Gay Man Confronts Mother Over Microaggression. “Why Did You Introduce Him to Everybody Just as My Friend?”

by John Bronston

I’m John Bronston. I’m from Richmond, Indiana. And it was the Thanksgiving after my sister passed away, I had just turned 30 years old and I was bringing home a boyfriend for the first time for a family gathering. Everybody was showing up for this Thanksgiving. There were easily 40 of my relatives there. And it was because this was the first holiday after my sister had passed away. As my mother was going around introducing my boyfriend to the family, the first person that she introduced that we ended up having an interaction with was my aunt, my mother’s sister. And she was very specific like, “This is John’s friend from the city, from New York.” And then as we went along to my cousins, it was the same thing. And then it was to my other aunts and uncles and my grandparents that were there as well. It was always, “This is John’s friend from the city.”

It kept happening so often that I didn’t know what to do about it and I was just… I couldn’t say anything about it while everybody was there. After we had finished dinner and things are kind of winding down, I went back in my parents’ bedroom with my mom. I asked her, I was like, “Why did you introduce him to everybody just as my friend? He’s plainly more than just my friend.”

And she said, “Oh, I just didn’t want anyone to be uncomfortable.” I don’t think that she realized that it was going to upset me or hurt my feelings or that it was going to make things awkward for him as well that he was just this random guy that I brought back as a friend. And I realized that it was important to me that nothing like that… it couldn’t happen again.

And so it’s about a year and a half later and my family reunion is coming up. They had it on a military air force base. And it’s a fully catered, seated dinner and the only white people there generally are the wait staff and my new boyfriend. And it was really a trial by fire for him.

There were also several events that were coming up right in a row. My huge family reunion. That year was my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary party. And so between those two, everybody that I basically had ever known was going to be at those two events. I didn’t know how things were going to go when we show up at the family reunion,

So they do this huge get to know you thing where people get questions they’re supposed to ask each other and interview each other. And my boyfriend got assigned my 75 year old Catholic uncle and they were getting along great. They were chatting and like just… it was really surprising. We also have this huge family talent show at the family reunion. And my boyfriend ended up being asked to run the sound for it. And it was great.

And then we come up to the my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary party. It was a huge seated thing and my grandfather is there and my mother’s stepfather is there and also like everyone from my parents’ church is there. You know, and it’s the cocktail hour and everyone’s getting to know each other and my mother came up to my… to my aunt and uncle. And the first thing, she was like, “Oh this is John’s boyfriend.”  And my mother went out of her way with everyone to introduce him as “This is John’s boyfriend.” “This is John’s partner.” The way that she used language was entirely different.

I didn’t know at the time that that boyfriend was going to go on to become my husband, but I know that he entered meeting everybody in my family with like a sense of like that people were going to accept him and that they were going to recognize what he was to me. And I think that we started off our relationship on a really different place because of that, because everybody was willing to acknowledge who we were, to accept what our relationship was to each other. And now we’ve been together now 10 years. We got married two years ago. My family all flew out from Indiana for our wedding. That was one of the most amazing days of my life. Having my parents there to support me that day was something that I could not have imagined that Thanksgiving 12 years ago.

It’s amazing the relationship that my husband has now with my family. My mom and he texts all the time. Easily, I think that she talks to him twice as often as she talks to me.

Coming out is communicating. It’s about letting people know who you really are and what’s important to you. There are things in your life and in your relationships which you have to just express. This was one of those things where I was like, it’s an essential to our relationship that you recognize this part of me. It’s hard and it’s scary sometimes to like have to be upfront and ask for what you really need, but it was something that I could not go on without doing.

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