“In That Moment, I Realized That She Got It.” A Mother Learns To Empathize With Gay Son.

by bryan blaise

I’m Bryan Blaise from Leesburg, Florida.

Back when I was 22, I went home for the holidays. At that time I had started dating someone here in Chicago and decided I was going to tell my parents.

So we sat down for dinner and I ate a full play and I sort of was trying to build up the courage to have this conversation.

And I look up so her mother looked at me and she’s, like, “Yes?”

And so, I started telling them that I had started to see someone and that he was really great. My dad did exactly what I thought.

He put his plate, or forks and knives down, took a deep breath, and said, “Okay, how do you justify this by the scriptures?” which I was pretty prepared for. But before I could open my mouth and say anything, my mother just gay-gasped in the moment and sat there with her mouth open for what seemed like 5 minutes but was probably only 30 seconds, and then ran out of the room. A minute later, she comes back holding basically every Bible that we owned at the time and laid them down and started opening them up to the famous clobber passages and other scriptures and verses that she felt needed to be said at the moment.

As I was talking to my dad, trying to help him understand how I’d come to realize this important fact about myself, my mom was actually quoting the different Bible verses.

My patience snapped and I turned to my mother and I said, “Well, as you’re sitting there pulling out all those verses that you know so well, why don’t you turn to the verses that say that as the first-born, all of this is mine, and as the man I have total authority and respect and, as a woman, you are property according to the Bible, and should not be talking to me with such disrespect right now.”

Needless to say, she wasn’t very happy about that comment but that was my first experience sort of coming out to my parents and how my relationship with my mom started out with me as a gay man and how that was going to progress from there.

Six years later, in 2013, I was headed to my cousin’s wedding in Columbus, Mississippi, where the entire family, extended family, were staying at a hotel. So one morning at breakfast, we’re all sitting around a table and I pulled out my phone to show my grandparents pictures of my recent trip to London and Paris. And my grandfather, who is very man’s man, men do men things, and definitely a good southern Confederate, proceeded to start to belittle the pictures, start to belittle my current enrollment at Columbia Business School. And naming it, both institutions and the places I visit as liberal and effeminate and secular. And I proceeded to try and be really calm, but still a little distant and ask questions. And ultimately, people started joining in the conversation. Cousins. Aunts. Uncles. Everyone sort of bearing down on me. And the experience of looking at your family, people that shared your history and your blood, and they’re all facing you with very critical questions and demoralizing comments. I kind of silently worked my way through it and then walked outside, just to kind of separate myself from them.

Quickly, I felt this touch on my shoulder and my mom had come out.

And she had some tears in her eyes and she looked at me and said, “I’m gonna sit on this bench. And I’m not getting up until I understand. I know what I’m gonna say is gonna be wrong, and I know that I’m gonna ask questions that are probably inappropriate. But I’m doing it because I really want to understand.”

And so we sat there as family members tried to come out and get my mom’s attention and she waved them away. It was a couple hours of lots of crying, talking some, trying to find the courage to be vulnerable in that moment with someone who for so long, probably unintentionally, had said or done things that were harmful or left me sort of questioning my worth as a gay man. But it was the start of a wonderful relationship that’s continuing to today.

So a few weeks ago, I was home and my mother shared with me that she’d recently had a health scare, and had spent a week or two with this knowledge only with herself. As she had to sit there and process through and sort of feel the feelings of feeling alone and the struggle of just wanting to tell someone and wanting to be able to process that with them, she realized that that was probably some of the feelings and emotions that I experiences growing up.

She turned to me and reminded me of that, shared with me that she now had a greater understanding for what it was probably like growing up, and how tough that experience is and how brave queer individuals are as they go through that growing up without an accepting home where they feel comfortable and safe enough to talk about and declare who they really are. And in that moment, I realized she got it. And I was thankful for the years of being patient, the years of myself learning how to not push people away through avoidance or sarcasm or anger, but much more a sense of openness and knowing that she’s on a journey that maybe where she’s at was where I was at a decade ago, and that while I’d like them to be PFLAG chapter presidents and to be in all the pride parades and at showtunes at Sidetrack, that that day will come if I’m patient, and that the love’s there, the empathy’s there and it’s growing – both within her and within me.

Bryan Blaise

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