Throughout my teens and twenties, I endeavored to be gay. Children emulate those parents they adore, and I revered my lesbian mom. Never mind her lectures on how homosexuals have it rough, and she’d be happier if I could save myself—and her—some grief and just be straight. She was my idol. In vain, I tried to muster up lust for others of my sex.
“Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club is hot,” I’d tell my mother and her girlfriend when I visited. “Don’t you think Madonna is a babe? I do.”
My mother lost custody of me in the late 1970s when she came out as a lesbian. Faced with my attempted interest in the fairer sex, she panicked. “Actually,” she replied, “I prefer Willie Nelson.”
In high school, much as I would have desired otherwise, my eye went to our yearbook editor—male—rather than the pretty head cheerleader. In college, I declared a liberal studies major; still, I could not be gay.
Humiliated, I introduced boyfriend after boyfriend to my mother. I moved in with a man around the time of Matthew Shepherd’s murder.
“Good to meet you.” Mom clasped my new boyfriend’s hand in hers, palpably relieved.
Buoyed by her acceptance of my sexual identity, I made my peace with it. If I was straight, then so be it. I attended PFLAG meetings and marched in gay pride parades, out and proud. Last year, I called my mother and–with trepidation—spoke the words that symbolize the epitome of heterosexual privilege and success.
“I’m getting married.”
Mom’s response was immediate. “Honey, I’m so happy.”
But recently, my old mortification flared up again. This month, The Journal of Biosocial Science includes an article titled “Children of Homosexuals and Transexuals More Apt to be Homosexual.”
Again, I have failed.
The author of the article, Dr. Paul Cameron, based his research on interviews with 77 adult children of homosexual parents. Dr. Cameron is chairman of the Family Research Institute—an organization working to preserve the “traditional” family. His conclusion that thirty percent of his interview subjects are homosexual fans flames of controversy that surround same-sex parenting The article abstract states that “parents’ sexual inclinations influence their children’s.”
Somehow, Dr. Cameron forgot to interview the queerspawn I know (yes, we children of gays and lesbians call ourselves queerspawn) who identify as heterosexual. He forgot to interview me. He never spoke with my lesbian friend Wendy, daughter of a ramrod-straight Baptist preacher. He neglected to talk with my transsexual friend Caitlin, who grew up with her conservative grandma in a trailer park.
Do our parents’ sexual “inclinations” influence us, as Dr. Cameron’s article suggests? Of course. But not in an easy, predictable manner. Try as I might, I can not love women as my mother does. A marriage certificate sits on my mantle, granting my gentle husband and me a wealth of benefits for which same-sex couples pine. Still, much of Mom’s influence has stuck. I’m committed to helping those oppressed by fear and hatred. And maybe that’s more important than who’s in my bed.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.