It’s been said that queer folks can often be late bloomers, experiencing their adolescence later in life because of societal pressures. Some of us, though, are born exuding a level of gay that just can’t be contained. For me, I was a total gayby. I could not keep back the gay no matter how hard I tried. My small town (Ohio) parents got a front row seat to a lot of patently queer behavior that they had absolutely no frame of reference for. I found myself in chat rooms on anime websites late into the night discussing “how to be gay” with what I suspected were teenagers like me (but could have been virtually anybody)—such was the anonymity of the internet in the early 2000s. You could hide behind a screen name like Buffy_Slayer69 and enjoy the freedom to mingle with the RPG avatars du jour, exchanging the deepest secrets of your prepubescent life with total strangers between dial-up connections.
As a tween, my self-awareness was pretty low, and my self-confidence was even lower. My mom saw me piecing together the puzzle of my queerness at a time when I was working out the kinks in my representation on a level I’d rather not relive. Recently, I asked my mom if she remembered what I was like as a gayby and if she would be comfortable sitting for an interview. She generously obliged. The following is our correspondence. Enjoy!
When did you know I was queer? Did you know before I told you? Did I do any gay things?
Mom: I think probably you were a teenager when you told me but, I don’t think you said you were queer. You said you were a lesbian or you weren’t sure. I thought maybe you might be because of how often you liked playing basketball [Lol!]. But, I also thought that when you were in your pre-teens, you had a mix of friends who were girls and friends who were guys. So, I didn’t really know for sure. I just knew you didn’t like being around certain types of guys. But I just thought that that meant that you didn’t like “annoying” boys, and a lot of boys at that age are really annoying, so I didn’t think much of it.
You let me pick out a lot of my clothes, right? What did you think about my fashion choices when I was a kid?
Mom: Yes, for the most part, you got to pick out your own clothes—as long as they weren’t too expensive. When you were a little girl, you just wanted to mix colors that I didn’t think went together. I don’t know if that’s a lesbian thing or not. You would put together these crazy outfits and I was always thinking like, “why does she wanna wear that?” You always wanted to look like a technicolor construction worker [ouch, Mom]. You wore some really weird outfits, and I didn’t understand. It was a lot of patterns together, and I wasn’t used to all that. I’m more of a reserved, organized type. You were really flamboyant, and you liked bright colors and clothes with cats printed all over them. I worried about you getting beat up on the playground for some of the stuff you would step out in. But I wasn’t sure if that was because you were gay or because you were, like, a weirdo. You were also kind of girly, so maybe that threw me off.
Mom, you can be girly and still be gay!
Mom: Oh, really? I didn’t know that.
What was I like as a teenager?
Mom: You were really outgoing and loud. You also sort of dressed more like a costume than just regular clothes, and you changed styles all the time. One day you’d look goth, the next day like a little lawyer, then a bag lady, and then the next day you’d be a little punk kid. You also got really obsessed with Hillary Clinton at one point and would always want me to buy you pantsuits, and you’d wear them to school. That disturbed me, but I just let you be yourself.
You were really into wearing vintage clothes when you were around 15 years old. I liked that until you started dressing like a Grandma or Queen Elizabeth or something. But maybe you did seem gay because you always had a jock side and you always liked to dress in sporty clothes too.
What did you think of my first girlfriend?
Mom: I thought you could do better. I mean, if you were going to hook up with a girl, I thought it would be a model, but she was not very attractive. You were too pretty AND too classy for her, I thought. She was basically a hillbilly.
I mean, it was a small town, Mom! She was the only other girl who liked girls.
Mom: Well, couldn’t you have dated (insert name of girl from my childhood)?
She wasn’t gay. Not then. I think she has a girlfriend now.
Mom: Yeah, I thought (girl from my childhood) was gay but I didn’t say anything because you never know. But, I didn’t really care who you dated. I just wanted you to date someone who was nice to you.
What sort of person do you think I should end up with?
Mom: I think you should end up with somebody creative, kind, and really concerned about looking out for you and helping to take care of you. I want you to have someone supportive that adds to your life—not just emotionally, but financially.
Mom: Yes! You’re an artist. You need someone who can pay the bills.
Mom: I definitely don’t want you with another nut. I’m not trying to be funny, but it seems like you like the ones with crazy eyes. I mean, that might be exciting, but leave [that] be. If you can do me one favor, make sure she’s pretty, has a good job, and make sure she has all her marbles! You don’t need someone who’s going to stress you out and treat you poorly.
Also, make sure she’s closer to your own age. You seem to date a lot of older women, and I would prefer you date women who you have more in common with. Maybe she can be 10 years older, max. Honestly, I would prefer you to date someone younger than you [rather] than older than you. I don’t want to look at your girlfriend and think “that’s my mom” or “that’s my peer.”
Mom: But, I understand that love is love. It’s good to be open. If you find someone older, I won’t be upset.
Do you want me to get married? Have kids?
Mom: I support gay marriage. I want you to get married. I don’t mind you having kids if you want them. I want you to be happy more than anything.
Growing up, did you know any gay people?
Mom: I knew TONS of gay people growing up and am still in touch with many of them. I’ve been friends with lots of gay people throughout my life. My best friend in college was a gay male. I’ve had lesbian friends. My friend Theresa came out as a teenager, and we’ve been friends since we were four. I’ve always had gay people in my life. I love all the sexualities. My Cousin John is gay. It isn’t a thing that bothers me.
If you could ask any gay person one question, what would you ask them?
Mom: I would ask them how they deal with discrimination on a daily basis and how that’s impacted their choices in their daily life. I would just like to know how they feel about the way they’re taken in society. How do they feel about society?
That’s really what you would ask them?
Mom: Yes. Absolutely.
Have you ever considered lesbianism?
Mom: Um, yes. I have. I don’t think I’m a lesbian and I don’t think I’m attracted to women that much, but [I] have been. There have been a couple of women in my life that I have been attracted to, but I didn’t want to pursue it, because I didn’t want to hurt anyone by being unsure about what I wanted. I didn’t want to treat them as an experiment, and they were my good friends, so I didn’t want to mess with the friendship. I do think that sexuality is fluid, so I don’t think people have to exclusively be gay or straight. I’ve known many women who used to sleep with men and don’t anymore and vice versa. I also think that sexuality is tied to emotions and how you feel about a person. Anybody can fall in love with anybody at any time in life. That I know. So, it’s totally possible, and I don’t rule it out.
Is there anything you think gay people do better than straight people?
Mom: No, I don’t. I don’t think sexuality has anything to do with if someone is more talented or not. But, I will say this: gay men make the best makeup artists and hair stylists if they choose that profession. I just believe that there are some very talented gay men out there. I feel like gay people are good at their job no matter what their profession is. Obviously, I know that certain hints are stereotypes and, of course, I don’t think having gay sex makes you better at hairstyling. Sexuality has nothing to do with it. It’s just my experience that they’re better at the beauty industry as someone who has gone to lots of different hair stylists throughout their life. But, my best hairstylist I ever had was Australian and she was married to a man. So, you never know.
That being said, I do think gay and transgender people should be allowed to serve in the military and do any other job that they want to because they are just as capable as any straight person. I think it’s really terrible that we live in a country where that is even a debate given some of the more important things that are happening to folks in this country.
If you could meet any queer celebrity in the world, who would it be?
Mom: I wouldn’t even know who to meet. I wouldn’t even know who’s queer. I don’t know much about Hollywood stars in general. I would probably just meet RuPaul, because that’s the only person I can think of, and I like RuPaul.
Did you like Katy Perry’s song “I Kissed A Girl”? Why Or Why Not?
Mom: I don’t even know what the hell that is. I barely know who Katy Perry is but, based on what I know of her, I can probably say that I don’t like the song.
What do you imagine are the best and the worst aspects of being gay?
Mom: The worst would, of course, be discrimination, alienation from society, and isolation often from people they love. The best would probably be the same thing that I would say for a straight person: just being alive and being able to make your own choices. I don’t know enough about the gay lifestyle to admire or not admire it. I just want them all to have happy lives.
One thing I would say though is I think it’s maybe a more open culture. It seems like people would be more open with each other and stick together more. I can’t say that for sure, but I hope that would be the case, because society tends to tear down those that appear different, and it would be a good thing if the gay community wasn’t like that. I would hope that there is a very strong community to support people. I don’t always feel like the straight community is very accepting. It’s very rigid, I think. So I admire the gay community for being more free-thinking.
Have you ever watched “The L Word?” What did you think of it?
Mom: You made me watch that a couple of times. I like Jennifer Beals’ character.
Mom: Yeah, the art curator. She was really a strong woman kind of archetype. But I didn’t like her girlfriend. I didn’t understand why they were together.
Me neither, mom. Me neither…