My parents divorced when I was 5. Afterwards, my mother fell in love with, and moved in with a woman. Needless to say, things changed quite a bit, and I haven’t ever written about it publicly.
I was in elementary school when the phrase, “That’s so gay,” came to fruition. I remember kids saying it, and a little piece of me died each time. I kept thinking, “They’re talking about my mother. They’re saying she’s bad.” It was awful. The first person I uttered a word to about my mother was my best friend at the time, Jenna. We were in the girls’ bathroom, and I just suddenly said: “My mom is living with a woman.” I don’t think my friend understood, because I felt she was almost too kind to me about it. I half expected her to make fun of me or run away.
I don’t remember exactly how my mother introduced her partner to my brother and I. I do remember being quite young and not understanding what it all meant. It didn’t seem “unnatural” to me, but it was certainly unfamiliar to me. It was my first foray into lesbian studies.
I hated my mother’s partner. She was rude, self-involved, angry, and unkind. For years, I wondered whether my own small traces of homophobia were the reason for this hatred, but I came to the conclusion that, no, it was because she truly was awful. Thankfully, my mother realized it (eventually). I remember my mother’s partner had the Rosie the Riveter “We Can Do It” poster in our kitchen, and since then, it has taken me a long time to enjoy that image, as I always associated it with my mother’s old partner. I’ve come a long way, because I used to despise that poster.
After (barely) telling my best friend in elementary school about my new home life, I didn’t tell anyone else until college. It was hard to keep a secret like that. I know my mother wouldn’t have minded me telling people, but I knew what the consequences would be–or so I thought. I knew kids would say, “Oooh, Lachrista’s mom is a LESBIAN that means Lachrista is a lesbian!” My 12-year-old self was not willing to take this on (of course, I’m much older and wiser now, so I wouldn’t be so concerned with receiving this labeling). I felt very protective of my mom (still do), and I didn’t want anyone to hurt her or say mean things about her. I knew (and know) that she was/is a great person. I remember hearing some kid talking about how gay people are “going to hell” and I went home crying. Kids are assholes.
Sure, my mother raised me to be a feminist (she took me to my first gay pride march when I was in preschool), but I was still sorting it all out for myself. How was I supposed to be okay with people in my white, upper-class middle school/high school knowing about my mother’s personal life, especially when these were the kids who basically started the whole “That’s so gay” thing?
I remember the first time I told my two best friends, Margie and Anju. It was the summer before I started college. My mother and her partner had been broken up for years. My friends and I were sitting by one of the fountains in downtown Madison. Something inside me told me I was safe enough to tell them. I said, “So, my mom was a lesbian for a while”–trying to make light of it all. They were both very surprised, but were so supportive. They asked me all about it, and it felt good to talk about it for once. Previously, I had only ever talked to my therapist about it.
After I told Anju and Margie, it was like the flood gates had opened–I started telling everyone I was close with. I finally had the attitude of, “If these people don’t want to be friends with me because of this, then fuck them.” It was so refreshing and exhilarating!
Now I have no problem whatsoever speaking about it. It’s a part of my past. When I’m dating, a big part of how I gauge whether I want to be with the guy is how they react to this story. If they show any traces of homophobia, etc., we’re done. I mean, shit, my mother is my MOTHER. She is one of the most bad-ass women I know, and people are lucky to know her.
Love is love, damnit.
*My mother now self-identifies as “flexible.”
This piece originally appeared on http://lachristagreco.com/.