew my favorite superhero is Batman. That my favorite dessert is red velvet cake. That my favorite entrée is lasagna. That my favorite ice cream is butter pecan. Or that my favorite color is red.
She didn’t even know I wrote prose until she saw some of it hanging in frames around my house. She never knew about my multiple suicide attempts, or that I drank wine or smoked cigars.
How can you tell me you love me, yet basically know nothing about me?
My brother has always been my only true supporter in the family. From the beginning he’s never wavered in his love and encouragement, even after I told him about my sexual struggles, my time in military prison, and my SSA. He also supports YOB.
So, do I feel bad about what happened with my mom? Not at all. She got upset because I stated facts to her, and the facts hurt her because she’s never even tried to make an effort.
It’s been almost two years now since that conversation, and she still hasn’t made an effort to engage with me about any of those things. I don’t regret confronting her about any of it; sometimes you just have to be brave enough to speak your mind.
Yes, speaking out may hurt that person. But if you don’t share, it may only continue to hurt you more.
When I look at my mom, I know she’s from a different generation. I know Black culture dictates that you don’t talk about this kind of thing.
But I also have two problems with that.
First, the Black community has known that many Black men have been discretely gay for decades, so it’s nothing new. And the ones who were out were best friends with some of the women in the neighborhood; they were playing the organ, leading the choir at church. Even my mom had a trans person from the neighborhood come do her hair every other week when I was young, so again, I say, stop with all the denial.
And second, if you’re a parent, you should love your children unconditionally — regardless of their sexual choices and orientation.
It saddens me that in 2022 so many of us still have trouble talking to our parents about our sexuality and, more importantly, aren’t accepted for who we are. Hopefully, one day we won’t have to worry about being the “straight version” of ourselves to our parents and their friends.
Otherwise, the relationship that is already fragile will end up permanently severed.
“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Romans 5:5 (ESV)
Do any of your parents struggle to accept you, including your sexuality? How have you seen your relationship with your mom, dad, or other family members grow or wane over the years as a result of coming out to them?