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Q: First, let me explain that I come from a VERY traditional catholic Latino family… Recently I came out to my mother, while we were in the car. It happened when we were having a discussion about a cousin of mine who might be a lesbian; she has been the talk of the family lately, as if she was the family’s black sheep or something. When I asked my mom if she was against homosexuals she paused, gave me this look and asked why I was so interested in this certain topic, without hesitation, I told her that I was a lesbian, her reaction was totally different from what I had imagined, I thought she would go crazy but, surprisingly, she was super calm and just asked me a few questions, such as, since when have I felt this way, if I ever slept with a girl, if I currently was dating a girl and etc. So far so good but, right in the middle of our conversation, we were interrupted by her cell phone ringing, it was my dad and they talked, unfortunately, until we got home and ever since then the subject of me being a lesbian hasn’t been touched upon, even when we are alone. She’s been acting the same as always but, I feel as if she totally just blew off what I told her as if it didn’t happen, sometimes, I can’t even look at her properly, I don’t know if it’s just me freaking out or if she just didn’t accept what I told her, it’s very confusing. So here’s my question to you: What do I do now? Is she still processing what I told her, because she didn’t say anything just asked questions? Should I bring up the subject again and finish our conversation? Please help me and thank you in advance.
Ah, it’s almost like I know you, y’know? I came out to my mom in a car in 2012, and two years later when Riese forwarded me your email, we had never finished the conversation.
Don’t let that happen.
Before we start, I want to let you know that I’m proud of you for doing coming out in a car. Coming out in a moving vehicle is a tremendous act of bravery: very big deal; very small space. I came out in a car for two reasons, one being that I felt like I was going to explode and the other being that I figured if I did it in the car on the way to my friend Jori’s house, I at least went into it knowing it would eventually end. Sure enough, I slammed the door on the way out and left the entire thing behind.
Coming out to my mom was messy. It was not fun. My mother, who is by no means anti-gay or homophobic, had a lot of trouble coming to terms in that instant with who I was. I gave up on the conversation pretty quickly and that was it. Bada bing, bada boom. Afterward, the two of us entered a very serious Avoidance Zone and never talked about it again, and in the process I told myself my mother could no longer be a key part of my life. No longer would I call my mother and tell her about the people I was interested in, or hanging out with, or idolizing. No longer would she know where my work was published or where I was meeting my friends. No longer would she be my best friend. After 21 years of telling my mother everything, I began to keep secrets from her. I stopped calling. I stopped texting. I hardly even sent an email. If I couldn’t tell her who I was, I realized, I couldn’t tell her anything.
As a young, angry queer, this all made sense. My mom had let me down, so I felt righteous in this choice. I felt that I had given her an opportunity to embrace me with open arms and that she had squandered it, thus surrendering all access to my personal life for the rest of time. I swallowed this delusion hard, and for the next two years, it became my daily life. But then, it started to hurt.
That’s where you pop in.
May 2014. I’m a week out from A-Camp, which is one of my favorite places on Earth. Riese forwarded me your question and I thought, “HA! Who am I to advise that one? I don’t have any advice on how to actually solve it, just how to get through it.” And then, something hit me. I felt sad. I told my mom I was speaking at a week-long feminist conference in Los Angeles proper where I get bad cell reception because “it’s in a convention center.” I picked up The Desire Map. I cried on the plane. I realized, stark as night, clear as day, that the silence was killing me. Instead of moving through a moment, I was trapped inside of purgatory.
I decided to come out to my mom. Again. (In a living room this time.) “Decided” is a pretty loose term, since I didn’t so much as decide as that feeling of an impending explosion in my heart and/or mouth was happening again and I just sort of blurted it out, right in between the gelato and the leftover eggplant. I was ready to try again, to put myself out there again. My mother and I had gone a very long time without being consistent companions, but I wasn’t angry anymore. I felt, somewhere in my heart space, like we were finally ready to hash it out. So we did.
And we cried, duh. And she told me her truths. She told me about her struggle to come to terms with my sexuality, the future she had dreamed up for me when I was a little girl, the things her friends said about gay people when she was in the room, and — last, but definitely not least — her unconditional love for me. Sure, it was awkward. Sure, I held back rolling my eyes and cringing once or twice. It wasn’t perfect, but it was progress. It was love. It was light. It was worth it.
I want you to talk to your mom again.
It may be that our parents don’t have the words to tell us how our identities make them feel. It may be that they lack the vocabulary or the communication skills to tell us their truths or to ask you about yours. It may be that they, like us, are terrified and / or scared shitless of the consequences of The Coming Out Conversation. It may be that they refuse to accept us. It may be that they need time. It may be that the voices in our heads will drive us crazy. It may be that they will never understand. It may be that, in the end, the only people you can talk to about your feelings for the ladies for the next good while is the cast and crew here at Autostraddle or the new leather lace-up boots I’m 99% sure you already bought on the Internet for yourself.
There are about a trillion reasons your mom could be uninterested in or struggling to bring up your sexuality again. But it sounds to me like she wants to be there for you. Being in the strange pool of in-between when you’re coming out simply won’t do, and I know because I resided there for some time. You can’t willfully ignore it. You can’t tell yourself it’ll just magically normalize. Coming out is never one conversation, anyway. It’s a zillion! And just think: if you just keep pestering your mother about how gay you are, there’s nowhere for things to go but up.
I want you to talk to your mom again. And this time, give it a go on solid ground.
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