Coming out for Mom
Here We Go Again
I would have loved to have written this column back in October on National Coming Out Day or even last week during our week of learning tolerance, but there were reasons for my delay. My mother was just here for the Boston College game, and I didn't want to write this until she had come and gone. You see, it's about my mother that I want to write. My mother is a lesbian and I want to talk about that today.
You are probably wondering why I want to talk about this in such a public forum. To explain this, I need to tell you more about myself and my experiences thus far in life.
My mother discovered that she was a lesbian when I was ten and subsequently left my father, whom I lived with afterward. I didn't actually know why she left until about a year later. It was never really a big deal to me. I loved my mother, and it didn't matter to me what gender the people she loved were.
But I wasn't stupid and I did know that in my small town, other people would not be nearly so accepting. So I kept my mouth shut about it for another year or two. Then I started to slowly tell my closest friends. I'll say right now that I have never, in all of the last eight years, had anyone react badly to my telling them my mother is lesbian. Never. Of course, until now, I've never broadcast the fact in a public forum, but I find the reception I've gotten thus far in life very hopeful.
Anyway. I slowly began to bring this fact into my public life. I gave a speech in my sophomore speech class about gay rights. I was proud of myself. I was also heckled by an extremely annoying guy. (Needless to say, not someone I've mentioned my mother's preference to.) By the end of my sophomore year, all my close friends knew.
Then, at the very end of my sophomore year, two friends and I decided to throw a big old party at the beach. I asked my mother to chaperone, and she agreed. But she thought I meant both her and Barb, her partner, when I just meant her. So they both showed up to pick me up for the party.
I asked my mom why Barb was there and she covered quickly and told me that she was just taking us to the beach and would leave then. I said that was good, because I didn't know how I would explain her. Barb heard that and it really hurt her feelings, as I found out later. I've felt bad about that for years. But she's a loving woman, and has never held it against me.
So I wasn't ready to tell everyone I knew just yet. As I got older, I was pretty much ready to tell anyone I liked. When I went to college, I decided that it was time to be open about it, to say something when it seemed relevant. And I have. I've told more people around here than I ever did at home.
My life, since I was ten years old, has been a long coming out of the closet. When we hear that phrase, "coming out of the closet," we normally only think of gay or lesbian people themselves. Most people never realize that the friends and family of gays and lesbians are often also forced into closets from fear of "what others will say." For me, it was never a question of me accepting my mother or Barb. But I had to learn to say to hell with the people who can't accept them and learn to say that if you can't accept them, you can't accept me.
So I am writing this now because it is time. I am ready to stand my ground, to say in black and white so everyone can see it, that my mother is lesbian, and that I love her and I love her partner. It's time for me stop hiding in any way. It's time for me to realize that I don't have to "explain" Barb. I just have to tell people that she's my mom's partner and a part of my family. In some ways, I'm writing this to make up for a mistake I made four years ago, when I couldn't do that.
This is a rite of passage. It is a moment of truth and maybe it is a crucible for me as well. I am putting my heart in your hands and I am trusting you. I woke up this morning, I guarantee you, with butterflies in my stomach. I don't know how people will react to this. I don't know what you will say.
But I believe in this place and the people here, enough to believe that it will all be okay. And, in the end, I believe in Christ. It was he who said that the truth shall make us free.
Marlayna Soenneker is a sophomore psychology major. Her column appears every other Wednesday.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Viewpoint Stories for Wednesday, November 15, 2000