Boy and 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.

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2 comments

  1. Roberta Corcoran-Andrasik 20 June, 2017 at 18:01 Reply

    Amy Smith, it *blows* *my* *mind* how parallel our lives are. Yes. Fear was a very real if hidden first response to this news, that for most of us is not really news at all, but rather an anticipated revelation. I cannot tell you how grateful I was to watch my son navigate his angsty teen years out and proud–and how grateful I was that the world he negotiates was so much better primed for him to *be* out. His friends loved and supported him always. His example helped bring otherwise nonchalant cis kids to alliance. Then he left for college, to a small, ancient Christian academy, and I was terrified. But he negotiated a meathead roommate without scars and fostered a brilliant new chowder of loving friends and, as a faculty scholar, had a level of both notoriety and respect campus- and community-wide. Then he left for a semester in Grenoble, and I was terrified. France was voluably otherphobic and angry, and that sentiment marked him doubly: as a gay American, he made a pretty obvious target. But he kept his head down, engaged intellectually, travelled almost constantly (class attendance being non-mandatory), and returned home after six months having earned the highest scores ever awarded an American student at Stendhal University. Then he graduated and took a job in Manhatten, then to graduate school, then to his current placement in his career and his third decade, and I have learned to quell the fear. He has survived so far and well. He has always, always had a cadre of good, good friends who would protect him as fiercely as I as his mamma bear. Another aspect of these God-forsaken days under this bizarre administration is that the fear pokes and prods at my edges. But come what may, we and our beautiful children are not alone.

  2. Amy Melton Prentiss 24 June, 2017 at 01:18 Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story. My daughter came out early in high school. She’s in her late 30s now, and I still have anxiety around the possibility of her being a target for hate.

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