My Mother’s Bisexuality
She’ll be angry at this. She’ll ask me why I felt the need to divulge that which she has considered a sin, a demarcation of her person. The pragmatic in me will tell her “For the sake of prosperity; so that I can remember my mother for who she was.” But I’d be lying. I am revealing out of necessity. Those that teeter on the moral right will proclaim this a show; an appeasement by a daughter to exhibit that such a lifestyle can still make you come out normal. No, that will never be my purpose. I am not explaining a magical formula to how to raise a kid under the happenstance of the homosexual agenda. I am the daughter of a mother afflicted with what she was raised to believe was a flaw. I am a daughter reclaiming my mother’s confidence in her sexuality.
She was born to a Catholic family. The middle child flanked by an older and younger sister. Together they were the three daughters of Depression reared parents who worked for financial security. Her mother, a former model, burnt red haired ringer for Marilyn Monroe, wanted what she thought was best for her children. When my mother started playing with Tonka Trucks and G.I. Joe dolls, it didn’t fit my grandmother’s schema of “healthy.” She’d yell to her young daughter out the kitchen window. She’d scream “Why can’t you be more like your sisters?” as my mother sat there in the grass with a die cast vehicle in her hands.
By high school, enough money was saved to send all three daughters to an all girl catholic high school. My mother was a lanky, glasses-wearing, brunette, ethnic looking girl (on account of her Father’s Filipino and Spanish background) On Fridays, when free dress was allowed, she’d don bell bottoms, collared shirts, and scarves. She was more Freddy Jones than Daphne Blake. Into her junior and senior years she developed the alluring combination of boyish charm and femme fatal. Contacts subbed for glasses, eyebrows plucked, and the conversational comfortableness of a male; she was what every man desired. Suitors followed her around co-ed dances, asked to be her boyfriend at just a glance. Young women loved her too. She received romantic letters from a classmate. Letter’s later confiscated by my grandmother, again something she deemed “not normal.”
While my mother listened to her mother, undyingly loyal to her parental ruling, she couldn’t help but love the attention of both sexes. Upon self reflection, my mother realized that she was capable of truly falling in love with either a man or woman. A realization that brought her devastation, a realization that carried her on amber waves of torment the moment she first kissed a woman, a realization that burnt leaving an abnormal smoke signal for my grandmother to crucify throughout the decades, a realization that remained after the marriage and divorce from my father.
The love my mother had for my father was real. As she puts it, “I didn’t get married to get divorced.” The end of their marriage was the result of an unnervingly typical combination of drugs, in-laws, and finance. Shortly after filing for divorce she found out she was pregnant with me. My father denied doing a paternity test to get out of paying child support. From my birth in 1997 to today, he’s never cared to know me. The feeling is mutual.
As a single parent, my mother sacrificed everything for me. I became her entire life. She never remarried. Throughout the whole course of my childhood I never knew her to be in a relationship. I just knew her to have a wide assortment of interesting friends. Some were women film directors whom we traveled to L.A. with. Others marine enthusiasts who were the childhood acquaintances of my mother. Others were men whom we went to the beach with and won me stuffed animals at arcades. All of these people my mother surrounded me with were introduced as her friends, never lovers. She wanted me to be raised with devoted attention; never wanted me to feel as if her love, in its totality, was being shared between me and another adult.
It speaks to her character the efforts she went to to protect me from the idea of ever being secondary in her life. As I entered middle school and Glee was the number one show on television, the president spoke of the LGBT (now LGBTQ) community, and the teachers in my Catholic school, the very same one my mother went to, started professing to me the sins of homosexuality, my suspicions grew that there was something more to my mother than I ever knew.
I don’t remember where to or where from but I remember looking at the plastic interior of our red Plymouth Voyager van as I was about to ask her a question she wasn’t expecting that day, or any day in particular. “Mom, are you gay?” To my hindsight surprise, we didn’t careen of the road. She calmly replied, “Why are you asking that, sweetie?” Still a preteen, not yet able to handle things with tact, but, still as unemotionally, verbally pragmatic as I am today, I replied “I don’t know. I just think so. I think you always have been.” My mother then gave me the speech that opened my eyes to her true identity.
She told me everything. Her mother’s shaming of her, her guilt, her ability to love both a man and a woman, and how she would stop doing so if I wanted her to. My mother, a forty-seven year old woman who had born a child, had a divorce, held executive positions in the work place, established a facade identity of long legged beauty and commanding confidence that granted her countless lovers, under everything that people thought she was; she was still a little girl sitting in her yard with a toy trunk. She still didn’t know why she had to be more like her sisters. She was still scared of her mother, of not being normal. Still faithful enough to a church that preached against what she felt. Still self-sacrificing enough to change her definition of love based on what her middle school daughter thought about her.
My mother taught me acceptance before she taught me what it meant to be gay. “Have love, give love, keep love” was a daily mantra from her to me. It was a mantra she was never able to truly embody for herself. As we approached a stoplight, I felt the weight of the moment hit me. The control she had just placed in me to define the rest of her adult life. Had I been older, had I been versed more in how to say things emphatically, with impact, I would have given her a speech of compassion. But, maybe what I said, as simple as it was, was all she ever needed to hear in her life, all anyone whose been told not to be what they are, what anyone whose learned to wince at their own identity and felt a dire need to create themselves a new one, something that anyone whose ever felt abandoned by the world when all they did was feel something they didn’t ask for needed to hear:
“You’re fine. I love you.”
Her story is proof that love is taught, love is defined, and love is given solely by us to one another. There is no universal pageantry of happiness and acceptance. You have to fight for love, make it a reality. The more we actively love one another, they easier it will be to conquer generations worth of hatred and fear to what is not perceived as normal. To love is to love, but, to do so takes relentlessness, bravado, fearlessness. Love one another until it hurts, that’s how you will know its working.
Love isn’t soft, romantic, or warm. It’s hard. It is the hardest thing to do because it is selfless in nature. It is opening our hearts to something that may make us uncomfortable. We can say that love can conquer all, but we must be willing to conquer.
Whether it is our sexuality, our politics, our religions, our skin colors, our economics, we are of the same microbial beginnings. I am a daughter in a world of other children. All of us had the blessing of being young once. It is our responsibility, as members of this human enterprise, to maintain the innocence of youth into our adulthood and remain willing and able, in the words of my mother, to have, to give, and to keep love alive.