My parents split up when I was in third grade. Two years later my mom came out to me: she was in a relationship with a woman she worked with. Before you continue reading, take a second to think about your reaction to this — for most people I tell, it’s one of discomfort. Some quietly squirm in their seats and some even laugh. My favorite people say “what? That’s awesome.” (Actually, I take that back – my favorite was “so wait, how do you exist?”) But what I want to make clear before I write anything else is that whatever reaction you had is perfectly acceptable. It’s a unique situation. One of the reasons I was inspired to write this is that although it is unique, it is not uncomfortable.
Having two moms was the hardest it will ever be when I was in middle school. I’ll never forget coming home from school crying because one of the “popular” girls came up to me and said accusingly, “Is your mom a lesbian?” I ran to the bathroom sobbing — as if being a sixth grader wasn’t hard enough with my transition lenses and overall awkward demeanor. I had tried so hard to keep this part of my life a secret and now it wasn’t. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have cared about what other people thought and if they had a problem with my family, I didn’t need them as a friend… but middle school is essentially four years of worrying about other people’s opinions. Looking back on this traumatizing day at school, I’ve come to realize that my trauma paled in comparison to that of my mom. She had to watch me suffer because of a decision she had made. A mother’s most basic instinct is to protect her child — there was no protecting me from this. But I would live that day again and again before I would sacrifice the larger lesson I was unknowingly learning all along from my mom and her decision.
Put yourself in my mom’s shoes — you have a seemingly perfect life. A beautiful home, a young and healthy daughter, a successful and charismatic husband. After achieving these traditional ideals, you realize that this life is not your truth. Your heart is elsewhere. But if you expose this truth to your loved ones, who will be hurt along the way? Will you lose friends? Family? My mom chose to live her truth. If I have learned anything in my twenty years, it’s that the right choice is rarely the easy one. One of my mom’s friends told her that she was a terrible and selfish mother for tearing apart her family and her daughter’s childhood. It’s true that I was in therapy over this for several years — but once again, I would go to a different child psychologist every day before I would lose what my mom taught me. My mom was living proof of the difficult lesson that each and every one of us has our own raw truth to discover and to pursue. Your truth may not be one of sexuality: it could be that you put on a facade every day to impress your friends. It could be that you still love your ex. It could be a deeply rooted insecurity or a mental illness that makes everyday tasks seem impossible. Whatever it is, accepting it and taking the steps to cope with and make the best out of it are the first steps to happiness. Denial is a basic aspect of human survival, but when we suppress it for long enough it starts to cause very real damage. My mom could have kept our family together at the expense of her honesty with herself and with others, but she chose the difficult alternative.
As I said when I began, my life with my moms is anything but strange. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have them both in my life. They even function as moms for some of my best friends who aren’t as lucky as I am to have such an incredible support system. Sometimes people expect me to be a bra-burning activist holding up signs about my GPA and my lesbian moms on the steps of Capitol Hill. Of course I stand with the gay community. Of course they deserve equal rights. But over the years I’ve learned that my role in the steps towards equality is to tell people my story and to let them learn on their own how perfectly normal it is. I’ve had friends who thought gay marriage was wrong until they met my mom and Trisha. I want people to learn from my mom’s story that accepting truth is one of the most difficult things a person will do in his or her lifetime — it is also one of the most necessary and liberating ones. We project our insecurities on other people by way of criticism, so I’ve come to understand that sometimes homophobia is something deeper than ignorance — it is an expression of internal fears and battles. So before you jump to anger at these people, remember that the age old and arguably cliché phrase holds more truth than we give it credit for: be kind, for everyone you know is fighting a hard battle
I don’t know if everything happens for a reason, but I do know that my mom’s journey happened for a very important reason and that I will always carry it with me in everything I do. I love you, mom(s).