I’m a Chinese American and mother of a gay son. When my fellow Marylanders go to the polls this November to vote on the issue of same-sex marriage, I hope they’ll keep the story of my son in mind.
He was born in San Francisco. He was a sweet and sensitive child who loved to sing. I considered myself lucky that he wasn’t rambunctious. He didn’t play rough, skin his knees or break bones. Because of his pretty face and mild manners, people often mistook him for a girl.
When he was about nine, I took him on a trip to China. He ran ahead of me while we were climbing the Great Wall. I saw from a distance a group of Chinese women approach him. They said something to him and burst into laughter. I ran to his rescue. The women told me that they asked him if he was a boy or a girl, and he replied, “I don’t know.” In preparation for our trip, I’d taught him a few survival phrases in Chinese. “I don’t know” was one of them.
In high school, he carried on with his musical streak. He played the piano and sang and wrote his own songs. Girls flocked to him. He brought home his first girlfriend in 10th grade. She lasted about a month. A string of girlfriends followed, none lasting more than a few months. The trend continued into college. I was getting worried that my son was the kind of guy who couldn’t maintain an intimate relationship.
He came out of the gay closet when he was 23. He’d just come home after a year of working overseas. Actually I uncovered the secret. (It was sneaky of me, but a mother will do anything when she suspects her child is in trouble). When he confirmed my suspicion, I was devastated and went crying to my sister, a psychologist. Her first reaction was, “You mean you didn’t know?” To her, the signs were obvious, and she believed that her nephew was just born that way.
I blamed myself. I thought if I hadn’t divorced my son’s father, this wouldn’t have happened. I beat myself up for about a year until I realized the changes in my son. He’d always been rather closed up, like a bud that refused to open. He blossomed after he came out of the dark. He became happy and eventually settled with a fine young man that would make any mother-in-law proud. They got married in Canada because the state they lived in didn’t recognize same-sex marriage. They recently adopted a baby girl from a poor family that can’t afford to raise another child. My son-in-law is a pediatrician and my son, a high school music teacher, has quit his job to be a stay-at-home dad. My little granddaughter is adorable and happily doted on by her daddies and grandparents.
I’ve been open about my son’s homosexuality with everyone except my parents. I thought people in their 80s were too rigid to accept new ideas. I was wrong. Although nobody ever told them, my parents knew that their grandson’s “roommate” wasn’t just a roommate. On one visit, Mom pulled my son aside and said, “It doesn’t matter who you love, man or woman. As long as you love each other and are happy together, that’s all that matters.”
When voters go to the polls, I beg them to remember that my son and his family are valued members of society. They only want to live fulfilling lives and enjoy equal protection of the law.