I recently got my dream job. I’m officially an LGBTQ advocate for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. When I describe the job to friends literally every single one says, “Wow, that job is perfect for you”. And they’re right, it is exactly the career I’ve wanted. And yet, there’s a piece of me that is sad because I miss my mom.
I want to call her and gush about the details and all the ideas I have planned. I have no idea if I will have an office, but I want to discuss color schemes and whether I should bring my Star Wars desk calendar. We’ll laugh about my poor taste in decorations and how my wife Samantha will end up doing the designing herself. I’ll mention that my business cards are already being created and I can’t wait to have my own set.
At some point in the conversation, she’ll get quiet then choke out that she’s so proud of me. She’ll tell me I’ve come so far and she couldn’t be happier to call me her son. I’ll blush and say “Mom, STOOOP!” but only because I’m afraid that I’ll start crying next. Then as we hang up she’ll make me promise to send a picture of the new office – if I get one – and we’ll argue over whether it’s silly for me to mail her one of my business cards. “It’s not dumb Evan, I just want to have one to show my friends! A mother can’t have her son’s business card?”. I’ll roll my eyes but secretly love that she loves me so much.
I MISS MY MOM!
But she isn’t gone, not really anyway. She’s alive and well and 926 miles away from my home. She knows about my job though I didn’t call and gush. I sent a formal text message to inform her that I had found a position. She replied simply and quickly that she was happy for me. And that’s our relationship in a nutshell.
You see, my mother is part of a movement that believes Queer people are the single most dangerous threat to our country. When Hurricane Katrina happened it was because of Mardi Gras and the queers. As school shootings became a regular part of society, it was god’s judgement on homosexuality. And when the Twin Towers fell it was because of abortion…and the gays.
I’M QUEER, MOM
You can imagine now that my coming out didn’t go well – either of them. I first came out when I was a 23 year old newlywed. The problem was that I came out as a lesbian and I was married to a man. I had tried – I truly, truly had -to ignore my attraction to women but it just never went away. Even after six months in a so-called rehab in which I was enrolled to fix my “sexual addictions”.
When I first came out, my mom didn’t talk to me for almost six months. I’m sure we did exchange a few words, I saw her at family parties and events. But we didn’t really have much to say to each other. And that was uncommon for my mother and myself. My mom was my hero, my best friend, and the most important person in my life.
SOMEWHERE IN THE PAST
Before my revelation I wanted nothing more than to be my mother. My dad had died of Leukemia when I was 7 years old, and it was during those first few years after his loss that we bonded. My mom always struggled a lot with intimacy. I think it was from her own lack of intimacy from her childhood. But during those next two years it was different.
We spent hours snuggled on the couch watching an old movie or reading. She would run her fingers through my hair and gently rub my back over and over again. Her sharp blue eyes sparkled with love and endearment. I’m sure I had a subconscious fear of losing both my parents, so I clung to her more than usual. But she was always there, holding me and telling me it would be okay.
I wanted to be just like her. Every morning my mom got up at 5:30 am to have her coffee, read her Bible, and pray. So I asked her to wake me up so I could do the same. Many of my memories of this time period are early morning hours where my mom would shake me awake and hand me a cup of orange juice and my Bible. I would struggle to stay focused as I read through blurry and sleep crusted eyes. I hated waking up, but I loved being like my mom.
However, life continued to move on. Mom remarried and our family grew from four people to nine, as I got four new step siblings. After my dad’s death, mom had been convinced by a cult leader to leave her family in South Carolina and move to Indiana. She married a man already heavily into the cult and they joined their families together. It wasn’t easy, in fact it was incredibly hard. But mom was happy so I was happy for her.
Overtime I grew up in that cult and adopted their bizarre standards and principles. I attended their schools and church and teen functions. Then I went off to what they called a college and eventually got a full-time job in the cult. And along the way I also bought into their hatred and bigotry and racism, just like my mom had done. Until the day I realized I was one of the ones they hated.
MOM DIDN’T GO WITH ME
I don’t think I really expected my mom to just up and leave when I came out to her. I knew she would have questions and concerns and would probably even be angry. To be honest, I never really planned any of it out. I just blurted the words “I’m gay!” one day and that was it. Yet somewhere in the back of my mind I knew my mom loved me more than anything. And eventually she would see that I was still me, I wasn’t making any of this up, and she’d wonder if God would really curse me this way.
But she didn’t do any of that. I waited and waited but there seemed to be no signs of any desire to rebuild our relationship. So I decided to confront her and demand she listen to me. After more than a year of being out as LGBTQ, I went to my mother’s house and poured my very soul out to her. I explained that this was what I had always felt and how I had prayed for years for God to deliver me. I told her of all the Queer Christians on the outside who still believed that Jesus loved them. And I waited, knowing I had laid out my case superbly.
Yet when she looked at me, the sparkle of love and endearment was no longer there. Her blue eyes had gone cold and she told me in the most graphic and detailed ways that she did not know me. I was a monster, I was repugnant, I was the same as all the other Queer filth. My heart dropped out of my chest and shattered into a million pieces onto the floor. I could feel my mind racing, trying to gather up the pieces and salvage what was left! But some parts will be embedded into the fibers of that beige, rough carpet forever.
GRIEFS LONG JOURNEY
I didn’t know in that moment that I had lost my mom. The tender hand which had stroked my hair, the dedicated mother whom I had admired, the fearless hero which I had worshipped. Indeed there was still a part of me who thought I could still win her back. I could try again – and again – and again – and again! Banging on a door which was closed shut and that wrapped a new chain around the outside each time I came to plead.
“Love conquers all!” is a phrase we often hear. In the LGBTQ community we say, “It gets better”. And it does get better, but it doesn’t look the same. And that was the lesson I had to learn along the way. I had to let go of the mother I once had. The one I lost in that living room eight years ago when my heart shattered.
For the past decade I have slowly healed and built a new and wonderful family. But at times of immense joy I often find myself feeling the sting of a wounded heart. As happy as I am, I will always grieve the loss of what could have been. And I wonder if she does the same. I wonder if she hears wonderful news and can’t wait to tell me. But then remembers, we don’t have that relationship anymore.
I WENT BACK ONCE MORE
You could say I’m a glutton for punishment. After years away from pleading, I went back once more in search of love. I had to come out a second time, as I was finally ready to admit that I am transgender. It seems foolish I know, but I thought maybe I would make more sense to her this way. Or perhaps I hoped that time had thawed the coolness – yet it had not.
She stared at me from across a table with the same piercing and icy blue eyes I had seen all those years ago. I doubt I’ll ever see that twinkle again, it’s been long gone. We are two different people today. I’m a transgender man who advocates for other LGBTQ+ people, and she’s the mother who lost her child to the Queer movement. We both grieve, I know in my deepest soul that she grieves her loss and much as I grieve mine. But we cannot find our way back to one another and so we move forward alone.
I know the marks of grief. I have borne them since my father’s death 25 years ago today. But the fear of being parentless was realized in a way I never could have imagined. As these wounds turn to scars I look to the future and know that more healing is on the horizon. I may never have a heart fully assembled again, but I can love again and I AM loved again. And for that I will forever be grateful.
YQS Co-Founder and Co-Host, LGBTQIA+ Advocate and Activist