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A Mother's Story
submitted by Patricia N.
When my son, David, came out to me over two years ago, he was a senior in high school. He did not volunteer this information. I asked because I had my suspicions. One morning, after wrestling with how and whether or not to ask David, I found the courage. I had to know. I prefaced my question by explaining that I was not prying, and that I was not trying to embarrass him, but there was something that I had been wanting to ask, but did not know how. Then came the question: "Are you gay?" Before responding, he said "After I answer your question, I want us to talk about this, but not now because I am getting ready for school." Then he said, "Yes," and to further emphasize the point, he added, "I'm a gay male." I wanted to die.

I had saved a Newsweek article entitled, "Is This Child Gay," which had a 1-800 number listing for PFLAG, from which I got the number for the PFLAG helpline in DC. I immediately called and got the most understanding woman, Paulette Goodman. After I shared my story, she said she knew exactly what I was going through because she, too, had a gay child. Then she said what I now consider the magic question; "But have you thought about what your child must be going through?" That put things into perspective for me. While I was devastated that my only child is gay, that question made me shift my focus from my feelings to those of my son, whom I love more than life itself. I pondered Paulette's question for the next three days. I cried and stayed home from work, in bed, in the dark, not eating. I slept, hoping that when I awakened it would all have been a dream. When I did awaken, I realized that it was not a dream, but reality. And then the crying started again.

After three days of what I now consider nonsense, I got myself together and began to regret not being there for my son when he really needed me. I waited for David at his job because I felt an overwhelming need to see and hug him. I wanted to tell him that I was sorry that I had not been there for him, to support him, but I would be now.

David and I are African-Americans. Most African-Americans are strongly influenced by the Black church. In times of slavery, it was the church that kept us together. The teachings of the Bible were passed down through generations, and still are, and one of its teachings is that homosexuality is an abomination, a view with which I strongly disagree. Unfortunately, many African-Americans still hold this view today and I find them less accepting of gays, lesbians and bisexuals than any other ethnic group. The major impetus for my getting involved in the PFLAG organization and gay rights movement was to try to educate people about the nature of homosexuality, and more importantly, to make things better for my son and those like him.

I gradually told my family, friends, and co-workers that my son was gay, but my real "coming out" occurred when I participated in the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. This was probably one of the most moving days of my life. When I marched with PFLAG, I heard cheers of "Thank you, Mom," and "We love you, Mom." Maybe more moving than that was the PFLAG hugging booth where gays, lesbians and bisexuals donated money to get a hug from a parent. It was not until then that I learned that many parents turn away from their children once they learn they are gay. As a mother, I find this inconceivable.

This knowledge prompted me to become a volunteer on PFLAG's Helpline, which I've been doing since then. Because my one call to the Helpline had put things into perspective for me, I wanted to give something back by helping other people get through the trauma of learning that their child or loved one is gay. Paulette's valuable lesson continues to be useful. When I listen to the parent's story and share my own, I try to persuade them to focus on what their child must be going through, and not so much on themselves. Most of the time, this works. But some parents take longer than others. I admit that I feel impatient with those who seem unable to accept their child's homosexuality. My feeling is, What's the big deal? This is your child!!

I am proud to be a member of the PFLAG family, which does a wonderful job of bringing and keeping families together, as well as working to counteract the anti-gay propaganda and the misinformation spread by those seeking to advance their own political and religious agenda. Together, we PFLAG members must continue our efforts.

As my son wrote in an essay: "We cannot afford any longer to allow those who do not know to speak, and for those who do know to find themselves voiceless."

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