I came out to my mother in a car. In her car.
It was a really stupid but also perfect location, because it made the process much shorter. My mom and I have a lot in common. We love to talk. And when the talking had ceased and only tears were present, I opened the car door and left it all in the past. We talked about it via email a little bit afterward. I cried in coffee shops and in my friend Josh Little’s arms. She brought it up at Christmastime. We screamed at each other. I cried on video chat and got into a habit of watching The Darjeeling Limited on repeat up to three times a night.
See my Mother has always loved me. She loved me when I wanted to be an actress, and then when I wanted to be a politician, and even when I said I liked motorcycles. She loved me even when I struggled in school, or when my boss fired me (this has only happened once, for the record). She’ll put herself on the line for me.
I came out to my mother in her car ’cause I’d never kept any secrets from her before. I had this fantasy that we’d frolic together in gardens, me in my lace-up boots with my loving, accepting, totally into my lifestyle, gay-people-loving mom. But it didn’t go like that fantasy.
When I came out to my mother, there were no hugs, tears, musical duets or PFLAG brochures. There was a little of this:
“No, this isn’t true. This isn’t you. You’re my daughter; I know this isn’t you.”
And a little of this:
My response was anger, and frustration. “How can you love me if you don’t love who I am?”
My mother, however, never ceased loving me. She asked me why I’d stopped coming home. She called me to see how I was. She asked what I was doing. I never knew how to respond, or what it meant. I asked the same question. I was unwilling to accept her silence. I wanted my mom to talk to me about being gay. Why could she talk to me about everything else?
“How can you love me if you don’t love who I am?”
“Because I will always love you. No matter what.”
Tres Gotas de Agua – Three Drops of Water – is a series of interviews with three Latina moms with LGBT kids. The video is backed by Somos Familia, an organization hoping to spark discussions on homosexuality within Latino communities and end stereotypes and negative attitudes toward LGBT people there. Because “a drop of water wears away a stone.” Because every mom who loves her gay child is a mom on the right side of our struggles.
In the interviews, the women talk about a range of complex emotions and reactions to their children coming out: confusion about what it means to be gay, a slow journey to fighting for gay rights, and even the often turbulent attitudes toward LGBT people in their own community.
And of course they talk mostly about love.
Since coming out to my mother in her car, we’ve only had a handful of conversations about my sexuality. Mostly we talk about other things, like what I need, and where I’m moving, and how she might be getting me a dog. She still loves me, even though the fear and confusion.
There came a moment, eventually, when I stopped being indignant about coming out. I realized that even if the ideal situation- one where being gay doesn’t even matter, or one where being gay is okay at least, or one where nobody is actually surprised (I was ready for this one when I sat down in the car) – wasn’t what I was getting, it didn’t mean she was done loving me or being in my life. It scared her, maybe, and not because she’s ignorant or hates gay people, but because she wants to keep me well and wants to know who I am and suddenly I was something new.
So I’ve begun to see coming out as a process, and not as an action. Just as I’d needed time to realize that my love for women was, well, a love for women, my Mom needed time to understand what I was talking about. She needed longer than a twenty-minute car ride to comprehend what her twenty-year-old daughter had just told her.
This video, a preview of the other interviews you can watch on their youtube page, inspires me to keep doing that, to move forward and accept my mother’s unconditional love. I hope it does the same to you, because I have to get up to get the Kleenex:
It goes without saying, but it can be challenging to care for what you don’t know. Trying to comprehend the abstract usually means relating it to something that you are familiar with, and if a connection can’t be made, taking a stance that’s already been paved is so often easier than formulating a unique opinion.
Coming out is scary because, as we all know or at least are familiar with, people think they understand you from the outside. You, a gay person. My mother told me she “had seen gay people on TV,” and that I couldn’t be gay because I wasn’t like them. It’s logic like that that keeps people safe. It keeps people inside of their comfort zones and their spheres of comprehension, lets them feel like they’ve seen it all and there are no more surprises. And sometimes we have to break free of that box to learn how to celebrate the things we’re so often afraid of. You did it when you came out. Your mother does it by loving you.