No, I’m not gay but I was raised in the LGBT community.
When I was younger I thought my mom being gay had to be a secret.
I saw things on the news about gay men being killed and left in alleys and I was terrified that my mom was going to be killed for being gay. From 8 until I was about 12 I lived with a fear and a secret that I was scared to share. I didn’t tell my friends, I shied away from building relationships. I thought if people know my mom’s gay she’s going to die. This was a real fear. I didn’t even talk to my mom about it.
In the second grade, the librarian hung flags from all around the world. She also hung the rainbow flag. She asked me if I knew what it meant. The school asked her to take it down. She didn’t. I never saw her again.
Yet another elementary school incidence involved this girl and her cousins following me home while throwing rocks at me and yelling, “Does your mom molest you!!! She likes girls!! Are you gay?”
In the 7th grade I went to a sleepover. When it was time to leave I went downstairs but my mom hadn’t arrived yet, so I pushed the intercom so I could go back in and overheard the rest of the girls talking about my mom. My best friend at the time was telling the other girls she saw my mom kissing a girl. I shutdown. I stopped attempting to make friends. Later, I found out “her aunts that shared that same room” were not really her aunts.
My oldest sister went to a different elementary school and high school and all of her friends knew our mom was gay. I wondered why it wasn’t a secret for her. What made her safe?
It wasn’t until later that I realized my fear came from more than just the news, it came from my own experiences. By high school I didn’t care anymore, maybe because I had openly gay classmates and I no longer thought ‘gay’ was supposed to be a secret. I started realizing my mom being gay wasn’t something to fear, it was something other people feared.
And guess what, growing up in a gay household didn’t make me gay. It drives me crazy when people believe that a parent’s sexual orientation will influence their child’s. Or how about, gay parents molest their children. Pedophiles molest children, let’s be clear. My gay mother doesn’t like little girls, she likes women. Women are grown. They are adults. Not children.
Fast forward. I was working for Minneapolis Public Schools in Community Education with the after school program. A student had been removed from class and sent to my office. I asked him, “What’s your mom’s number?” His response caused me to pause. He asked, “Which one?”
In that moment I thought, less than 20 years later and children don’t have to be scared to say their parents are gay. Everyone knows a gay person. Everyone knows someone in the LGBT community. I wished I had felt that way when I was growing up but the more I think things change the more they have remained the same.
Just recently I had to deal with someone attacking my mother based on who she chooses to love. I’ve sat with friends, associates, co-workers, first dates etc and listened as they’ve said things like, “I f*cking hate faggots,” “That sh*ts nasty!” I sat. I listened. They finished. I’d say, “My mom’s gay.” They’d stare. They’d stammer. They’d apologize. No, please don’t apologize because your choice of words was vile. I have no problem with anyone disagreeing or having an opinion. I have more respect when someone simply states, “I don’t agree with that lifestyle.” That’s fine. Those relationships quickly ended. I only want peace and positivity in my life.
For everyone that thinks their life has to be a secret and you feel that paralyzing fear every day from not being able to live as you want, it’s easy to say it gets better. I pray that it does.
Dedicated to my mother, Juin Charnell, the first phenomenal women I knew.
Oh, yeah, she writes…