A Boy and His Mom
By: Amy Smith
My son came out to me when he was 9 years old. While standing in the kitchen one afternoon he said, “mom, I think I like boys the way other boys like girls”. Simple words from a child on a sunny day that changed my world as a mother. Changed in ways I never would have imagined.
I have always been a very liberal person. From my youth in a strong union family, to my teenage punk rock days in the East Bay of California, to my young adult life with friends from all spectrum of life. I had many LGBT friends, some of whom I would consider an integral part of my life. I had seen them made fun of and bullied for their sexuality and gender. Even by members of their own family.
With all of those experiences, there was one experience that rang in my ears and sat in my mind as I listened to those simple words from my little boy, Matthew Sheppard. In that flash, I remembered seeing his mother tears and torment so clear on her face as she talked about Matthew. I visualized the stories of his untimely death as I looked in my son’s big beautiful blue eyes.
I couldn’t help it, I was afraid. It was a feeling I would learn to grow familiar with. It would become like that relative who visits unwelcomed and is always too bossy and smells like stale candies. You know you have to smile, and make it seem like everything is okay, as a strong and loving mother. But inside it bores a hole in you. You can even taste that sour taste of vomit in the back of your mouth when you’re in a remote diner on a back country road and see the looks from the grumpy men at the counter as your child walks in. ‘Do they know?’…
Of course, when he told me, I opened my arms and gave him a big hug. And I have never stopped hugging him. I love to hear stories of boyfriends and his budding romances. My heart fills with joy thinking of him finding his ‘true love’, settling down, and starting a family. I watch the news anxiously these days, for reports of marriage equality and adoption rulings. Knowing these will impact his future.
But if I’m honest with myself, I also watch for stories like Matthew Shepard and the Pulse nightclub shooting. I breath a quick and silent sigh of relief when the news is over and nothing comes on. I tell this story so you will know. When you see that mom marching at Pride next to her son, when you see that father with his arm around his trans daughter, you will understand the strength it takes to be there. Not because there is anything wrong with their child. But because of the fear.
As much as those parents who disown their children disgust and anger me, I see it. But in the same way parents watch their sons and daughters report for duty, or parachute from an airplane, or cross the street for the first time without holding your hand, it is our job. It is our job as a parent to hold our breath in those moments and watch your child be themselves. To swallow that fear, give them a big hug, and revel in the fact that they are this miraculous and awesome being, that you helped create, being exactly who they are.