By Karen K. Ho
[The following is an updated version of a story published online in October 2008.]
Coming out to my mom was a strange experience. While I knew she was a fairly open-minded person, the only person in our family who was gay was her little brother and he was pretty much estranged from our family after he criticized my mom’s parenting style. My uncle also treated our male cousins far more favourably and this preferential treatment only made things worse.
Still, she was the first one he came out to. My mom even figured it out before her brother fully blurted out the words.
But when it came time for my own awkward moment, I still felt like I was about to throw up.
I chose to tell her the day in journalism school I decided I wanted to go back to graphic design, which at the time was one of the few subjects that didn’t make me want to throw my computer out the window everyday. But after driving her home from work, I couldn’t tell her about the other thing I so desperately wanted to talk to her about. The gay thing.
After getting inside the house I tried to distract myself by folding laundry until the subject became such a heavy, weird feeling in my chest that I just ended up blurting out the words “Mom, I’m kind of gay”. For a few minutes before that moment it felt like something was about to explode out of my chest, like a scene from Alien.
And then we had ‘the talk’.
Looking concerned, my mom asked the common question: “Are you sure it’s because you haven’t found the right guy yet?” She rationalized all my downtown trips during the summer were because of my ‘new friends’ (and I figure that is definitely not the time to tell her about the nights I crashed at strangers’ places). And she was able to say the word “bisexual” even before I had the guts to. She also pointed out the various clues she noticed during the past few months, such as me going to Pride, catching me watching Queer as Folk, my numerous stories about queer friends and my sudden request that day to contact to my gay uncle’s ex ‘about something’.
While coming to the realization of how smart my mother is, I tried to console her about the fact that I could still find a nice guy, marry him, have kids and live a relatively ‘normal’ life, but she quickly replied that she didn’t want me doing that just on account of her. Ouch.
Truthfully, the tense mood right after telling her, during dinner and afterwards was pretty bad. All I could feel was sort of a mass panic. And while talking to various friends online was comforting in a way, seeing a friend in person made the biggest difference. It made every difference.
A friend came up to Scarborough (which never, ever happens) and I found myself picking her up from the end of the train line at the local mall. I was so excited I actually parked my car, ran in through the doors and hugged her, with big fat tears in my eyes. Just like in the movies.
We end up talking in my car and at a local Coffee Time for two hours.
She tells me my mother did fine, still loves me and that I have nothing to worry about. If anything, I’m reminded of the words of another friend – this is a big deal because I can still sleep fine in my own bed and a lot of people end up committing suicide from fear of not being able to come out at all.
A day later things seemed to be relatively normal at my house. My mother didn’t treat me any differently, my dad didn’t act like he knows (though I have no idea if my mother told him) and all I feel is intense relief. And incredibly lucky I have such wonderful friends.
UPDATE: Years later, things are a bit different. Sometimes I wonder if I’m still considered queer. I’m a cisgender, straight-looking female who rarely hangs out in the Church-Wellesley Village and has nonchalant feelings about Pride. (But that’s because I live in the wilds of Ford Country, not because I’m post-mo.)
Complicating this further is bisexuality’s bad reputation and the less-than-stellar initial experiences I had dating women. (The first two I ever went out with came out as transmen shortly after our breakups. For a few months afterwards I worried I had some sort of extremely terrible luck in choosing potential girlfriends.)
Even though I mostly date guys now, I have never regretted coming out to my mom. I don’t have to to hide who I am from her. And in a time where many young people are still committing suicide because of bullying, unable to come out to their parents or turning to programs like the It Gets Better Project for help, I am incredibly thankful and lucky for her love and support.