My daughter came out to me recently. She waited 23 years to tell me. I can only imagine that those twenty-three years were very long for her.
This is my narrative. I certainly can't speak for my daughter. I have no idea what she went through or how she felt those twenty three years. But this I know - she is brave beyond any bravery that I could ever imagine.
I learned so much from my daughter the day she came out.
I have always had a hunch she is gay. Call it a Mama's intuition. But I never asked her about it because I worried that asking her about something that may not be true might hurt her. Now I wonder if I should've asked her.
A couple of months ago I knew it was time to address it. To ask her. To find out. To be there for her. I sent emails to my lesbian friends and asked them for advice. Every one of them took the issue to heart and told me how they thought I should move forward. In all of my email responses there was one general consensus, they all thought I should talk with her about the sweet young woman she was very close to.
So, I did. I asked her. She came out to me. She cried. I cried. I looked into her eyes and saw my baby. My little girl. My little girl who had kept who she was and who she loved all to herself.
I asked her why she hadn't told me earlier. Her reply shocked me. She told me she didn't think I would love her if I knew who she was. Me? Her Mama? A progressive, liberal, educated woman? I wouldn't love her? My heart sank. But not because my fabulous daughter is gay. It sank because I instantly knew that I had failed her. It doesn't matter how or when or why I failed her. I just did. My daughter thought I would pull my love, and my support, from her because she is gay.
This fear that she had is not an unreasonable one. Her friends, and some of my friends, had suffered horrible consequences when they came out. They had been physically assaulted, thrown from homes and chastised by the people they were closest to.
When your child tells you they are gay, your brain moves at lightening speed and you become inundated with questions that instantly overwhelm every sense in your being. Why? When? How long? And, fear. I did not fear my daughter. I instantly feared those who feared her.
The very first thing that entered my brain when my daughter told me she is gay was a mental image of Mathew Shepard hanging on a fence post, alone. My maternal instincts grew ten fold that moment. But how does a Mama protect her adult child from bigots and homophobes?
She can't. I can't. But, I can support strong legislation that gives my daughter the same civil rights as every other American. From housing equality and safety in the work place to the ability to marry who she chooses when she chooses, it is my job to educate and be an activist for her - with her.
Recently Judge Alan Malott, in my home city, issued a ruling that allows county clerks in New Mexico to issue marriage certificates for same sex couples. This ruling gives my daughter the right to pursue her happiness. It gives her the legitimacy that she deserves.
After all, nothing has changed since she came out. She is still my fabulous daughter who used to watch the rainbows in her eye lashes on the soccer field.
This Mama has her daughter's back.