Empowering doesn’t even begin to describe it.
When I was 11 years old, a spark went off in my mind.
I don’t know whether it was the fact I’d only seen my mother – who’d been divorced from my violent father since I was four – go on a total of two dates, or whether a line from Friends sent the thought scattering through my brain; all I know for sure is, I often felt a deep sadness reverberating through the woman I truly believe to be my soulmate.
One night, I decided to address the issue. I psyched myself up with a good old pep talk, and went into her room, where she was laying on her bed reading a book. I sat down next to her and lay my head on her shoulder. She stroked my face with the hand closest to me; it’s always been such a comforting touch. I can’t recall one time I didn’t feel safe when I was in my mother’s company, and I’d decided then and there she should always feel the same with me.
“Mom… If you ever need to talk to me about anything, you know you can, right?”
“What do you mean, sweetie?”
I looked away, then looked back, lifted my index finger and left the room. The easiest way to broach such a sensitive topic was to bring in a third party – and that third party was going to be my uncle, my mother’s gay younger brother who’d come out a few years earlier. I took a framed photo of him back to my mother’s bedroom.
“With my uncle, for example, he loves men, and that doesn’t matter. I mean, it does matter because that’s what makes him happy, but it will never change how much we love him.”
She burst into tears, we hugged and she whispered “Thank you”. The words sent chills down my spine but warmth through my soul.
It breaks my heart that she was just going to go on living a lie for the sake of keeping the people around her comfortable.
Sure, she was afraid her three school-aged children would “get bullied about it” and feared her Catholic parents would have a heart attack if they found out another one of their children was gay, but I think what would’ve been worse was if I lost her to the façade she was trying to uphold or, even worse, suicide. Coming out is obviously not easy, and it scares me that it’s still such a taboo topic.
I would like to speak directly to my gay readers right now. If you have not yet come out of the closet, it’s time (there are plenty of fun ways to do so). The only way we’re going to loosen the stigma is if we make your everyday life part of everyday life. I can’t promise everything will pan out perfectly; when my mother came out to the rest of our family, we were banned from celebrating Christmas with them until my grandparents learnt their lack of acceptance was going to make them lose contact with the grandchildren they thought they were protecting by rejecting the facts.
Catholics are funny – they’re taught that judging others is a sin, yet they’re often the first ones to condemn. What I’m getting at, is that you will need to love the people who accept you for who you are and forget about those who don’t.
As long as you’ve got life, you’ve got hope. The world is full of cruel people – some we love, others we’ve never personally met. They will say things to make you feel as though your life is not worth living, like you’re doing something wrong even though you were born this way. Please don’t give up. Believe in yourself and take the high road; don’t judge them for their lack of education and compassion, just know in yourself that you are living the best life you know how.
Thankfully my mother has us – her three adoring children, and now a beautiful wife – who all love her just the way she is. I was the first person my mother came out to, and I still remember it to be one of the most incredible moments of my life. Don’t be afraid to share that moment with someone you love. Every now and then she tears up and thanks me for giving her an out. I simply remind her all that ever matters to me is that she’s happy.
Comment: Has anybody ever come out to you? How did it make you feel?
SHESAID's own Carrie Bradshaw, Arie is all about love, sex and crazy #lifegoals. Though she currently lives in Sydney, she feels most at home in New York City – and will sleep with whoever she needs to to get there. Follow Arie on Twitter.