Many of us have read stories or have friends who have shared their stories about being disowned by their families or losing friends when they come out as gay or trans.
I am fortunate. That is not my story.
I was born and raised in New York City. When I was 5 and my sister 8, my mom became a single parent. In the 1960’s, not having a father at home made us different from other families. We lived in a lower middle class neighborhood and my mom worked hard for everything that she provided. I realize now, looking back, that we didn’t have much, but back then there wasn’t as much to have or even to want. My mom raised us to be happy and self-sufficient.
I had a typical childhood; having a crush on my fourth grade teacher, Miss Ash, riding my bike with friends, rooting for my beloved Knicks and Mets, helping with household chores, baby-sitting and having my first job at 14 as a camp counselor. Yes, a crush on Miss Ash…………..hmmmm.
In high school I was active in student government, theater and was a member of the varsity bowling team. If we pause and stereotype, regardless of gender, this teen was GAY! My high school boyfriend Steven and I dated for a few months and then came out to each other. Steven and I are still good friends.
When I was in college I went to a bar and experienced my first ever drag performance. This was life changing. Sitting in the dark, probably drinking a beer and maybe with a cigarette in hand, I witnessed a performance of Shirley Bassey’s signature song, This is My Life, that made me shudder. Anthems like this exist for many groups throughout generations. Members of this generation may embrace Lady Gaga’s, Born this Way.
Shortly after this experience, I decided, at my friends’ urging, to come out to my mom. “Of course she knows” they all said. She had no idea.
My mom needed some time to digest and think about this news. A short time later when we spoke about my coming out, my mom expressed that she loved me and that she understood that I needed to be true to who I was. She was afraid that my life would be difficult, because being different is hard. She also said that I should know that not everyone will embrace me.
My mother’s words stay with me. I know that not everyone will embrace me, but the first step in being accepted is by accepting ourselves. My mother has always been proud of me. I am happy and through hard work and education, self-sufficient. My sexuality does not define me, but is an important aspect of the greater me.
I moved to San Francisco in the late 1980s and continued my career in HR and Operations at law firms.
I met my now wife, Donna, at one of these law firms. Back in the day, before the internet and dating websites, we met our people at bars, at work, at parties or through friends. After our 18 year engagement and a legal battle for marriage equality we were married in 2008. In 1996 I gave birth to our son, Joshua. Joshua, who grew up with his own different, as a child of gay parents, is a wonderful person who advocates for the rights of all people.
Life has not been all roses, kittens and rainbows. I have marched in pride parades and gay rights protests with haters on the sidelines screaming truly hateful things. I lost a generation of friends, including my best friend, to AIDS, and watched laws that we fought for to provide the same rights for LGBTQ people that are enjoyed by everyone else, overturned or not passed into law. The struggle continues.
"When all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free."- Barack Obama