My son texted me today with a simple question: “Hey, remember when we went to Florida with grandma, grandpa, my cousins, and everyone. How old was I?” In a digital age, all information is accessible, and I began to look online at my pictures that are backed up online. I quickly found a family picture from that trip to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday dated December 2008 and texted my son.
I wanted to know, why this odd question out of the blue, and texted him, “Why do you want to know?” He quickly texted back with a reply that surprised me. “For my writing class. I have to write a nonfiction essay about a burning question I have. I was thinking I would write about you coming out and how that affected me.” Pause. Next text. “If you’re ok with it.” I quickly replied, “Yes I’m ok.” And he responded, “Great thanks.”
The truth is that I am thrilled that he wants to write about this topic. I have felt that, while he has fully accepted me, he has not really dealt with the issues of me being gay and how that affects him. I welcome him tackling this topic and possibly gaining some insights into his own thoughts and feelings.
Our texts continued on a strange and interesting path. Next, he wanted to know what we did the night he met my boyfriend. Did we have dinner in my apartment that night? Then he wanted to know about the day before I came out to him. The day before I came out to him we had gone Chanukah shopping. When we were in my car, just leaving a shopping mall, the topic of the parents of one of his friends, a couple that always seemed to be fighting, came up. I said something like, you never knew in life about another person’s relationship, and questioned they would stay together. That comment caused him to explode in the car, demanding to know what I meant and what it said about my marriage to his mother.
His text to me today is interesting because it makes me wonder about what he remembers about that day. He texted, “ok. And when we were in the car when we talked about why you and mom never fight do you remember where we were going?” I reminded him that we had gone to a mall to buy Chanukah presents and were just heading home when the conversation took place.
Then the questions got more interesting from my son. He texted, “why did you stop doing pottery?” “Two reasons,” I texted back, “I started to get carpal tunnel in my wrists, and secondly I was running to of ideas about what I wanted to make.” Where was he going with this? Was he somehow connecting my coming out to my stopping pottery? I didn’t know.
Then came the more surprising and blunt questions delivered over text. “Ok. When did you realize you were gay?” Pause. Next text. “And when did you do the therapy when you were younger?” While I would be happy to talk to him about these topics, the prospect of texting him back on these complex and difficult topics was not in the cards and texted him as much.
I have written so much about my life, my coming out, my early years dealing with my homosexuality, that I feel that I have the language to talk about these issues in depth with my son. But it is not simply a matter of getting the chronology right. If my son was going to write about my first awareness of being gay, I wanted him to understand the nuances and complexity of realizing you were gay in 1971. There was no internet. There was no public discussion of homosexuality except in the most derogatory manner. Homosexuality in 1971 was seen as a sickness, part of an aberrant lifestyle, an illness that therapy could cure. I quickly learned that being gay was not a lifestyle that seemed to go along with the kind of life I wanted, and there were ‘strong’ indications (at the time) that therapy could change me.
After these texts, I looked back at my early blog posting where I had written about my early years. I edited a post about my first realization that I was attracted to men and a few years later starting therapy and emailed it to my son, (posted here under the title, Reality, Circa 1971). He thanked me for the email, “Thanks dad, this should help a lot. Sorry about the bluntness of my questions. I’ll talk to you soon. Love, …” I wrote back to him that I wanted him to understand that I was very comfortable talking about these topics, but that they were better left to a real conversation, and not just a text.
I am excited that my son wants to explore these topics. It will be interesting to see what he writes, that is if he is willing to share his paper with me.