“Is that all?” my mother asked incredulously.
To this day I remember her question as well as the accompanying look of relief as she tried to console me.
It was a warm sunny June day in 1991 and I was sitting on our back patio in Sarnia feeling everything but sunny.
An hour earlier I had been at Centennial Park with my soon to be ex-girlfriend trying to find the words that would make ending our 3 year relationship easier for her to accept.
You know the expression “hell hath no fury as a woman scorned?”
It’s true – although I recommend you chew glass or ram flaming bamboo under your nails as a preferable alternative.
But in this case, it was something I had to do because I loved her – she deserved no less.
So I found myself crying uncontrollably fending off questions from an increasingly worried mother.
“Is it drugs?”
“No!” I exclaimed.
“Is she pregnant?”
“No!” I sobbed.
“Did you kill someone?”
As an altar boy; president of the Young Progressive Conservatives of Sarnia-Lambton and honorary Young Michigan Republican, there was no fate worse than admitting what I believed to be the unthinkable.
Remember – this was 1991 in a small ultra-conservative town.
“No – it’s worse than that,” I cried.
Pausing and afraid the neighbours would hear I leaned my head down and whispered, “I’m … I’m … gay.”
My only knowledge of “those gays” was what I had seen at the Blue Oyster in the Police Academy series – feather boas and black leather chaps were now my fate I assumed. What else was an 18 year old Conservative Catholic supposed to think?
While the clergy and staff at my church were compassionate and accepting; deep down I thought I was nothing more than the outrageous caricatures portrayed both in print and on the screen.
And it was this belief that contributed to a suicide attempt and a year of regular visits to a psychiatrist before I said enough was enough.
Some 20 years later things have improved immensely but still there exists this irrational fear (and hate) of who I am.
“Straight pride!” some anonymous commentators write, believing it’s all about them.
“Back in the closet” scream others.
Okay, but you first.
And my personal all-time favourite, “You’re destroying my marriage.”
If who I am interferes with your personal life, I’m hazarding a guess there’s a lot more going on than you’d care to acknowledge.
The last pride festivities I attended were more than 10 years ago.
I think it absurd in this day and age people have to “come out” but it is still necessary as evidenced by a few recent comments in the Windsor Star.
A pride festival could have saved me the agony of attempting to swallow a bottle of Tylenol 25 years ago believing I was alone when clearly I was not.
While these celebrations have their purpose, my moment of “pride” began with my mother’s question “is that all?” and her comforting embrace.
My pride was affirmed when my priest said to me, “God loves you as you are. You are His creation.”
My pride continues today with my partner of 12 years and the life we’ve built together in our neighbourhood and community.
That wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for those first brave men and women and the tens of thousands that followed the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and spawned the annual pride celebrations.
Windsor’s upcoming pride festival is our community’s comforting embrace to those paralyzed by fear of what or who they perceive themselves to be.
To paraphrase Gloria Gaynor, you are who you are.
And if that isn’t enough – there is always my mom.
She’ll give you a smack upside the head while asking, “Is that all?”
Happy Pride Windsor!