The words I suspected I’d hear. The words I didn’t want to hear. “Mom, I’m gay.”

For the month before hearing those words, I fretted and dreaded what he was going to tell me. In my heart, I knew he was gay and I knew that was what he would say. But I so hoped I was wrong. I had been hoping that for many years, all those years I suspected. When the words came out of his mouth, after my prodding and telling him I already knew, I said some of the right things, some not terrible but not quite right. I told him I loved him no matter what. Thankfully, I think he knew that already and because he was 20, he had enough maturity to let me have my feelings and my reactions without being offended.

I still remember the plane ride home. I didn’t know what those feelings were but today I know they were grief. Some would be offended that I felt grief, but I know now that is pretty common when a child comes out. I was not grieving for him or even for his being gay. I was grieving for what I perceived to be my loss – loss of my vision of what his life would be like, loss of my vision of a daughter-in-law, loss of my desire to have grandchildren from him. It was never what I wanted for him. I thought it would make his life harder and less safe.

I was scared. What if he got AIDS, what if he was attacked, what if he never found love? So many thoughts and feelings running around inside of me. Add to that, feelings of guilt and shame. Guilt for what I feared I did to make him gay. I knew intellectually I did nothing to make him gay. He was born that way. I got that no one would choose to be gay. But still, what if I was wrong. What if things I did when he was young contributed? And the same wasn’t about his being gay. I was not ashamed of him in any way. The shame was for how I was feeling. Why couldn’t I just accept him flat out? I had gay and lesbian friends. I was a supporter of gay rights? Why did I have such trouble with this? The shame was so strong, that I pushed a lot of those feelings down and they didn’t surface until many years later.

Today, I feel his being gay is a gift. He is a gift to me and to the world. Without his being gay, I wouldn’t know the many wonderful moms of LGBTQ kids who are a part of my life every day. Without those moms, those fierce mama bears, I wouldn’t know that all I felt and experienced was pretty common. I wouldn’t have the joy and purpose I have in my life today.

Would I have wished for a gay child? No. Am I sorry I have a gay child? Not in the least. I am so proud of the man he has become and the work he does for LGBTQ rights. He has become a fierce advocate for his transgender brothers and sisters. He educates people about LGBTQ rights and how to be an ally and turn that into advocacy. I wouldn’t want him to be any other way. I’m grateful that one day, almost 30 years ago, he said to me, “Mom, I’m gay.”

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