I am the proud mother of two sons born barely three years apart. My sons were brought up in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the Nineteen Sixties and Seventies by the same loving parents, and under the same circumstances: same schools, same religious upbringing, same love of sports, same love of learning, same quick grasp of knowledge, same senses of humor, work ethic, etc. So, as their Mother, I, like most parents at that time, dreamed and assumed that both my boys would fall in love with nice girls, get married and each have his own family.
When my older son, Jon, came home after graduating with honor from Duke University, I was exceedingly happy. As part of welcoming him home, I kissed and hugged him, telling him, yet again, how much I loved him, and how proud I was of him and his accomplishments. He looked at me; I thought I saw sadness in his beautiful blue eyes, and heard it in his voice as he said: "I hope you feel the same after we talk tonight". "Oh Jon, " I said, really surprised, " There is nothing you could ever do to make me change my mind" I laughed, hugging him, and patting him at the same time. As I left the room,I turned to smile at him. He was staring after me with that smile that was his, but somehow different ...I wondered whether there really was a shadow of sadness. Did I really see that? So unlike him somehow.
I puzzled all afternoon about what could have worried Jon so. I finally decided that he was in love with someone who was not Jewish or Caucasian. I wondered why he did not already know that his father and I would welcome and love anyone Jon loved, not a problem. Even in the Eighties, he should have known that, I reasoned, and I went on about my day, knowing he would tell us that evening.
Later that night, my husband and I were in our room reading when Jon came in, and sat down across the room. Looking very serious, the words just tumbled from his lips: 'I have met someone I love and it's a guy"
A voice in my head said: "Did he say "guy"? I did not see that coming. Never. His father and I immediately responded, almost in unison ( my husband, I think, beat me by a nose, or that's the way I think I heard it). "Jon, you are our son, we love you, We will always love you" we chorused. "Nothing will change this. You are the same person you were seconds ago. We will always be with you." (now, in looking back, this is where I wish I had leapt out of bed, run across the room and hugged and kissed him. I didn't, and I will always regret it. But,I was rooted to the spot where I was sitting. Frozen, In Shock. Not disappointed, not upset, not worried about what friends or family would think. I was, however, sad to think that some people would judge him to be less than the talented, kind , wonderful person he was. Most of all, I worried that some bigoted, hateful person would hurt him and his boyfriend, later to become his partner of 21 years until he died of a massive heart attack just before his 40th birthday. I also admit to a certain sadness that in all likelihood, Jon would not
be the father of his own little brood of mini Jons and Janes.
Jon and his partner, Steve, spent their first year together working in California, before coming back to Durham, North Carolina where Steve went back to Duke and got his degree. They remained there for 6 years working and finding a place for themselves in the smaller pond before moving on to New York City. They were now living "out" everywhere except in Richmond. We, his family, did not come "out" personally until he "outed" himself some years later. What we all did during those years was to speak out loud as American citizens in support of equal rights for LGBT citizens without personalizing our words. As a respected member of the business and volunteer communities and of the community at large, I spoke my mind on the need for respect and equality for all. We all did. I hoped that my opinions would lead others to think more about the issue. The more I spoke out, the easier it became to be "out there".
The odious Marshall-Newman Act of 2006 became the so-called Anti Gay Marriage Amendment banning Gay Marriage in Virginia. It passed and became an amendment to the Virginia State Constitution! One million three hundred thousand American citizens of Virginia came out to defeat over one million families, friends and fair minded American citizens of the Commonwealth, taking away many rights of LGBT and straight unmarried Virginian couples.
That was the day I came out publicly as a committed activist seeking equal rights for my son and other Mothers' LGBT sons and daughters. Both of my sons had been born in the Commonwealth of Virginia with the same equal rights as all other citizens, but on the day that my son Jon came out as a Gay male at the age of 21, he lost many of those rights and became less a person in the eyes of Virginia Law.
I have vowed to do all that I can to change this, and I hope that as a result of combined efforts of fair minded people, families and friends of LGBT citizens across this Commonwealth and the country as a whole, we will. Other Mothers and fathers and I demand full equality for our LGBT children of all ages during our lifetime. In other words......NOW!
Everyone has family members, friends, families and associates who are Gay or Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender. My hope is that their Mothers and Others who love them will "come out" of their own closets and stand up with us for full equality for their loved ones. Mothers and Others is here to help them when they do.
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