Mother of a Gay Son
Robert & Lani Graves
By Lanette Graves
Affinity, 19:7 [July 1997]
On October 15, 1971, a boy was born. No book or childbirth class can adequately prepare a woman for the reality of the struggle of childbirth, but I was surrounded and supported by skilled doctors and nurses. "Just one more time; one more push," they encouraged me, and then ...he was born. The sweat and the blood and the pain were instantly forgotten in the wonder of this child, the miracle of his coming into my life. As I caressed his tiny fingers and toes in the moment after his birth, how could I know that one day I would give birth to this child a second time.
"Mom, have you ever wondered if I might be gay?" A moment frozen in time. He had planned it so differently, I would come to find out, even thinking he would call my best fiend and come out to her first so she could be a support to me. But there it was. The words hanging in the air, unplanned, but needing to be uttered. Pregnant pause, (If I told the truth that once or twice I had "wondered" but dismissed the thought, would I confirm his uncertainty about himself? Would he then become gay? "Dear God," I silently prayed, "give me the right thing to say here." —Let him talk, let his words be spoken, came the answer.) Breaking the silence I said, "Have you ever wondered if you might be gay?"
He no longer wondered. He knew. The words and the tears came gushing out. The story of his pleas and promises to God that he would be the best son, the best brother, the best friend if only he could be "normal." The story of his priest quorum advisor's lurid tales of homosexuality and the assertion the "gays are filth and scum...lower than animals," and should be reported to the bishop, if suspected. The story of his mighty struggle against feelings that refused to go away. The story of his survival, of his coming to accept that be was, indeed, gay. —I listened from a faraway place.— Like an out-of-body experience, I observed myself listening to my son, observed myself having this experience, observed with pre-reflective awareness that life had just changed radically and irrevocably.
"You're not crying, Mom" my gay son said. I would need to cry, I told him, but not yet. I just needed to try to think. I told him I loved him. That, at least, would never change. I went ahead with preparations for a weekend trip with my husband Robert, astonished to see that my hands could remember how to do normal things—cook dinner, pack a suitcase without any conscious direction from me. My consciousness was inundated, overwhelmed with the task of trying to process thought, a battleground between calmness and raging, rampaging emotion. And from faraway the thought, "Is this happening to me? To my family? To my son?"
As we drove away from the house, I finally cried. Not with just my eyes and face, but with my entire body. A keening cry of the broken heart. I grieved over what my son had already suffered and grieved still more about the hard life he would face. I grieved over the loss of the wife and children he would never have. I wrapped my arms around myself and rocked in pain. Contractions of the soul. And there was no one to deliver me.
Watching me cry in a way he had never before see, Robert was confused and even afraid. I could not speak to answer his questions. Trying to imagine the worst thing that might have happened, he asked, "Are You having an affair?" If only it were that simple, I thought, for then the hurt would be ours and not Kerry's. Finally, I had to make myself say the words: "I have something to tell you that's going to be hard ... Kerry told me he's gay." Almost immediately, Robert turned off the highway into a shopping center and when I asked what he was doing, his response was that he needed to find a phone; he didn't want Kerry to worry even another minute about what his father's response was going to be. I listened as he spoke loving words of comfort and reassurance to our son. (From his "diversity training" in the workplace at AT&T, Robert already understood that homosexuality is a fixed trait.) His words comforted and reassured me, too. I will always love and admire Robert for that telephone call, and for his unconditional love of our son.
There was never a question of "accepting" Kerry. It never entered my mind that there was any alternative to continue loving him as I always had. But the anguish I felt over what his life had been, and what I though it would be in the future, continued unabated. For about three weeks, I barely ate or slept. My body hurt intensely —the physical manifestation of the sorrow of my soul. Finally, in the middle of the night as I sat on my bathroom floor in the dark, this "second labor and delivery" came to an end. Feeling that I had reached the extremity of an unbearable sorrow, I looked up at the night light that shone in the darkness, and the words of Jesus came into my mind: "He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." Blessed peace replaced the pain. My mind was filled with what can best be described as intense clarity of though —God's answer to my prayer— "This is your child. This is who he is. Love him fiercely. Make sure he always knows that his homosexuality does not shut him out from God or moral goodness. Work to make sure there is always a place at the table for him. Make the world a better place for him and for others like him."
Just as I marveled over him in the moment of his physical birth twenty years before, in receiving an answer from God I could rejoice in "giving birth" to an understanding of who he truly is and what he may became. I thank God for the blessing of having a gay son; I am a better person because of it.