The Joys and Worries of Raising a Gay Son

Rainbow Flag Raising my wonderful, loving, and successful gay son David has been a fantastic, fun journey. He has given me so many gifts; I could write forever about them. Most outstanding has been the opportunity to participate in his community. Let me tell you…it’s one thing to hang out with gay friends and family in our straight society where they are conforming to our standards, but it’s a complete different experience to be immersed in their world of gender-busting bravery and hilarity. It’s been better than a backstage pass on Broadway, more like a secret passage through the looking glass. I’ve been entertained by the most talented people, been comped at the hippest clubs, danced with hundreds of buff and shirtless men, had drinks with the most glamorous drag queens, vamped in costume on several floats in the annual Provincetown Carnival parade, even reveled at a Susanne Bartsch party. I’ve shared breakfast, dinner, living quarters, jokes, stories, and tears with them. They accepted me and treated me like a star (or goddess!) I’ve loved every minute of it.  But, as a mom, the journey has not been without worry.

The first struggle was the balance between letting him find his true self while trying to protect him from the 1970s non-accepting world at large. The early years were easy. The first Christmas present he asked for was a Raggedy Ann doll. Santa brought Raggedy Andy, close enough at the time. He played mostly with the little girls in our apartment group, sharing their toys and dress-up clothes. When he wanted his own dolls, I picked them up at garage sales and all was cool for a while. Things changed when he went to school. When he had a substitute teacher, he lined up with the girls for recess and got away with it because of the unisex hairdos. I was called in to discuss this with the school psychologist. I didn’t know that he brought his Barbies for show-and-tell, a red alert for the bullies. When I replaced the dolls with marionettes, he had his first foray into theater. He made elaborate sets and several outfits for the Princess, invited other kids in to watch. He battled ridicule, learned hard lessons, accommodated. The fallout affected my younger son Eric, who was only two years his junior and always remained his ally.

I think David went underground in middle school. I remarried, we moved in with my husband and his five kids. New school district but new challenges; three of my step-children were older, brawling, adolescent boys. The biggest insult at the time was to call someone a “homo”, which David did often. I can’t imagine his internal struggles, at school and now at home, too. When I look back, I am amazed at how strong he was. By high school, he found a safe place with the artsy, androgynous crowd. He is very athletic but bypassed team sports and instead pursued his creative talents. He published a cartoon strip in the school newspaper, DJ’ed during the lunch hour, made props for all the school plays. He went to the proms with pretty girls, who he avoided kissing and who came out themselves years later. In his senior year, he wanted a varsity letter and was confident enough to become a cheerleader. I went to the basketball games and cheered as proudly as I did at Eric’s soccer matches.

At the age of 19, soon after he came out, he got a studio apartment in a sketchy part of town and became fully self-supporting. Me? I knew he needed the autonomy and freedom, yet I suffered many sleepless nights. I’ve rolled from terrified, to anxious, to very proud as I’ve watched him thrive and grow into an upstanding adult, honorable gay man, and self-made business owner — completely on his own, without any real role models, without anyone guiding him along this precarious path. He explored and experimented all along the way — go-go dancer, bartender, waiter, window decorator, graphic artist, personal trainer, videographer, snowboard instructor, barista, coffee shop owner, dance club manager — but he is most renown for David Flower Productions extraordinary and profitable events.

I’ve been grateful that he has lived in South Beach Miami, Provincetown, and San Francisco, where I’ve feared less about hate crimes but, unfortunately, as much about his health. What mom wouldn’t? I watched his community wither during the AIDS crisis then rebound and flourish with the miracle of modern drug therapy. God bless pharmacology! We’ve cried together over the loss of friends and applauded the recent changes in marital laws. I am thankful every day to still have him here — remarkably healthy, happy, and well-adjusted — to have shared so closely in his life, to be on this marvelous trip WITH him.

3 thoughts on “The Joys and Worries of Raising a Gay Son

  1. accidental goddess July 4, 2014 / 6:08 pm

    I wanted to post this during Gay Pride Week. Luckily, I am proud all year long.

  2. Chris Hodgson July 4, 2014 / 7:15 pm

    It’s hardly an accident that his nickname is flower. He blooms and blossoms in ways that influence all around him, every day. And in every way. Thank you for sharing his story with us and much more importantly thank you for sharing such a beautiful soul, your precious David, with us all. It would be impossible to put into words the incredible inspiration that he was provided in so many lives from coast to coast. Brava Mom. Brava!

  3. sharon smith July 4, 2014 / 9:55 pm

    It isn’t common, I’m sure, for a mother raising a child in the 1970’s and the early 1980’s, when intolerance for a gay individual was not just the norm, but the “cool” thing to do, to be accepting of her child. We all want to raise our sons, and daughters, to be happy and successful. That path, for David, wasn’t the norm. Thanks for sharing how you worried about his acceptance, his happiness and his health, as every other mother does. Shutting your child out because they don’t meet the “standard” or for fear you will be looked at differently is cowardly. I’m sure David is super proud that you didn’t take the road of the coward, but rather, took the high road and embraced him and supported him. And still do. You are a pretty amazing mother! (and AUNT!!!!)

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