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Coming Out: A Mother’s Story

This article is more than 7 years old.

My son Adam came out to his father and me on a Saturday morning. I was reading the paper, trying to decide whether to go to a movie or to synagogue. In either place I would be among a congregation yet alone with my thoughts. That’s how synagogue is for me. I never crack open the prayer book or follow the Torah reading. I listen or I daydream.

On that Saturday morning Adam, a late sleeper like any teenager, was up early enough to walk the dog and sip a cup of coffee with me. As he read the comics, I looked at his profile — my profile, my father’s profile. He is so much like me, I thought.

Despite the seeming ordinariness of this morning routine, we were really waiting for my husband Ken to come downstairs. When he finally came down to the kitchen it was perilously close to the time I had to get ready to go. But I could tell that Adam had something on his mind — something that required discussion, support and love. A mother knows these things. I believe it comes in part from the fact that my son and I shared a body for nine months.

“I have something to tell both of you,” my son said looking down at the floor. “I’m gay.” And then after a beat, he looked up and added something that made me sad, “I’m out of the closet.”

Ken sat down next to Adam at the kitchen island, and as soon as he did Adam stood to face us both. In an instant he became the movie I would go to that morning. He was the prayers and the Torah reading in the synagogue.

“I have something to tell both of you,” my son said looking down at the floor. “I’m gay.” And then after a beat, he looked up and added something that made me sad, “I’m out of the closet.”

How long had my boy been living narrowly and quietly and hidden in a dark place? I thought back to when he was a little boy, insisting that the hall light stay on to illuminate his bedroom just enough so that he could see that his stuffed animals were not monsters.

I remember the night I first noticed that he had slept with his bedroom door closed. “He’s growing up,” I thought. “He’s no longer afraid of the dark.” What I didn’t realize was that he grew comfortable enough to navigate his identity in that darkness until the sun finally came up. My talented, brave son who told me just the other day that there are people out there who hate him, without even knowing him.

I write a regular column on parenting. for a Jewish newspaper. A few years ago I wrote an open letter to my children about the debate that had ensued regarding the status of homosexual men and women in our branch of Conservative Judaism. At the time I said:

You have been taught in school, at Temple and at home that God is compassionate and would not want anyone — homosexual or heterosexual — to live a life without love. That is exactly what Dad and I want for both of you — to find true and fulfilling love with a partner.

I thank God that my religious movement came down on the compassionate side of the argument so that gays and lesbians can now be ordained as Conservative Jewish rabbis. And I thank God that we live in the 21st century so that my son is an individual and not an anomaly in many places in the world.

My heart and my head were always in agreement that gay rights was the civil rights issue of my generation. Now it’s become deeply personal. Every victory is mine to savor. Every setback is mine to mourn.

“Are you surprised?” Adam asked me when he came out.

“I’m thrilled,” I said.

Thrilled that he trusted Ken and me to be the parents that he deserves.


This program aired on December 13, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

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