Today’s Motherhood story comes from my friend and mentor, Dr. Catherine Meeks. In addition to being a mom, Dr. Meeks has had a distinguished career teaching African American studies at Mercer University and Socio-Cultural studies at Wesleyan College. She currently serves on the Anti-Racism Commission for the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta and is a religion columnist for the Huffington Post. Catherine inspires me continually with her courageous truth telling and her peaceful spirit (a powerful combination for sure). Many thanks to her (and her son) for sharing this story with us today.
We sat together in our den crying. My sixteen year old son and me.
The reason for our tears was my son’s confession to me about his being gay.
He had just returned from a weekend spiritual retreat with some of his peers and this was the place where he had been able to speak about his sexual orientation. I had not ever thought about the possibility that he might be a gay young man.
As I reflect back to that time, I still do not see much that would have sent me any clues about my young son’s sexual orientation. He did not do anything out of the ordinary. He had girl friends and boy friends at school, he built rockets and played video games. The usual stuff.
I am thankful that he found out when he was young and that he did not choose to spend a life time trying to either deny his sexual preferences or hide them from his family. My tears on that day were not so much about him realizing that he was gay as they were about my realization of the extra burden for him of having to live in America as a gay African American man. I knew that life would be complicated enough for him because of his black skin and to have this added layer of reasons to be mistreated was a very painful thought.
I knew that his life could be in danger in this homophobic world that we have created and I was sorry about that for him.
Perhaps he was crying because he thought that I was disappointed in him, which was not the case.
Two days later, I got the biggest bouquet of flowers that I could find and a huge teddy bear to give to my son as a visible sign of my intention to make sure that he knew that I loved him dearly and that his being gay was not going to make any difference about my love for him and my commitment to doing everything that I could to help make his life as good as possible. I think that he got that message.
Now, when I am talking to folks about the issues around homosexuality that are so much in our minds and in the news, it is no longer an academic or political discussion for me. I see the issues through the lens of the life of my own son. While I have always believed that a gay or lesbian person should have every right that any other citizen has to live their lives in whatever way he or she wishes, my commitment to this idea became even more profound as I thought about my son’s future.
Our lives have not changed much over the years because my son is gay, though I have had to rethink some of my notions about what his future might be. Thankfully, I am not very invested in having a child who lives in a traditional manner, such as getting married and having children. I am more invested in having a child who finds out why he is on the earth, what he wishes to do about his life when he discovers what he has come here to do, and finding a path to peace, spiritual enlightenment and happiness. I pray that for him and will do what I can to help him find that path.
We are on the journey together and he is finding his way. It is not an easy journey, but it is his life and he will have to live it.
I get to be a companion on the road with him and I am thankful to do that and to listen to him, my own heart and the Spirit to hear the best ways to do that.
I am glad to be his mother and it seems that he is glad that I am his mother, at least most of the time.