`… my heart falls for men, mom. It has always fallen for men.`
A Coming out Story by Celal Aydemir
07/22/2011, Denver, CO
Once again my mother says to me, “People keep asking when you are going to get married. I swear to God, we are tired of hearing this question.” Then, she asks as she usually does: “Aren’t you thinking about finding yourself someone to marry? You have a good education and a job. You are healthy. Mashalla [blessed by God], you are good looking. This is not okay! It is time for you to marry. Being single is not good. It is especially not good for someone who lives so far away from his family.”
It does not make sense to her that I am 29 years old and do not have a wife yet. From her point of view, a man’s life has a narrow line. A “straight” line. After a man is born, he grows up, goes to school, does his military duty, gets a job and above all, he gets married to a woman. Life is linear in her view and there is not much variety in her experience of life.
Whenever she asks me about marriage, I think about my new partner in America, Lanford, who is a carpenter. Yes, a male partner who I love but cannot marry due to law that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. Mother’s question makes me think deeply about this man for whom I moved to the USA to be with. It makes me think about how the warmth in his voice, care in his eyes and compassion in his heart helped make the US my new home.
I imagine this man I have come to love, his generous heart, capacity for acceptance, and unconditional ability to forgive. It makes me think of him, my Tatlim (my sweetie) with whom I cook with, do grocery shopping with, go see movies, cuddle on the couch with, drink Turkish coffee with, water the garden with, and paint the walls of our home together. My Tatlim whose happiness is my happiness; my best friend who says he “trembles with excitement” when he hears me entering into our home; my Baby who I might be separated from due to the federal laws that do not give immigration benefit to foreign born partners of Americans in same-sex relationships…
My mother loves Lanford for taking me in and befriending me. She always says, “Kiss his eyes for me,” but she does not know that he is my lover. To her, Lanford is just a good friend with whom I share a house. To me, he is the one I cannot imagine being without…
The thought of not being able to honor my relationship with him by proudly opening up about it to my parents makes me feel guilty. I feel embarrassed that I have not mustered up the courage to stand up for my uniqueness and proudly express to my mother my sexual and emotional orientation and my intimate relationship with Lanford.
I know it is a matter of time. I know that I am not going to carry this secret for the rest of my life. I know this and still I judge myself for not having quite measured up to my standards of integrity.
Even though I understand people who stay in the closet and even though I see the wisdom in hiding my sexual orientation from a relatively unsafe world, I still feel impatient due to the relatively high expectations I have of myself and of the world. I know that it is not always safe to come out and proudly say, “I am gay and my heart falls for a man.” I am aware that coming out is a lifelong process. I agree that, like a seed, every person has their own time and way of growing out of the soil they are planted in. “Coming out” of the soil is especially hard if the soil covering the seed (the cultural and social climate of the society one lives in) is tightly compacted down (oppression). I agree that this process cannot be forced. On the other hand, a part of me wants to scream out and say, “Not everybody is heterosexual! Some men love other men! So just get over it!”
I feel tired of compensating for the world’s inability to take responsibility for its ignorance about homosexuality and putting a burden on gays for them being gay. This old burden belongs to the homophobic mentality. And, it is this mentality that should take full responsibility for the suffering it creates for gays and for everybody else who are inherently connected to gays’ humanity. I do not find it effective to stay in the closet and not challenge this world to take full accountability for its lack of desire to cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance and compassion for all. I am weary of hiding myself so that this world can maintain its sense of so-called-heterosexism at my expense.
Mother only keeps suggesting that I should get married because she does not know any better. She has not completely known me. Her experience of life in Turkey has not presented her the opportunity to see that some people in this world have a physical and emotional attraction for people of their own sex.
It pains me that my mother does not know me and that she relates to me from an imaginary point of view. I feel embarrassed and sad that my need for relative safety and my pseudo harmony makes it very hard for me to come out to my own mother who I know loves me very much.
I value my needs for safety and harmony. On the other hand, I find it quite dissatisfying to try to fulfill only my need for safety and harmony while ignoring my needs, e.g. for integrity, honesty, meaning, community, belonging and as well as need to be known.
If I do not do my best to help create a society that is more just, accepting and welcoming of differences, I would be barely surviving until someone saves me. The sad news is that that someone may not come around in timely manner and society may never change in an advantageous way if I do not do my part to effectively deal with homophobia from within and from without.
As I said, my mother does not know me. Of course, this is not her fault. Her questions are reflections of the conditions in which she lives and the conditions that we all knowingly or unknowingly help create. Her questions are about the personal and societal processes she has gone through.
I know that this will all change with time because nothing is permanent and change is inevitable. As they say, time is a great medicine for everything and it can heal many things. This is good news. However, time alone is not enough to help bring desirable change. What I do as time passes and how I chose to face the dilemma I have in my relationship with my mother is of significant importance in this process. In this process, it seems to me that coming out to her is the only meaningful option I have to fulfill my needs for purpose, genuine connection, intimacy, warmth, acceptance and so on. Small as it is, this is a way that many gay people can bring far-reaching changes to their lives as well as to the lives of others with or without homophobic tendencies…
A telephone rings and my mother picks it up.
“Hello?” she answers.
“Hi, sister, how are you?” I ask, in a silly way.
“I am doing well, brother,” she responds, joining me in my silliness.
We catch up a little. She asks me how Lanford is doing, how my job has been and whether all Americans are blonde. Then, boom! She brings up the topic again: “People keep asking if you are going to get married. I swear to God, we are tired of hearing this question repeatedly. Don’t you think about getting married?”
She laughs as she asks her question. In her laughter, I sense hopelessness. Maybe she does not expect a clear answer from me and that is why she feels hopeless. Who knows! I also laugh intensely. I feel torn at that moment. I feel conflicted. I both want to change the topic and I do not want to change it. Conflicts arise between the parts of me that need safety and security and the parts that want to live life with integrity, authenticity and honesty. This time, however, having contemplated long enough, I take a risk. I leave my “closet” that I created out of my fear of not being seen, heard and accepted by my mother. This time I give her an answer that she has never heard before.
I say, “Mom, I am not going to get married.”
Laughing, she replies, “You are not going to get married? No, you should find someone to marry. Being single is not good. It is not good especially for someone who lives so far away from home. You need a family. Everybody needs a family.”
Listening impatiently, I take a deep breath and when she finishes, I continue. “Maybe I will get married someday but it will not be with a woman. Mom, my heart falls for men.”
“What do you mean? You will get married to a man ? Are you going to have sex with a man?” she laughs, confused.
Disappointed with the way she has responded, I find myself wanting to change the topic. Instead, I continue. “Mom, this is serious. My heart falls for men. I have always had an attraction towards men.”
In that second, we find that darkness has fallen upon us. We have come into unknown territory in our relationship. This is a place where neither of has ever been before. It is a place where there is no familiar ground. To make matters worse, my mother suddenly becomes silent. In this place, the only good thing we have with us is our hearts and the mother-son bound we have developed over the course of our lives.
Prior to this conversation she has never had a “gay son” and I have never had a mother who knew I am gay. This is, on some level, the “make it or break it ” moment and we are both on a very narrow tight rope. What we do next, how we relate to each other from this point on will either help us meet each other at a new place that is beyond “good or bad,” as Rumi said or it will not.
I say to my mother, “Mom, I cannot even imagine how shocking it might be to hear this from your son. Maybe this is the hardest thing for a mother to hear. You cannot imagine how much I would have loved to feel romantic attraction towards women. You cannot envision how much I would have loved to have a wife and children. You know how much I love children. I am sad to confirm this, but my heart falls for men, mom. It has always fallen for men. I do not know why this is. Believe me I tried so hard to understand and change myself, but I could not. I went to psychiatrists hoping that they have a “cure” for this. But they too felt helpless. I could not change it mom. Nor have I met a single gay man who “succeeded” in denying it without losing his joy and fulfillment in life. This is bigger than I am, Mom. This is bigger than a human mind can understand and I have chosen to stop trying to figure it out. I have chosen to accept it as it is instead of fighting against it.”
“Mom, many people think that gays are deviant and that homosexuality is not natural or that gay people kill themselves because they are sick. I do not know what the people who believe all these myths know that I do not know about homosexuality. I have never felt mentally sick. My love for men has always felt natural to me. Like some gay people have, I also contemplated suicide when I was younger, but that was not because I am gay. It was because living in a world that does not accept the beauty of gay people is very hard to deal with. This is true especially in countries like Turkey.”
“Mom, I am not gay because of something you have or have not done. I would like to reassure you that you did nothing wrong. In fact, you did many things correctly. For example, you’ve not developed a habit of judging people based on how “masculine” or “feminine” they are. You did not use derogatory words like faggot (ibne/gotveren) to express a disapproval of such people. You did not call such people “sinners.” You did not wish people to “hell” for being who they are. I have never questioned your love for me. You did many things rightly, Mom. That is why your son courageously stands up here before you to share with you who he authentically is and to tell you that he is gay. You gave me a good example of a mother’s love for her children. Please always remember this.”
My mother remains silent. But I know that she is still on the phone because I can hear her breathing. This scares me. Not being able to see her intensifies the situation for me. I feel helpless and I am afraid that I would not know what to do if she continues to be so quite. I feel restricted and am worried about her.
In that intense moment, I remember how much I used to cry and pray to God to either change me or to take my life away when I was a high school student. I remember having suicidal thoughts and thinking about how my mother would feel if she found me dead in the closet. Such thoughts, imagining how painful it would be for her, were all that stopped me from doing something unthinkable.
Then I wonder if maybe hearing that her son was dead would be easier for her than hearing that her son is a gay man. Maybe my being gay would be the worst of all for her. Who knows! Then I realize that I do not believe that this is true of my mother.
I do not question her love for me and I am confident that in her heart, she would rather have a gay son than a dead son! Even though this phone conversation has brought us to a difficult point in our relationship and it is a painful process, it is still okay. At least, I am alive and she and I have a chance at bringing our relationship to a higher level and giving it a new, a more meaningful direction.
Thinking about this reminds me of all the mothers who have gay sons. Some of these mothers have chosen to educate themselves about homosexuality and learn of the challenges gay people go through. These mothers, inspired by their unconditional love for their children, take on an active role in helping bring changes necessary to make this world more just, more accepting and safer for those they love.
My mother is not alone. I am not alone. We are not alone. What we experience as loneliness comes from our silence. From our silence comes isolation and loss of strength. Our isolation makes us prone to drying up like lakes disconnected from rivers…
This is what homophobic society wants. They, in their narrow view of the world, benefit from isolating gays from society and from one another. Homophobia makes it very hard for gay people to get together and organize. It makes us lonely in the society we live. In its black and white thinking style, it reduces homosexuality to an act of “un-natural’ sex and it ignores that homosexuality is also an emotional orientation. Not knowing how to skillfully deal with its homophobic tendencies, prejudiced society makes fun of us, marginalizes us, ignores us, and try to suppress and oppress us…
Continuing my conversation with my mother, I say, “Mom, many mothers went through this process and they have learned to live with this in a way that is meaningful to them. They used this to enrich their lives, instead of making themselves miserable. Believe me, with time, you also will get used to this. I am also confident that in time you will realize that I am not any different than I was when you believed me to be straight. You will realize that I am still loving and caring. You will rediscover that I still want to make this world a better place for everybody. You will realize that my homosexuality has not stolen from me my humanity and in fact, it has made my life richer and given depth and meaning to it. You will see that my experience in being a gay man on this earth has made me more sensitive to the challenges other oppressed populations, especially women, go through day in and day out. As time goes on, unlike the common unquestioned assumption, you will see that I am as human as everybody else and what I want in a relationship with another man is not all about sex. It is about love, trust, closeness, intimacy, togetherness and much more.”
I hear my mother cry. She sobs deeply for a few deep breaths and stays in her silent mode. Hearing her cry relaxes me a little only because it takes away the intense feelings I was having during her silence. I take a deep breath and keep talking without knowing if she is really listening.
“Believe me Mom, it was very hard for me to keep pretending that I liked girls; forcing myself into sexually fantasizing about them; paying a few women cash to have sex with them hoping that it helps me desire them more and then breaking a few girls’ heart for not loving them the way they wanted me to love them…
It was so difficult falling in love with a few good male friends of mine and not being able to talk about it to anyone. It was difficult praying endlessly to God to change me instead of being joyful that I have a heart to love. It was difficult failing a semester in college because I was so stressed out from this socially unspeakable romantic love that I could only experience in silence. All of these gave me ulcers for a long time, Mom. Thinking that I would never experience mutual romantic love in this life and wondering what I did wrong to deserve this “burden” of being gay made me ask if God might be punishing me. So I finally had to stop trying to figure this out, Mom. I gave up trying to change myself. I am now okay as I am. I am good enough as I am. I am lovable as I am and I want to live as I am. There are some people who love me the way I am. But there are many other people who do not love me because of my sexual and emotional orientation. This shows me that they have a lot of work to do to open their hearts and become more loving and accepting towards others. Their hatred and ignorance prove that they are not guided by their true humanity which is inherently compassionate, open, and spacious to accommodate all.”
“Mom, I have decided not to swim against the currents of my life. I have concluded that I have two options: One is to ignore who I am and live a lie and the second is to accept who I am and live an honorable life even though it might seem harder. I have chosen the latter and I cannot imagine myself going back to hiding myself again. I want to joyfully live, mother. I do not want to be among the living dead.”
I experience many emotions as I share all of these with my beloved mother. Although her silence concerns me deeply, I understand it. How can she not be quite? She lost her reference point about me. Within seconds, this information has destroyed her dreams about my twenty-nine year long life and her dreams of my life are probably one of the hardest things for her to let go of.
I am her only son… She is in the midst of the dust of the ruins from her shattered dreams regarding me. She is in a state of shock and is all confused. She needs time as I did to come to terms with my sexual and emotional orientation.
“Anne (Mom), I feel like I have talked too much. Maybe you do not hear anything I say at this point.” “Mom?”
She does not answer me but then after a while she mumbles a few words. Holding on to a desperate hope, she asks, “Are you just joking?”
The way she asks that question and the tone of her voice confirms how much pain she is in. She wants so much for this bad dream to end. Hearing the weakness in her voice makes me feel weaker. I feel shaken by the pain in which I perceive her to be. I do not know how to answer her question. I feel guilty that she is in this pain and remind myself that this is part of a process and that it will pass.
“I wish I was joking, Anne. I am sorry to say this, but unfortunately, I am not joking.”
In that moment, it seems like there is no further point in talking. So I tell her that I will call her the following day to see how she is doing. In the meantime, I ask her to think about everything and come up with questions to ask me. I tell her that there are not many people around her who are well informed about this subject and so it is important that she asks her questions directly to me.
Normally, at the end of a phone conversation with my mother, she says “You hang up first. I do not want to hang up the phone on you.” This time, however, she says “Okay. Talk to you tomorrow,” and then quickly hangs up the phone on me. This clearly indicates the intensity of the pain she is in. It shows how helpless and defeated she feels and how unbearable it all is.
My night passes with much worry. I imagine that she lies in her bed awake all night. I know that she will pray to God to fix this situation. I know that she will not laugh nor socialize from this dark moment on. I know that she will wonder what she could have done differently for me to be straight instead of gay…
I call my mother the next day. It is evening in Turkey.
“Hi Mom, did you sleep at all last night?”
“ No, I could not sleep at all.” she replies. “I tossed and turned all night long.”
She sounds so heartbroken from her broken dreams.
“Please,” I say, “Ask me all the questions you have about this. Openly sharing your concerns with me is very imperative. You can ask me about anything. I will be as honest and open as possible with you because I want you to be very well informed about this.”
She asks, anxiously and a little embarrassed, “When you were a baby, you had a cute ‘pee pee’. Did something bad happen to it?”
I like her question and feel happy that she has chosen to ask it even though it may sound silly or even stupid to relatively well-informed gay people or their allies. She and I both laugh at her question. In this laughter, we join each other in feeling hopeful. This laughter renews my confidence in my mother. It gives me hope that she and I will somehow make it through this difficult process and will come out of it as a more accepting and open hearted of each other. Her ‘silly’ question reflects her limited understanding and perspective on homosexuality. It makes me think about the misguided assumption that gay men have issues with their biological manhood and that is why they are gay. Maybe she even wonders if I want to become a woman or put on makeup and dress up in women’s clothing.
She might have all these faulty assumptions and this is only normal. I cannot expect her to not have any judgments about homosexuality. It would be unfair of me to think that she is a blank slate and that her mind is clear of misinformation created by an ignorant society. The reality is that her having assumptions or judgments is not the real problem as long as she does not start believing that her judgments are the ultimate truths. As long as she is open to becoming better informed, she and I can reach a happy understanding. I cannot expect her to be sophisticated about gays at this stage anyway.
At the end:
How many people in countries like Turkey know that every gay man is different from each other and not all are singers like, for example, Elton John?
How many people in the world know that having sex with another man does not make one gay. If it actually did, then why are men who have sex with each other in prison not considered gay?
How many people know that there are differences between sexual behavior and sexual orientation?
How many people know that most gay men know that they are different at a very young age even though they might not verbalize it?
How many people know that it is very challenging to live in a world that considers being gay a form of mental illness?
How many people know being gay makes us very vulnerable to all kinds of abuse, bullying, and harassment?
How many people know that our biological functions are normal and intact?
How many people know that not every gay man has anal sex?
How many people know that enjoying anal sex is not about being gay, but about the nerves in the anal area and prostate glands?
How many people know that many men (gay, bisexual and straight) enjoy being stimulated in these areas when they free themselves from socially constructed myths about gender roles and limitations?
How many people know that many gay men look and dress just like straight men?
How many people know that there is a difference between emotional-sexual orientation and gender assignment?
How many people know that being gay is not the same as being a pedophile and that “many child molesters cannot be characterized as having an adult sexual orientation at all because they are just fixated on children?”
How many people know that gay men are everywhere and that they are lawyers, doctors, politicians, mechanics, bakers, teachers, psychotherapist, as well as fashion experts and singers?
How many people know that they might have gay uncles, brothers, relatives, friends, coworkers, ministers and imams?
How many people know that approximately 6-15% of the world population, is gay?
So, it all makes sense that my mother’s understanding of homosexuality is so limited. She never had a reason to educate herself about gays. Until now, life has not given her reasons to ask or ponder these questions and seek answers. Her need to ask questions now implies that she wants to understand, that she is curious in finding out the truth and that she is open to learning. This is good news to me.
So regarding her anatomical question, I reply: “No, mom. Nothing happened to my pee pee.” To bring some lightness to our conversation and to make her laugh, I add: “And it is still cute.” We both laugh again. Then, she asks if it is something she was done that “turned” me gay.
I reassure her again by saying, “Mom, I understand that this is part of the process and you will question everything you have done or have not done to or for me. This is normal and it will take some time. It took me twenty-eight years to resolve the inner conflict I had about my sexual orientation. I cannot expect you to process this information quickly. It is only natural that you asks these questions. So please always remember that you did not do anything wrong. Being true to myself and expressing my truth to others is not wrong, Mom. Because you did so many things right, I am able to become a goodfriend to myself and accept who I am. Because I trust your love, I feel safe enough to show you my true nature. So please be proud of yourself for having a son who is proud of having chosen to be true to himself even though this kind of truthfulness is not always encouraged much in countries like Turkey.”
“Mom, don’t forget that there are many men like me. Unfortunately, many of them are married and have a family of their own because they have not yet cultivated the courage to be themselves in an oppressive society. Deep down in their hearts, however, they love men; they fantasize about men; they fall in love with men, and some cheat on their wives with other men. These men get married because they are afraid to become their true selves. They are very afraid because being who you are and staying true to yourself has much negative consequences for many of us.
Gay men do not want to lose their jobs, their children, and their lives for being openly gay. We want to keep our social support system. We want to be happy and free from misery and we know that by “coming out” of the closet, we risk destroying our lives in countries like Turkey. We hide ourselves from real and imaginary dangers of being openly gay. But then many of us are so miserable in our hidings that we take the risk to come out to people who we trust and to challenge the world of its homophobic insanity.”
Still holding onto her dreams for my life, she quickly asks, “I understand, but couldn’t you get married too? That way you could have a wife and a family. Then on the side, you could have a secret lover that nobody has to know about. Why is this not an option for you?
“Yes, mom. This could have been an option for me as well, but what about the feelings and needs of my wife? How would she feel about a husband who was only a good friend to her? How would she feel if her husband did not desire her? How painful would it be for her wondering why her husband does not want to sleep with her and thinking that there might be something wrong with her or that there may be another woman involved? As a woman and a wife, how would you feel, Mom, if this was the case for you?”
“Yes, dishonesty is an option that I could not select. I just cannot choose such dishonesty, Mom. Yes, had I been married to a woman, I would not have had to deal with some of the fears and social issues. And avoiding homophobia is very appealing to me as well. On the other hand, I know that I would not be happy with myself had I made such a choice that I find dishonest… I would only create misery for my wife and myself. I want to live, mom. I want to be happy even though my being gay might make some people unhappy.”
My troubled mother goes silent again. I know she understands my point. She is open hearted. She is not selfish. She understands a woman’s heart. She would not want to have a gay husband and she would not really wish a gay husband upon any woman. I interpret her silence as realization. It is a form of acceptance I assume and this means that she has to let go of a big piece of her hopes and dreams.
She, however, changes the topic by saying: “We’ve been too long on the phone. It is getting expensive for you. Let’s stop here for now.” She then hands the phone over to my father.
I do not know what to say to my father that day. I wonder if he knows about it.
I say, “Hi, Baba (Dad). Has Mom told you?”
“About what?” he replies.
I feel a little irritated that he puts me on the spot like that. I feel conflicted and take a few seconds to decide what to do. In that moment, I remember the winter night (January 2001) when he told me that he would not be able to financially support my move to the US and had asked me If I really needed to move.
Back then I said to him, “Dad, my close friends know why I would like to move to America. Birsen (my youngest sister) knows about my reasons as well. They all support my decision and think that it is best for me. What do you think? Would you like for me to tell you why I think life would be easier for me in the US?”
“ I do not want to hear it!” he says, convinced.
With this memory in mind, I answer my father’s current question with a question: “Did Mom tell you that my heart falls for men?”
“Yes, she did,” he replies.
“This is the story, Dad. I moved to the US to be with Lanford. He is not only a good friend. He is my lover. His whole family knows about our relationships and they love and accept us. They even told me that they are my second parents and that I should call them Mom and Dad. In the US, many gay people are open about their sexual orientation and life for gays is much safer than it is in Turkey.”
“You do not have to explain yourself to me,” he says, “I understand.”
While I feel pleased with his response, I cannot help but wonder why he seems so accepting. Does he really accept my sexual and emotional orientation or is this his way of avoiding the topic?”
It is quite possible that he has always known it. It is well known that deep down in their hearts, many parents sense that their children might not be heterosexual. They sense this, and not knowing what to do with it, they suppress this suspicion. They hope that it is a phase and it would pass. They strongly prefer that their child is not gay because they know that life can be quite dangerous for gays. Clues are always there although in countries like Turkey these signs might be harder to notice due to people’s lack of exposure to gay people…
“Okay” I say to my father, “Thank you for your understanding. Please always feel free to ask me any questions you might have about this.”
“Okay, I kiss your eyes, son,” he lovingly says and I hang up the phone.
The next day I call my mom again to continue our dialog. By calling her frequently, I try to do my best to inform her about my gayness so that she does not fall into the traps of her cultural conditionings and look at homosexuality from a pathologizing point of view. She is open to continue discussing it and I find that very helpful. It would not make sense to force her to stay in this dialogue if she did not want to. It would be too aggressive and cruel of me to force her into a conversation if she was not willing.
This time she answers the phone with excitement and without saying, “Hi, how are you?” she quickly asks if I was joking. In her voice, I sense her deep hope that it was all a joke. Why would one make a joke like that I ask myself and wonder what caused her to think that I might be joking.
“No, Mom.” I respond. “I am not joking.”
I wish I were because I feel guilty that I keep giving her the painful news repeatedly. I also feel guilty that I took away her hopes from her by confirming my reality. I then ask my mother if Birsen, my youngest sister, is at home.
When I ask Birsen what is happening she says: “Mom is very sad. She has not eaten much since you have told her about it. She has not been out of the house to socialize. All she does is to sit on the sofa and make herself miserable. I felt very overwhelmed by her situation and did not know what to do about it. I felt helpless. I am here by myself and there is nobody to support me. So, with Emine’s support (our oldest sister), I told her that you were just joking.”
I understand both Birsen and Emine. They are in a catch twenty-two situation. They want both my mom and I to be happy and seeing how miserable my mom has been overwhelms them. Not trusting my mom’s ability to regulate her emotions makes them worried and anxious. Not knowing how to stay calm while my mom is going through this painful process motivates them to quickly fix her. Therefore, to calm themselves down, they try to calm our mother down by telling her that I was joking. This way they hope to help her get out of her misery so everybody’s life goes back to “normal.”
Although I know that this process has never been easy for those who have gone through it before me, I feel irritated that this process is becoming more complicated than I desired it would be. So I remind myself that having unrealistic expectations from my family is not helpful and that demanding instant acceptance and hoping for premature solutions from them about this topic is not the most effective way of relating to them. Everybody in my family is in this together so it is only natural that the whole family is under a lot of stress and my job is to try to do my best to attend these feelings, thoughts, beliefs and reactions in a way that helps the process, instead of hinders it.
I say to my sister, “I know that this is too intense for you and you do not have much support at home. I am sorry that our family is in this situation. From now on, I will call you more often so that I can help you stay centered while Mom is going through her grief concerning all this. I know that I am asking too much, but can you please be patient in this process? Believe me this will be healthier for all us in the long run.”
“I will do my best to be patient,” she says with the open heartedness of a caring sister. I thank her and hang up the phone to call my sister Emine in Germany.
Emine is the worrier. She constantly worries about my parent’s well-being and the situation our family is now in triggers strong emotions in her. She says to me, “Mother is old. She did not have to know this now. The rest of us know it and it should have been enough for you. This creates too much stress in mom’s life and she cannot cope with such information. This is too much for her.”
I understand my Emine’s point and agree with her. We both want our mom to live long, be healthy and happy without exposing her to any kind of stressful situation. But at the same time, I want more than that for my mother. I want her to truly know her son who she has poured her life into.
I say to Emine, “I understand that you are worried about mom. Believe me, so am I. On the other hand, I am convinced that coming out to her was the best option I had because she kept asking me about when I would get married . For how long should I keep giving her excuses and lies? For how many more years should I avoid answering her honestly?
At least she knows it now and she does not have to wonder why I am still single. She no longer has to make endless assumptions about my singleness. She knows me now and she no longer has to blindly nurture her dreams of a life I cannot live. Now she can adapt to the truth and free herself from what is untrue.
As you well know Emine, adapting to what we know is easier than what we do not know. Furthermore wouldn’t you want to know if your own son was gay? Wouldn’t you prefer to have the truth so that you can support him while he tries to survive and be happy in a world that says gays are deviant creatures and they need to be killed? Wouldn’t you, at least wish for him to be who he is at home, feel safer when around you and know that you love and accept him no matter what!? All parents work all their lives to make their children’s life easier.
Emine, if your son were gay, would not you want to make life easier for him in this aspect of his life as well? I am sure you would want to know him so that you can help him and I think our Mom deserves to know the truth about me, as well. I know this is too much to ask Emine, but would you be willing to help me help mom in this process?”
Emine replies, “I wish you did not tell her but you know what best. I will do my best to help mom.”
With that, I thank her and I hang up to call my mother again.
This time, Nursel, my middle sister, answers the phone. I ask Nursel how mom is doing and she says mom is in a lot of pain and everybody in the family is overwhelmed by this.
She then adds: “Please do not worry about her too much. We are here and we will support her in dealing
Nursel’s generosity in opening her heart to my mother’s pain and trying to comfort me at the same time humbles me. Her willingness to sit in the fire of painful emotions for the whole family touches my heart deeply. I feel grateful for having a sister like her. I thank her for her support and hang up the phone.
From that day in 2003, my mom and I do not speak anymore about my heart’s true desires. But she continues to let me know that people keep asking why I am not married, and she does not ask me for an answer to give them. She stops talking about it..
She says to me: “I do not ask questions about marriage because when I do, your sisters get mad at me. As long as you are happy, I do not care. Your happiness is most important. Who cares if you are single? There are many men who are single now.”
She chooses to forget that I am single because I am gay and that my heart falls for men. She remains in denial about my sexual orientation and keeps focusing her attention on adapting to me just being single instead.
I understand that this is all still very hard for her and I do not expect her to understand it. I do not understand why I am gay myself so it would not be fair to expect that kind of understanding from her. Who truly understands the concept of sexual orientation anyway? We name heterosexuality normal and pathologize homosexuality, but why? Just because a flower is rare does not make it abnormal, does it? My mother and I go on living in this avoidant state for a few years and
keep beating around the bushes to avoid the topic.
Then one winter morning in 2006, the unexpected happens.
Over the phone that morning, she asks me if I have a lover.
Very surprised, I answer her: “No, Mom. I do not have a lover. I have been single for sometime now.”
“What happened to Landford?” she asks.
“My relationship with Lanford had changed and we had become good platonic friends.”
“That is okay,” she says, “As long as you are healthy and happy it is okay.”
Then she adds: “But you should find a husband to marry. Being single for too long is not good.”
Shocked and deeply touched by her statement, I smile as I do when the Sun comes out from behind dark clouds. She finally relates to me completely in this moment. She steps out from her denial for a moment and this gives me great joy.
“Yes,” I say, smiling, “I should find me a husband and get married.”
“Stop it,” she replies, laughing. “I am not fully comfortable hearing that yet.”
But I understand her and I respect the boundary she sets in that moment. I think about how lucky I am. I rejoice in knowing that she has not stopped digesting the information about my emotional-sexual orientation. I feel excited knowing that she has been working on letting go of her dreams about my life so that she can continue to love and accept me as I am and deal with the pain she was in. Knowing this fills me with her love and it gives me confidence that other moms can do the same for their children. I thank her for not giving up on trying to accepting me as I am.
She lovingly replies, “I would die for you”.
Then like old times, she asks me to hang up the phone first .
(Edited by: Duran de Andomiel)