It was November, 1999 when I called my mom to tell her. The only reason I planned to tell her was because the guy I was seeing wanted us to have Thanksgiving together and my mom was planning to visit me for my first Thanksgiving in Atlanta.
I called her from work because I figured if the conversation got too heavy I could always end the call. Not hang up, but get off the phone suddenly because I had "work" to do.
When she picked up, I made small talk and finally said, "I have something to tell you." There was a pause. Then she said, "Is it personal or professional?" I said, "Personal." She said, "Is it about a man?" I gasped, then said, "No! Why would you ask that?!" Before she could answer I said, "Well, yeah it is." And then the phone went silent...
From that point, I knew (without a doubt) your mom always knows. Whether she mentions it or not, she knows if her child is gay.
When she finally spoke, she said, "I was hoping, wishing and praying you weren't." I told her I had too. For 22 years, I hoped, wished and prayed it would go away, I could just suppress the thoughts, the feelings.
Before we got off the phone she gave this laugh, that I recognized as her "phony laugh". She only used that laugh with strangers. She then said, "Nothing's gonna change," but I knew things already had.
For two weeks, we played phone tag. She strategically called when she knew I wouldn't be at home so she could simply leave a message. She wasn't ready to face me, to face it. When I returned her calls she was always too busy or too tired to talk. I had to accept that she wasn't ready to deal with it, yet. More importantly, I had to allow her time to process it. After all, it took me 22 years to come out. I couldn't possibly expect her to be ok in two weeks.
When she opened up, she explained she was fearful that I would become HIV positive as all of her gay friends had. I explained that I couldn't be reponsible or fearful of what had happened to them. I could only be responsible for me.
I decided HIV wouldn't be my fate because I never want to let my mom down. I think of her & that conversation as a reminder to make prudent decisions when my health is at stake.
It would take time for my mom to warm up to this new reality, but I was patient & never force fed her. The only reminders she had that I was gay was if she asked what I had done during that week or the weekend. I would then tell her who I was with or what we had done, like a date. Eventually, she would ask about my friends that she knew were also gay.
Since that time, she's become my biggest supporter as it relates to my past relationships, and my work with the gay community and HIV/AIDS.
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