A MOTHER’S LOVE

A MOTHER’S LOVE

From Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul

A Mother’s Love

A mother’s love is instinctual, unconditional and forever.

Anonymous

Think back to the early ’90s, before Ellen “came out” and Will & Grace was not yet all over prime-time television. Before Matthew Shepard received national attention, and being gay got the public support it has today. Imagine a nineteen-year-old Mexican son coming out to his mother and seeing the heartbreak in her eyes. Picture her heart breaking into pieces so small they could fit through the eye of a sewing needle.

Living in Texas, growing up Catholic with a strong Mexican ancestry and influence, it was difficult coming to terms with my own homosexuality. I can remember many nights when I prayed the entire rosary and begged God to change me. As the years pushed on, I gradually accepted who I was and learned to love myself despite my machismo-rich heritage. However, that was only the first step.

All Latinos know how important family is, and I am not any different. Accepting my sexuality was a big move for me on my journey to self-discovery. Yet, the burning question was, would my family accept me as well? The thought of losing them and being disowned frightened me more than death.

In our culture, we are taught that family is everything. I could gladly meet any of life’s challenges as long as I had my family by my side to face them head-on. Nonetheless, the time had come, and I needed to be honest with them.

Easing into the task, I came out to my younger brother first. Surprisingly, his reaction was good and more or less indifferent. He was of the mind-set that I was his brother, and my sexual orientation was not important. Feeling particularly confident about the experience, I decided to come out to my mother.

It was October 11, 1994, National Coming Out Day. She cried, yelled, screamed and ultimately blamed herself. It was a nightmare. By the end of the night, our eyes were red and puffy from all the crying, and our noses dripped with mocos. We were exhausted and retired to our respective rooms without saying good night. I never expected her to react the way she had, and I worried that our relationship was forever damaged.

That night I lay in bed and thought about a TV talk show that I had seen earlier that day. The focus of the show was National Coming Out Day, and the guests were a variety of non-Latinos coming out to their families. Their experiences on the show were much better than mine that night, and I could not comprehend why my mother had reacted so awfully. For the next few days, the house was covered with a blanket of awkwardness.

The next day I came out to my sister, and a month later I came out to my dad. I was able to delay telling my father as my parents divorced when I was in middle school. I could not bear another episode like the one I experienced with Mom. Nevertheless, their reaction to my news was much like my younger brother’s, and I was very much surprised by my father’s kind words. He said, “You’re my son, and I’ll always love you no matter what.”

I wish I could write that my mother soon thereafter came to her senses and we promptly mended our relationship. The truth of the matter is, the road to her acceptance and understanding was a long one. In the months that followed, we had many emotional discussions, and she had several questions. She was determined to figure out what went wrong. Mom would encourage me to continue to pray, and I know that HIV and AIDS were huge concerns for her. A lot of people, especially at that time, believed that being gay was equivalent to an AIDS death sentence.

Today, eight years later and thanks to a lot of determination and persistence, my mother and I have a very healthy and open relationship. In a lot of ways, she is my best friend. Recently, we’ve watched movies with gay themes as she tries to gain a better understanding of my life. Her favorite is The Broken Hearts Club.

As far as my seemingly open-minded brother, sister and father and our relationship today, they have adopted the philosophy, “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” We are all still close, and I now have a sister-in-law, a three-year-old niece and one-year-old nephew. But they turn a blind eye and deaf ear to those things they choose not to know. Unfortunately, that means there are parts of me missing from their lives. My mother and I had a rough start as 1994 came to an end, but today she is the only one in my family who knows me completely.

My Mexican-proud mom had survived an impoverished childhood on the north side of town, coupled with years of adolescence tormented by Texas-style bigotry and hatred for our race. And just when she probably thought she was in the clear, her first-born son professes he is gay. But falling back on our faith and cultural importance of family, that no longer matters to her. Come what may, we promise to be there for one another and to stand together.

People’s reactions vary when I come out to them today, but as long as I have my mother supporting me, I am happy. What more could a son ask from his mother than her continued support and love? Nothing can compare to a mother’s love, and being a mama’s boy is a good thing. My mom has been the rock in my life, y no puedo imaginar mi vida sin ella.

¡Gracias a Dios por ti mamá, gracias por quererme sin límites!

Johnny N. Ortez, Jr.

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