This is How Mom Came Out

2001

I’m standing in my parents’ garage and my mom tells me she’s gay.  Her face is red and she’s laughing, which is what happens when she’s nervous or drunk.  It’s obvious she’s both.  She’s talking a mile a minute, but I don’t hear a word.  “I’m gay!” just keeps repeating in my head.

This can’t be how she planned to tell me.  When it’s cold outside, sometimes the garage is where we take the dog to poop.  It’s Kansas City, the day after Thanksgiving, so it stinks.

Other words start filtering in, words like, “I wanted to tell you,” and “I’m still your mother,” and “One time I tried cocaine.”  It’s a floodgate and she’s rattling off every secret she’s had since grade school.

She says she’s been attracted to girls since she was thirteen, that she fantasizes about women at work.

I feel woozy.

My mom starts crying.  “I just can’t keep sleeping in the same bed with him.”

“Dad knows?”

“Of course.”

She says she told him the truth years ago, that they’ve been staying together until my sister finishes high school.  My parents have been married for a quarter-century and they’re still sleeping in the same bed

I hear my buddies outside the garage yelling for me to get my ass out there.  It’s my last night in town.  I head back to L.A. in the morning.  I’m twenty-two years old, but right now, I feel like a child.  Someone starts banging on the garage door.

“So what do you think?” my mom asks.

“About what?”

“About what I just told you?”

“I don’t know… Are you really gay?”

My mom covers her face.  “You hate me!”

“What?  No.”

My father comes in and wants to know what the hell all this racket is.  He hits the button and the garage door crungles up.  My buddies stop punching each other in the arms at the sight of my father.

“Mr. Szpak,” one of them says.

My mom pulls me to the side and says, “We should keep talking.”  She’s trying to whisper, but the booze has removed that particular skill.

My father can tell my mom’s been sharing.

“What did you say to him?” he asks.

“The truth.”

“I thought we discussed that you wouldn’t say—“

“You can’t tell me what to say!”

My buddies pull me towards the car.  It’s like an undertow, but I don’t fight.  I just let them drag me away.  My father’s leading my mom towards the house.

“Get your hands off me,” my mom says.  She runs over.  “Where are you going, Anthony?”

“Strip club,” one of my buddies slurs.

My mom’s eyes widen.

Another friend starts to say it was just a joke, but my mom cuts him off—

“Can I come?”

My father forces a laugh.  “All right, let’s go back inside, Kathy.”

“Come on, Anthony, it’ll be fun,” my mom says.

There are moments in every child’s life, which cause parts of the brain to fizzle and burn.

My buddies give my mom a hug and say that’s why they love her.  She’s so cool, they tell her.

My father finally corrals my mom.  She knows not to push it, because she’s staring into my eyes.

I’m crammed in between two guys who played on our high school football team.  Someone hands me a beer as we drive off.  I watch my father finally get my mom back inside.  The garage door closes.

Boy Scouts Might Let Gay Kids Wear Sashes and Neckerchiefs

Today I read the Boy Scouts of America might lift their national ban on homosexuals.  Individual troops will still be free to discriminate against gay children, but there will no longer be a national policy.  As a boy I was forced to join this weird organization, where I learned to sew, wear sashes, and lie about helping old ladies in order to earn a badge.   I have no idea why anyone would want to be a member of this peculiar group, but this news makes me smile.

For thousands of years, to openly admit you were gay risked not only your standing in the community, but often your life.  You were either strung up, shunned, ridiculed, or simply cast off.  But things are shifting.  The Internet allows millions to mobilize at the first sign of bigotry.  Companies and CEOs are realizing they cannot survive if they publicly discriminate.  There will be backlash.  They’ll lose sponsors, customers, and the almighty coin.

Obviously, we still have a long way to go, but this is progress.  This is change.  In modern America, you can be openly gay, but you can no longer be an open bigot.

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Varying Degrees of Gay – Part 2

There are very good psychiatrists in this country.  Men and women who simply want to help, to quiet the voices, to bring peace to the troubled mind.  At the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find a pool of scumbags and scoundrels so vile they should be listed as Enemies of the State.  These are monsters who prey on the weakest, the most fragile; they twist everything, because they need someone to hang on their every word.  They have no friends, and in all likelihood, they were peed on in high school.

In between, you’ll find ones who just want to be called, “Doctor,” the people who only do it for the money and prestige.  You also have folk who want to help the injured, but they’re too squeamish for surgery. Then you have physicians who used to be good, but the stacks of the failed cases and bottles of booze simply scraped out their ability to care.

The psychiatrist my father took me to would best be described as “clueless” and “confused.”  He was well-meaning and he had a good heart, but that only made him more dangerous, especially to my father.

This doctor’s office was near my old high school, and as we passed by the football field and campus, I remembered all the father/son fights we’d had during those turbulent years.  We should have been in therapy then.  We couldn’t communicate.  We just screamed.

My father and I entered the nondescript medical building and walked up to the second floor.  Dr. Len greeted us and shook our hands.  He had a beard, thick glasses, and a soothing voice.  He was wearing a turtleneck and pants that were way too tight.

I tried not to make any judgments.  The man was helping my father to deal with the pending divorce and to move on with his life.  I needed to respect that.

My father and I sat on a small couch, while Dr. Len smiled and blinked.  My father and I were practically touching the couch was so small.

“Thank you for coming,” Dr. Len said.  He was only staring at me.  “Your father wants to see how you’re doing?”

“I’m…fine.”

Fine, okay…okay… What do you mean by that?”

I suddenly realized this wasn’t about my dad’s progress.  This was about me.  I felt cornered.

Dr. Len sat there, smiling, blinking.  “It must have been difficult hearing your mother tell you she’s gay?”

Over the past few months, I’d been asked this question a lot, by friends, by acquaintances.  My answer came out by rote: “It was unexpected, sure.  But she’s my mom, and I love her, so I support her.”

“Of course, of course.  But how are you dealing with it?”

“Dealing with…?  I don’t know.  I’m just…dealing.  I mean, I’ve definitely asked myself if I’m gay.”

I gave a little laugh. I could feel my father’s heartbeat quicken.

I continued, “I’m just saying I’d want to know, like now, you know?  I don’t want to figure out I’m gay when I’m forty-five like my mom.”

I felt my father shifting in the seat.  I chose to stop talking.  I was actually enjoying his discomfort.  He’d ambushed me, after all.

“And…what conclusion did you come to?” Dr. Len asked.

Conclusion?”

My father was going to have a heart attack.  I thought about singing my answer.  Instead, I said, “I’m not gay.  I’ve thought about it though.  I really have, but I’m just not.”

“That’s good,” Dr. Len said.  “I mean, not that you’re not gay -  I mean, it’s good you’ve asked yourself that question.  Perfectly normal.”

“I know.”

“Well, I don’t know if you know this, but ninety percent of the population is bisexual.”

My father sat back and nodded.

“Excuse me?” I said.

“The vast majority of people are bisexual.”

“I’ve…never heard that…”

“Oh yes, all the new data proves it.”  Dr. Len brought out an image of a bell curve on this little cardboard square.  “See these ends here?  They represent the extremes.  Only five percent of the population is completely gay.  And over here, only five percent is absolutely straight.”

I looked over at my father, who was nodding along, clearly having seen this chart before.

“And the rest of the population,” Dr. Len said, “are varying degrees of gay.  See, some are more straight, while others are more gay.  And some are right in the middle.”

“I’m not sure…I mean, what?”

“Well, take me for example.”

Okay, here we go.

“I’m happily married,” Dr. Len said.  “Have been for thirty-one years.  And I love my wife.  Truly love her.  We have three kids and a very satisfying sex life.”

I noticed food stains on his turtleneck.

“And while I absolutely love my wife and find her very attractive, I also like watching track athletes.”

“…”

“Their hard muscles churning at peak physical condition…”

Dr. Len kept talking, but I stopped listening, because that’s when I noticed, over his shoulder, hanging on the wall, was a framed picture of Carl Lewis.  The Olympic champion glistening with sweat.

I don’t remember the rest of the session, but I remember the car ride home.

“Why are you seeing this guy?” I asked.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, he’s a weirdo.”

“No, he’s got some good points.”

I realized my father wasn’t trying to move on at all, and it was because of Dr. Len.  If ninety percent of the population was bisexual, then sexuality was fluid.  It gave my father this bullshit hope that my mom wasn’t really gay, that in all probability, it was just a phase.

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