Sharing My Truth with My Family
I came out rather late (at 25), and this is that story. I write not only because it’s odd, a bit funny and hopefully entertaining. I write it because even though we’ve made tons of progress, “the gay” is still so foreign to people.
I hope that sharing my truth helps curious people understand this difficult-to-understand thing. Because it’s only through storytelling, empathy and laughter in the face of pain that we can come to better understand each other.
Anyway ... It’s the week of Christmas. I’m visiting my parents at their home in Miami.
My first waking thought was, “Today’s the day.” I’d “worked” two years to get to this point (my first “real” kiss with a man happened at 23 — let that sink in for a second). I look at my phone and see a text from my Mom: “CALL ME ASAP.”
Immediate panic. What sort of motherly magic has she used to get into my head? Was I talking in my sleep during the Zac Efron dream again!? Did I forget to use private browsing!? So I gingerly call her. “Hi Mom. What’s going on?” I say in a slightly deeper than normal voice.
That morning, she’d found my younger brother’s college failure notices. He’d been expelled. He’d failed to tell any of us while pretending to go to school for months. My first thought is panic. How am I supposed to come out now?!
All I could do was wait until the impending Hispanic family soap opera dinner. And oh, did it come. “How could you lie to us!” “What about your future!” And then, finally, “Benny — we don’t know what else to say to him — go take a ride and try to talk to sense into him.”
And so I tried. But the irony wouldn’t stop dripping out of my mouth.
“You know, Michael, the family just wants you to be happy.”
“We don’t care what you do with your life as long as you’re in love with it!”
Finally my subconscious couldn’t take it. I looked at him dead in the eyes and just blurted, “Also ... uh ... I’m telling you this because I’m ... I’m gay.” He looked at me blankly and said one word.
“Did you know?”
“No, I didn’t — but who cares? Plenty of my friends have come out to me.”
Again, that odd anger bubbles up. “You little jerk! Despite what the MTV tells you, this is a big deal for me!” Another shrug. I just sort of gave in and we had a laugh at how banal it was to him — only six years younger than me.
Then: “So ... do you think I should tell Mom and Dad?”
My brother is a wonderful man, but he’s also a little brother. He looked at me and said, “Oh yeah ... you should absolutely tell them! Hell, I’ll play some Madonna and you can wear a tank top!” Joking aside, he confirmed for me that I needed to express my truth.
I gulped, walked in the door and up to my parents. “Mom ... Dad ... we had our drive. I told Michael that we loved him no matter what and we wanted him to be happy and we’d never judge him too hard ...” I paused.
What people don’t get is that, in this moment, everything is up in the air. I had a particularly wonderful childhood, so expected my parents would be supportive and loving. Still, gays know many stories of families ripped apart by our truth — parents unable to look through religion or tradition to see their scared children trying to express a difficult truth, a truth they can’t help. It’s a scary moment.
The words came out like this: “I... uh ... well ... I prefer the company ... of men.”
Silence, then sobs of horror and fear from my mother. At first, it angered me — put me on the defensive.
I’ve since realized, through continued sharing, that all any parent wants for their kid is happiness — and in her world, “the gay” made happiness so much more difficult. Thus, sobs. It was a good lesson in empathy for me.
My father said nothing for a long time that night.
And then he slowly met eyes with my brother.
Then, finally, my mother.
“Well, Frances,” he started. “Do you have anything do tell me today?”
And we all burst out laughing, breathed and spent the rest of the night talking.
A lot was said. A lot is still being said. It’s been a process of revealing myself to, well, myself. And my parents figuring out how to engage with this newly revealed self.
It’s not a choice. It’s not evil or unclean or sinful. My love is just as valid as yours, because I really can’t help it.
I don’t expect you to understand all that just because I say so. My family didn’t. It took stories, sharing a bit of my truth — a bit of my story — with patience, kindness and honesty. That’s how we make humanity more ... human.