As Pride Month ends, I’m finally finding some time to write about an experience I wouldn’t change for the world – growing up with two moms. If you’d have told that to twelve-year-old me I’d have never believed you. Being raised Southern Baptist, it was a lot to take in when she revealed her relationship to me. It was especially shocking in the 90’s – in a time before Ellen DeGeneres came out to the world on must-see TV.
What it was like the day my mom came out to me.
I’ll never forget that day – the day mom came out to me. The dynamics of my family were weird at that time. We were driving down the road returning from my grandparents’ home in Breckenridge, Texas heading back to my home in Abilene. We had just passed over Hubbard Creek Bridge.
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Mom was going through a divorce and the ne’er-do-well she was ditching had been abusive to us both, and he was just a generally sleazy guy. She and I were burdened by that relationship for over 8 years. He was one reason I often sought refuge with my grandparents over weekends, and the reason my grandparents would drive an hour each way every week to pick us up.
There was nothing but road noise as my tween-age self pouted about something or another as kids that age tend to do. She broke the silence, “I’m seeing someone, Tara.” I sat silent, a few seconds of road noise. I didn’t react as it seemed only natural. “You know how I’ve always taught you to love and accept people for who they are?” I perked up… At that moment I thought she was about to tell me she was in an interracial relationship with a close friend of the family. Something I was one-hundred percent on board with and stoked to hear.
“I’m in a relationship with another woman, Tara,” she said in a strange monotone. It turned out to be another long-time family friend I’d never have suspected. It was her best friend. I burst into tears. I cried not because I personally grappled with her decision, not because of who she was seeing, but because I knew what kind of harsh judgement we were in for as an “out” family – especially living in the heart of the (ironically unforgiving) Bible belt.
What it was like growing up with gay parents
Those tears proved to be justified time after time as I grew up, and I know they did for my mothers as well. All of us were seen for our “lifestyle” as opposed to who we were. Some of my school friends were even forbidden from coming over to our house. A few of them had been lifelong friends.
There was a certain unsaid “thing” that everyone knew about us even when we’d never met. One day “dykes” had been scrawled on our garage door. Another day, a youth pastor ceremoniously ripped a rainbow sticker from my moms’ car. I had borrowed the car for Wednesday’s youth services and right there in the church parking lot, while my friends looked at me with questioning stares he decided to make an example of me being supportive of the gay lifestyle. I cried all the way home. My moms were furious. My heart was broken.
That same year, again at church, I was going to have a solo in the morning service and had planned a duet with my vocal coach, my mom. Minutes before worship service I was told I was welcome to sing in front of the congregation, but my mom was not because of who chose to be her life partner. Mom had someone who turned our home from a hellish, abusive environment to one that made us feel loved and comforted. How could my mom’s partner be seen as something negative?
I was devastated and angry all at once when they said they’d “allow her inside” the sanctuary. I couldn’t quite understand how someone I loved so much could be deemed unworthy especially given my previous teaching about God’s forgiveness. I couldn’t understand why they would not accept my other (non-biological) mother into the sanctuary at all. It was a monumental, paradigm-shifting event in my young life. Instead of attending the service that day, I once again cried as I drove home. This time I was in the backseat as my moms drove us, comforting me as a mother does along the way.
Love thy neighbor as thyself.
That’s why, while I never lost my faith in God, I lost my belief in the traditional church. I felt dirty and cast aside. I felt inferior in a place where I had been taught, “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all … 39 And the second is like, unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Since then, I’ve tried my best to remember that teaching, carry it with me, and live it as much as possible.
The one thing that all the experiences I had leading up to my adulthood challenged me to get to know people and to seek out and appreciate our differences. My moms’ friends were a colorful bunch with backgrounds that ran the gamut from ‘hood to those well-accomplished in higher education. Sometimes, she would even be counseling transexual friends through their transitions. This was common at my house, and I learned to be comfortable with ‘uncomfortable’ ideas that defied social norms.
Because I still felt like a kind of social outcast among my peers, I never really “fit in” with the basic high school crowd. Instead, I found others that embraced diversity in the arts as well as debate and philosophy clubs – things that encouraged me to develop social intelligence and acceptance. I loved to challenge the status quo, push the boundaries, and kept an open mind always because that’s how it was at home. When you’re seen as one of the “freaks” you tend to look beyond surface value.
The moment I knew Austin, TX was my new home
When I left Abilene and made Austin my home I found a whole new level of acceptance and freedom. It was a breath of fresh air – a haven for people that embrace life’s weirdness. Austin was the perfect place for me. The lifestyle we all enjoy in this city only cemented that inclusive way of thinking my mothers had fostered throughout my childhood and adolescence. If that way of thinking had not been ingrained in me at a very young age, I may never have expanded past the confines of my ever-oppressive, narrow-minded Bible belt hometown. For that, I’m eternally grateful to my moms for living “out” and proud.
#LoveWins in modern times
Today, we’re not quite so weird – the modern family enjoys a myriad of socially accepted dynamics. Our family is more accepted now than it has ever been. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriages legal in all 50 states in Obergefell v. Hodges. That decision felt like it legitimized my family in a way I knew in my heart to be true all along.
This month, the Supreme Court determined more civil rights protections should be extended to LGTQ individuals and families. This is a trend that has to continue, it’s a huge step in the right direction. As a 30-something, I am more proud than I have been in my life to say I have two mommies. I get to have double the motherly love. What could be better than that?