I’m From Eagle River, AK.

by John M. Ashton

Satellite overhead image of Alaska from Google Earth 2022

“Mom, I have something I need to tell you.” I said, trying to find the words. “I don’t know how to tell you this, so I will just put it out there. I am gay.”

There are some things in my life that I never considered that I would be sharing with my mother, or any of my family for that matter. I never saw my preference in a love partner as anyone’s business but mine. The climate of hostility that still surrounds the issue of gay and lesbian people only secured the thought in my mind. All of that changed last year.

In January of 2009 a good friend of mine, Chris, passed away from complications with the HIV virus. I took his death hard, but in a way it helped me more than I knew at the time. The whole time that I knew Chris he pushed me to talk with my family about being gay. He told me that the closet put so much stress on me that I wasn’t even able to see yet. When he passed away I was finally able to see what he meant.

For over a month I was not able to discuss with anyone that a close friend of mine had just died. I was not able to cry about it. I was not able to deal with the feelings that his death brought up in me. Instead these feelings were only allowed to fester and grow inside of me until I could not bear it anymore.

I called my mom one morning. “Mom, we need to talk. Would it be alright if I came over tonight?”

“I would love to talk with you, John.” She said. “Come over when I get home from work.”

Even with the now obvious stress that keeping quiet was putting on me, I almost backed down. I almost chose to remain silent. The level of hostility that still remains in society around the issue of gay and lesbian people scared me enough that I was not sure how my own mother would take this news.

“Mom, I have something I need to tell you. I don’t know how to tell you this, so I will just put it out there. I am gay.”

“I am not shocked.” my mother said.

“Is that all?” I asked, ready for any response.

“John, I still love you. I am not shocked by this. If you are going to choose to explore this path, I will support you. There may come a time when things change for you. You don’t really know who you are until you are a bit older.” she said.

I had a mixture of feelings. Mostly overwhelming joy, though. There was a subtle hint of annoyance, but joy overpowered this. She still loved me. These were the words I was hoping to hear for longer than I realized.

“What made you want to tell me this now?” She asked me.

I explained to her that I had a friend that had died recently, and that having to hide this part of me meant having to hide my pain in relation to him.

The conversation went long into the night. There was a lot of happy tears mixed with some sad ones. When the conversation drew to a close my mom offered these last words.

“John, I want you to be happy. If this is what will make you happy I will support you. If you bring someone home, though, be sure it is someone I would approve of, male or female.”

In the months since this I have had similar conversations with the other members of my family. I look back on the last 9 years that I spent hiding with a lot of regret. I somehow allowed other people’s fear and misunderstanding of gay and lesbian people to damage and restrain my relationships with my family. I spent nearly a decade hiding from myself. Now I will spend the next decade, and longer, working to ensure that the next generation will not have to hide from themselves, or anyone else.

I leave you with the words of the author Dr. Seuss. “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”


I’m From Colby, KS. “Several days later she came to me and asked if I’d be willing to talk to a priest that her friend, knowing about homosexuality, had recommended. This surprised me as Mother is an Atheist. We called him and Mother and I listened to him. He began talking about how it was a sin. Mother took the receiver out of my hand and placed it on the cradle, looked at me and said, “This man has nothing for you.”

I’m From Granville, OH – Featured Artist. “Throughout this never-ending internal turmoil, my mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Not long after I had turned fourteen, my father and mother sat my sister and I down and explained that my mother would pass away within a few months and there was nothing more that the doctors could provide to stop the cancer. It was at this time that I became closest with my mother and when I finally accepted that I am gay. Not a day passed in those few months that I didn’t want to tell her. I phrased it so many ways in my head but unfortunately the cancer triumphed. Looking back, I think she knew and if she were here today, I know that she would be proud.”

I’m From Odessa, TX. “After that, I put some better locks on the closet that I was hiding in. It wasn’t until I went to college and studied abroad that I was able to finally kick down the door and release my true nature, finally coming to terms with being a gay man. What a phenomenal and rewarding ride it has been! I am so thankful for my negative initial coming out, because I would not have appreciated my current level of personal freedom as much as I do now.”

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