Monday, December 28, 2009

Apron Strings


Sometimes I read something in the blogosphere that sends my mind down shadowy paths. Today held just such an emotional ambush at Pams House Blend. "Christmas: Baby Please Come Home", written by Mercedes, is a diary post detailing her estranged relationship with her mother and the feelings that enevitably come up during the holidays when the Christmas cards arrive. The source of Mercedes estrangement from her family is the fact that she is transgendered, transitioning from male to female and their is NO support or acceptance from her family. Instead she is treated as the family shame....not exactly the makings of a merry Christmas. but also a story that resonates with many of us.

Why it touched me so deeply that I had to share was because her description of her relationship with her mother was like hearing my own...and my mom has been on my mind alot this last week. Things are not so good there.

Let me be clear...I know a great many people feel like aliens in their own families. Thats the process of separating ourselves from those who raised us and becoming our own individuals with our own drives, thoughts, opinions, etc. You don't have to be gay, lesbian, trangendered, what have you, to feel like an outsider amongst those with whom you grew up.

That said....I'd like to talk about my mom today, and maybe exorcize a very old demon. When I write these blog posts I imagine them not only going out into the world to be read by a handfull of fellow human beings...but also into the universe, into the ether where all our thoughts, ideas and prayers are heard. Maybe in the telling, something can change for the better between my mom and myself.


I attempted to call my mom this Christmas...no surprise there...most children who want to remain in the good graces of their parents do but... this year it was harder to get myself to pick up the phone.

 Earlier in the year I had the oportunity to go north with Jay and the kids to see my mom. I had not seen her in years and the kids have never met their Grandma (she always said she would kill me if I called her a grandma). So this years trip to Canada was the perfect time to swing by Oregon and see her. However, as the time drew near she made the excuse that she had other company coming (a cousin) and that she would not be able to entertain both of us. O.k...fine...so much for all the emotional badgering to see you done up until this point, clearly you don't really want to see us...or at least dont want to see the reality of your son, his husband, and their adopted children. Perhaps that just too much gay to handle all at once.

So When I asked to talk to my mom this Christmas I was told that I would have to call back. My mom, her boyfriend, and my Grandma were.. "going out to dinner". Wow...guess it just couldn't wait five minutes to say Merry Christmas. I didn't call back...but part of me feels insanely guilty about it. Its been on my mind all week. Is this my wrong? Should I just suck up the fact that mom is never going to accept me or my relationship with Jay? Should I put on the fake smile and be a good son?...How did it get to this?

The history:

My Mom and Dad married early..as many people did in those days...right out of highschool. They were both still in their teens and Dad was just about to ship off to Vietnam in the Navy. I was born while he was away. From the day I was born I was always "Momma's Boy". My Dad used to scare me a little back then.  I would run and hide when he came home. But I was always close to my mom. Whenever mom was cooking I used to love being right there underfoot, asking to help. She taught me how to braid my daughters hair by first teaching me how to braid hers. Then my parents divorced and everything changed. It was like a meteor strike to our lives, making extinct all that brought happiness, goodness, and life.

My mom moved to Redding, California to be with her parents and she had primary custody of my brother and me. Mom and Dad fought bitterly for many years and often my younger brother and I got cought up in the crossfire. My mom was now a single parent with two boys that didn't have the foggiest clue why their parents couldn't be together. It is understating it to say it was a strain on all of us.

The first real cracks in my relationship with my mom began to show during that time. I was horribly bullied for most/all of my school years. I looked younger than other kids my age, and I was so skinny you could slide me through a closed door. I was a  natural target...but thats a larger story that doesn't belong here.

 I remember one day, riding home on the bus from junior high, My backpack must have been partially unzipped and the kids sitting behind me got my gym sweats and other things and begain throwing them around the bus and laughing at me(lots of faggot jokes back then whehter you were gay or not).  I couldn't get anything back and had to get off the bus. I was burning with shame on the rest of the walk home. Those were times when I wanted to be anyone but me...I would have turned my hair blond, my eyes blue, I wished for something that would make people like me...instead I hated myself and I was filled with silent rage at everyone around me.

My mom had been dealing with this throughout my elementary school years...and looking back now I can see that she had no skills to deal with it. I was terrified to go to school and she didn't know how to fix it...so she went the opposite way with it, ignore it and hope it fixes itself.....I came home that day, shattered and in tears, to find her sunbathing in the back yard of the little duplex in which we lived. I told her everything that happened and waited for some kind of response. What I got was "you need to deal with it". ....Thats when I realized mom would not be there for me anymore.

I did eventually learn how to deal with it...many, many hard years later. It was a long hard path too learn to like who I am..as I am. as a consequence,  I won't let my son go through that, if I can spare him. At the very least I won't let him go through it alone.

Fast forward to adulthood and finding confidence in being gay... I finally got up the nerve to come out to my family. Which is always the hardest thing to do. I went up to Redding and stayed a couple of days with my mom and one night I was sitting by her bed while she was reading and got the nerve to let it come out. I gave the impassioned speach about how I wasn't doing this to hurt her, that I was sure of what I was doing, and that the reason that I was telling her was because I loved her and I wanted her to know the truth.....What followed was silence. No fit of rage...no tears or hugs...just the deepest silence that has ever been. finally I had to break the silence and ask her what her feelings where about it. Thats when she replied, "You know I love you, but I am just sorry because you are going to hell". I stammered on for a while after but that comment kind of killed any bond that could have proceded out of that moment and has defined my relationship with my mom since.

So when I write that gay people often don't have the support of their families and have to make their own...this is why I feel that way. My story is a very mild one. I have heard far worse.

I still miss my mom. Most of us only ever get one. While many people have been "moms" to me over the years I still wish my relationship with my mother could have been different and I often spin scenarios in my head about the "what ifs". What if my parents hadn't divorced...What if I wasn't gay, etc....its all useless mental gymnastics that does nothing to change the way things are.

I have tried many times to reach out to my mom over the years but our conversations always come back to how mad she is at what happened during the divorce years. Its frustrating becauw we can't turn back that clock. None of us can change that time and I wouldn't now even if I could. My mom has written to my brother suggesting that he "kidnap me" to get me away from the evil influences that are making me think I'm gay....sorry ma, no reparative therapy for me thank you very much. And what will happen one day when she is no longer able to take care of herself...or doesn't have the money to? She's done alot to push away my straight brother too...both our spouses are not to  keen on taking mom in after all that has been said and done.

So....the unreturned Christmas call still lingers in my thoughts and reminds me of all that has gone wrong. How do I make this right? Can I?...Should I?...I don't have any answers for this yet. Its one of those things that I have to trust to GOD and that one day the answer will be clear...even if I don't like what I face.

Bryan

16 comments:

  1. I have no experience in dealing with parents who know about me, so it's hard to say anything. But you, Bryan, made me really think whether I should ever tell my parents about my homosexuality. Maybe, just like Brian Kinney from “Queer as Folk,” I should never tell them, spare them the embarrassment and maybe still have some kind of a relationship with them...

    My plan was to leave Russia, move some place else, preferably to Canada, and tell them before leaving, tell them the reason I leave and explain that this would be better for them not to have me around. This way I'll get to live my life the way I always wanted, and they won't have to deal with everyone else who might accidentally find out about me... I wanted them to lie that I left because of some great job opportunity overseas, a chance to see the world and make some coins. Whatever floats their boat. But maybe it's not such a good idea after all.

    We always say that coming out is important, even if some people are not ready to accept us, and will never be ready. I always believed it's true, the only way we can change the world in our favor is by coming out to everyone to let them see that we are normal people, and so we deserve to be treated as such.

    I wonder if your mother wishes you'd never tell about you? I wonder if she'd prefer to close her eyes on any signs and just stay in the dark, just because she thinks homosexuality is that dark road to hell? What do you think? Would you let her live pretending that she doesn't know and you pretending that you're not gay? Would you like to have that kind of relationship over nothing that you have now? What should we do with our parents, if we know that their reaction is gonna be the worst possible?

    I didn't want to pretend because I don't believe this is something I should be ashamed of. It wasn't so easy for many of us to get to that point where we finally accept ourselves as gays — even this takes a lot of courage and soul-searching. And we're talking about ourselves, the closest people to us, the only ones who can really, truly understand us to the letter. Even we have our doubts. How can we expect that someone else, who can never level with us, is capable to comprehend and accept?

    But most importantly, Bryan, I think your homosexuality has not so much to do with your mother's reluctance to accept you. You said yourself that it all started long before you realized you're gay. You drifted apart, she distanced herself, she wasn't there for you, she didn't even try, and she pushed away her other son, the straight one. And now she acts like you're the one who did something bad, when in fact she's the one who wasn't a good parent. I'm afraid she uses your homosexuality as an excuse to stay away from you; maybe because she doesn't really care about you, but maybe because now, years later, she finally realized all her mistakes and wrongdoings by you and she's ashamed of herself, not of you being gay.

    If she doesn't care — she's just that kind of people who simply like to be on their own, away from people, but they still have to respect the rules of society, that's why they fake it — stay in touch with people they have no obvious problems with (like your grandmother), just because if you actually drive everyone away you'll be perceived as an outsider, a looser — that these people don't want.

    If she's ashamed of her mistakes — she keeps her distance because she doesn't want you to know that she's ashamed, doesn't want your pity or understanding, only wants to be always guilty, so she punishes herself by letting you think whatever you think of her, just not the truth.

    Anyway, it is obvious that something terrible happened in her life, something that made her this way. Probably, it was a painful divorce after a married life which was nothing like she dreamed about in her childhood, and when her dreams were crushed, so was she.

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  2. Bryan,

    My suggestion is to let go of expectations and only hold onto hope. Constantly going to a well that is dry will only leave you frustrated.

    You've done all you can for as much as she will allow. Release any guilt, for it is not yours, nor you responsibility to resolve the situation. Set aside perhaps a day or two a year to try and reach out to her (Christmas, her birthday) with no expectations and only with the hope that one day she'll come around.

    Good luck,
    -Jeff

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  3. This is going to be hard for you to read, but take a breath before you read the rest. It can't be just you who wants to repair your relationship, it will take her cooperation also. And, you could blame your being gay on the failed relationship, but that would be false. You said, she has also pushed way your brother, and he is straight, so see?

    I wonder if the failed marriage, just was to much for her to deal with. And every time she looks at her two sons, she doesn't see her sons, but her failure as a wife.... And it is just easier to block everything out, even though she is abandoning her own children to the wilds of why won't my mom love me.

    It is hella hard to loose a parent, and not to death, but because they have pushed you out of their lives. So, now your job is to figure out how to work this non-relationship, that will allow you not to hurt, and burn you in the middle of the night. Would cutting off all contact feel better? Not being shown how little you mean to her, would lessen one pain, but could it cause a new different pain? Meeting with her, calling her, without mention of your husband, and children, if that is more acceptable to her, but that would hurt you also.

    You are not alone in this! Go hug your husband and let him make it better. See, you are loved! And vow to never treat your children the same. Even little things like that can make our hearts lighter.

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  4. @K!r!lleXXI

    No matter how my mom reacted I am still glad I came out to her because now I do so on my own terms. There is no way I could have hid my life from her...nor would I want to. As it is, she has discovered us on Youtube without my telling her we did that. Life has a way of outing you whether you want to or not.

    Plus, I believe that Gay kids are often born into the families that need them the most. Has anyone else noticed this? The most homophobic families always have atleast one or two gay family members. I think we are meant to be thier window into a broader life perspective. If we deny them that..they may never learn to see the world through more tolerant eyes. Don't seny your parents the chance to become your greatest allies just because your afraid of what they MIGHT say.

    My mom did what she could for us. I can't call her a bad mom. I think she was woefully unprepared for what happened to all of us...and I could see myself doing many of the things my parents did to me..so its hard for me to look back in time and point fingers...especially knowing what it feels like to be the parent now.

    @Hayofray

    I wish I could look at it in that way but I have a really hard time with it. for the same reasons I just stated to lexxi

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  5. @Bryan

    Well, of course, for you it would be harder to hide it, considering you're married and all over the internet now.

    That's an interesting theory about gay kids in families that need us most. I would be the most unreliable witness to that. I can only talk about my family. Anyways, in Russian reality it just doesn't work for now, not for another 20 years or so. But if we were an American family... it could work.

    I have to think really carefully about whether to come out to them or not. On the one hand, I have this nagging feeling that someone has to begin this process... why not me? People have to begin coming out, the discussion in the society has to begin somehow. On the other hand, it's not gonna do any good because it won't be accepted at all. It's like USA in 1960s here.

    I'm sorry, it didn't come out right: I didn't mean to say that you have a bad mother, just not prepared, not ready enough to see when her help as a mentor, a guide was needed the most. I understand you because my parents are exactly the same way: they got married because people are supposed to be married, they got kids because people are supposed to have kids, and they expected that kids are the flowers of life, but the fragrance of those "flowers" turned out to be the stench of dirty diapers... like I said, dreams were crushed... and there they were — not knowing why the hell they had kids and why the hell they got married in the first place. My parents distanced themselves from me a long time ago, I think since I was still in preschool... They never checked if I do my homework, never tried to get me do anything like sports or music. They just did the required minimum. I know, it's a lot, it's a lot of things to take care of. But that's not what a kid needs! He needs attention, he needs you to be there, to take interest in his life. If there isn't any — that's what I call bad parenting. Some may say that I turned out just fine... well, no thanks to my parents. Being unprepared for the job is not an excuse. I know, I have no right to judge, I'm not a parent like yourself. But this is the standard I set for myself as (hopefully) a future parent. I learned from my parents' mistakes, and I'm gonna do everything not to repeat them.

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  6. Bryan, as much as I hate to say it, maybe it's time to just move on. We all have families that either accept us or shame us for whatever reasons and unfortunately, we don't get to pick which. The good thing is that you have a family of your own now and so you can look back at what your parents did and become a better parent for your own children so what happened to you, doesn't happen to them.

    Making that decision as to wether to continue reaching out is something only you can decide and only you will know what is right for you. It's a decision that some of us have to make (including me) but think of what good could come out it. You have obviously tried to reach out to her and evidently it's not time for her to accept. There is a quote Oprah once said..."Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough."

    So with that being said, just remember that you have a great husband, 2 wonderful kids and that is a whole lot more than most of us. Perhaps it just wasn't in the cards for your mom to come around and be the mom you wanted but you can be that 'mom' to Daniel and Selena. They are so very lucky to have you and Jay as parents!

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  7. @Bryan...

    I´m so sorry bry, i really do. I´m lucky enough to have a good relation with my mother, she accepted me, she was happy i came out, she had known for a time my sister told me.

    Now... I do have a crappy relationship with my father. K!r!lleXXI said
    " My parents distanced themselves from me a long time ago, I think since I was still in preschool... They never checked if I do my homework, never tried to get me do anything like sports or music. They just did the required minimum"
    Just add, He only thinks money is a good substitute to love.

    I want to ask you something, not the best question ever, specialy with all the nice post above me.
    Have you let your anger go? I mean. i have to be angry, have shouted " Fuck you?" and all the bad words?
    Why do I ask? I think is the first step to full forgivness ( is that even a word? i suck at grammar) You need all the anger go. I actually think that sometime in the future I can pass my anger, right now i can´t ( I´m still 20) I know he loves me, and I think i love him, but i´m not really sure. i respect him, his work ethics and life choices, love.. not su much.


    I feel sadness in your post. but i also feel a little bit of anger. I think you need to let go of both. next time you have time ( some where between, highschool and collague XD) go to a park, in the middle of the night, go to your back yard. And shout the fuck off to the sky. cry, and as you say, wirte, a letter,talk to her, even if you don´t send it... Zod knows that helped me.

    Just my two cents. See you all in hell ^^


    (C´mon if we are going, a big IF, just think in all the gay sex you can have down there)

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  8. I don't think you should feel guilty for not calling back.

    I think it is a sad indictment of a society when total rejection of your own children is considered less morally repugnant that a gay child. Something has gone really wrong :(

    You said you had heard worse stories about coming out but I never have. Yours and Jay's are the saddest I have heard by a long way and that is why I think it is so good that you ate the shovel of shit life served you and created your own family and happy life out of it.

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  9. I can see my relationship with my dad going the same way yours is with my mom. Ever since I came out to him, he's been distant and dismissive. It's gotten to be painful being around him sometimes. As much as I think my life would be easier if I cut him out of my life, like it looks like he wants, itz's really hard to actually do. I mean, he's my dad. I can't help but keep trying even though I get hurt every time.

    I don't think it's great advice, but not trying to connect with your mom will probably be harder than you want it to be. And that pretty much sucks.

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  10. KENNY IN SAN ANTONIODecember 29, 2009 at 6:56 AM

    Dear Bryan,
    This entry was very insightful into the person you are. You are a wonderful father and a great husband. Your family and marriage is the kind others wish they could have. You have someone that loves you and that you are married to. You have two wonderful children that have a great father.

    When it comes to family. the only thing you can do is leave the door open and the lines of communication on for her to reach out. It seems to me that you have gone up and beyond with trying to reach out and unite the family with her. Sometimes that is all we can do and it is up to the other person to respond. She may later in life and unfortunately she may never. (As you know that comes through my life experience) BUT, you must also remember you are a dear kind gently and wonderful person and anyone that is lucky enough to have you as a friend, father or husband is truly blessed.

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  11. Wagun said

    Dear Bryan,

    I believe "a tigress never eats its own cubs"( Chinese proverb), no parents "intentionally" harm their own children. But two persons may have different thinking because of their distinct personality or background. That can pull persons even in very close relationship apart.

    Let me tell you my non-gay experience between me and my mom which I'll never forget. Well, I am fruit-phobia. I was scare of fruit and never touched them for over twenties years. It was because my mom has no longer feed me fruit after I had serious diarrhea since my babyhood. Few years ago, doctors said that my body was shortage of vitamin and it possibly weaken my immune system. My mom was so worried about me as the world at the time was alerted with SARS and chicken flu. So, she pleaded with me to eat fruit again. I disagreed with her. Let's put the argument part aside. My mom came up with an idea that she mixed some fruit in family meal without telling me. "Unfortunately", I can smell it and asked my mom. She guaranteed me no fruit in meal. I suspiciously ate and very angrily puked it out after assure there was a small piece of jack-fruit. I shouted at her that " You dont love me. You wanna kill me ?" Those were the most regretful sentences I have ever spoken. She softly asked me to sit down and silently went to cook another meal for me. Meanwhile, my sister was eating the fruit-meal deliciously. I followed her to the kitchen to make sure she would not put another fruit. I saw tears in her eyes. In that moment, I feel very regretful and guilty. I stepped close to her, said sorry and asked why she was crying. She shed her tears and said that she wasnt crying, the tears came out because of using too much black peppers. Honestly, I feel very relief at that moment because I didnt make mom cry. Of course, now I know what really happened. I told her I really cant eat fruit. She just nodded.

    If you think she gave up, you are wrong. She have read more research on internet and found some way to put fruit in my mouth. She did it. Now I can drink three fruit related things which are orange juice, lemon juice, and the most delicious one, papaya milk shake. If you are interested in how she did that, let me know, I will narrate every details in those three "legends".

    That was my whole story. I always talked to myself that the way we think may be different but it definitely can be changed. The only thing that never alternate to me is mother's love.

    Keep taking care of each other is my advise, so if I were you, I would have called back ...

    I hope your relationship with your mom will be better in the future. I wish one day I would hear this good news from you on Youtube.

    Take care
    From Singapore with love :D

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  12. This was so hard to read, knowing how close I am to my parents. Despite their reaction of horror when finding out that I was gay (I didn't tell them...They found a gay book in my room when getting my laundry), my parents have always been very loving and haven't tried to change me from being gay. When I was with my now-ex, they treated him very nicely and invited him with me for holidays. (Most of the time, it was he that turned down the invites on his behalf and I went alone.) Nowadays my sexuality isn't discussed, but it isn't hidden either and they continue to love me and be very connected in my life. I can't even imagine being without them, and feel so sad for all of those (like yourself) who are not having that unconditional love to support you.

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  13. @everyone

    Thanks for the love and encouragement! :)

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  14. Hey Bryan just saw this entry now. It made me so sad. You're life seems so great it's sort of hard to picture that you've had to deal with this other situation. I think Hayofray and everybody else's advice is great but I definitely understand that it's one of those easier said than done type things. It's such an emotional subject you almost can't help but have expectations or have intense feelings about it. I can only hope things work out for you. Thank you for sharing this with us.

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  15. Bryan I also have a very terse relationship with my mum...some days I find it very hard to have a civil conversation with her & it goes back to my childhood and the lack of love I felt from her. When I got pregnant in my early 20's, unmarried she all but cut me out of her life.. I had a hard pregnancy and I was in labour before she started talking to me, and then there was all the advice that was dump on me and expected to do without questioning her, that went on for years until I now I listen and very politely tell her thanks but I doing it this way. But having said that mum and I still dont relate very well I still find it hard being around her for any length of time, as she is still very critical in her views with me ... Now Im at the stage I accept that from her but I limit my time that I spend with her...
    any hoo Bryan you have turn out an amazing man and you have an amazing family I wont give advice to you on how to deal with your mum as she is YOUR mum not mine...and I think how you deal with her is right for you and only you..
    Bella

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