How Much Pride Is Enough? A Straight Mother Marches, Her Gay Son Doesn’t

June is usually thought of as LGBT+ PRIDE month.  It’s an opportunity for the LGBT population to relish in their accomplishments over the years for acceptance, solidarity, community, and a chance to demonstrate to other generations the benefits of coming out.

The first time I was aware of the gay population took place in NYU Medical Center’s (not named Lagone) in 1983.  My husband and I were in the waiting room as our infant son was being circumcised.  Over in the corner were a group of gay men with purple or brown blotches on skin areas that would probably lead to death from “THE GAY VIRUS.”

I would later learn from magazines and Tom Hank’s role in the movie Philadelphia that this was Kaposi Sarcoma, a disease that often affects people with immune deficiencies such as HIV or AIDS whereby cancer cells are found in skin or mucus membranes that can spread to lymph nodes and lungs.  It is caused by a virus called human herpes virus 8.

The 80’s were a time of condemnation for the LGBT population.  People were scared to touch them. Closeted homosexuals like lawyer Roy Cohn who died of AIDS, told reporters it was “liver cancer.”  Even NYC’s Mayor Ed Koch’s sexual orientation was questioned.

With little medical research and treatment,  in the U.S. alone, there were 32,399 AIDS cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control in 1988, for a cumulative case total since June 1981 of 82,406 cases.

Marching At Last

In June 2011, same-sex marriage passed the House and Senate. Having heard from my gay son that it wasn’t “fair that he couldn’t get married, but his sister Leigh (straight) could,”  I marched with the huge crowd down Broadway.  There was such elation because of the equal status given to the  LGB+ population, mainly because of a tenacious persona named Edie Windsor.

New York City resident, Edie Windsor, was instrumental in fighting DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) in her landmark court case. Edie, a lesbian, had been engaged for over forty years to Thea Spyer whom she married in Canada.  When Thea died in 2010,  Edie, unlike a heterosexual, was presented a bill for her estate taxes.  She, with her lawyer, filed a lawsuit United States V. Windsor against the federal  government contesting that DOMA violated the 5th Amendment of equal protection.

The Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional and that the federal government can not discriminate against married lesbians and gay couples for the purposes of determining federal benefits and protections,  even if they are not legally married by their home state.  Windsor received a refund of the federal estate tax that she was forced to pay before this decision.

Unlike Graham, Leigh would be enthusiastic about marching in PRIDE parades.  She would later be asked to march in gay parades in Denver, Colorado, Asheville, N.C. where she worked in hospitality.  She would never decline the invitations. In college, she would go dancing  with her gay male friends at the same PULSE nightclub in Orlando where forty-some people were shot on June 12, 2016. She had moved from Florida by that year. Thank God!

Still Not Marching

My son moved to California three different times.  He liked the car culture, the more relaxed atmosphere, the weather, and the large gay population.  I thought he’d probably feel more confident about being in a PRIDE parade with his friends, away from the Northeast mores.  Much to no avail.

On one of my trips to California in 2005, Graham’s then-boyfriend, a hair entrepreneur, had bought three tickets to a charity event at a moviestar’s home in Hollywood Hills.  I didn’t recognize the moviestar’s name until our hostess greeted us. It was Judith Light!  If you watch too many episodes of “Law and Order” as I do, you would realize that she has played one of the judges.   Ms. Light has been a champion for HIV/AIDS and human rights.  She supports such organizations such as Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS.

We were served a buffet lunch in her large, old home with a big terrace.  She spoke about AIDS and had another speaker whom, I believe, was in the health field.  As the afternoon was winding down, there were cashiers taking donations outside on the cobblestone terrace.

As I wrote out a check, I felt Graham’s hand on my left shoulder  as he said, “thanks, Mom.”  He gave me a hug. Perhaps that was his way of expressing PRIDE.  It certainly filled me with PRIDE.

When Your Child is Gay

When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know

For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.

Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist specializing in parenting as well as gay and lesbian content. For the past two years, Wesley has concentrated almost exclusively on the lesbian and gay community, specifically on advising straight parents of gay children on how to be better parents and raise happy, well-adjusted adults

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