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A Mother’s Day interview with my favorite woman
by Blake Hayes
“We created you! We’re the factory you came from!”
I’m chopping vegetables to make soup as I catch up with my mom over the phone, asking her, “How is it that moms always seem to know about their gay sons?”
The question came up while we were talking about the Supreme Court decisions being handed down this summer. Luckily, we’re on the same side of this argument. “I really don’t get the other side. As people realize being gay is not a big deal, their argument is getting harder and harder to make,” she says.
Most of my mom’s friends are on the same page, but she still has the occasional awkward grocery store run-in. “[I always tell them that being gay] is something about you—especially if I sense someone is going to make a gay joke or comment. I’ll cut them off before that happens. I’ll say, ‘Yeah, he’s in radio and a big gay-rights advocate, because he’s gay. And he lives in Texas now, which I was a little worried about, but he loves it.’ And they just hear the gay part as a part of you. It turns it into a positive, and you can see that person learn something.”
“They leave that conversation thinking a little bit differently,” I say.
“Right,” she says. “And you save them the embarrassment of saying something terrible to someone’s mom.”
Moms can be our greatest allies and our proudest supporters. But despite her obvious acceptance and advocacy, I didn’t come out to my family until I was twenty-two. No surprise: they already knew.
“We talked about who my first crush was,” I say.
“Yep! I remember coming home from school on that first day of kindergarten, when they put me on the wrong bus.”
“And then when you went to his house for a play date,” my mom remembers, “you wouldn’t leave my lap. He was playing soccer with his older brothers, but you were like, ‘I really wanted to play with him alone.’”
“Right! ‘Why is he playing with all those older boys? I just wanna play toys inside with him!’”
“And this was another indicator,” she says. “The first back-to-school night we had, in kindergarten. You insisted on wearing this outfit—a plaid blazer, this patterned clip-on tie, and striped pants. It clashed. I said, ‘Blake, you don’t need to dress up,’ but you were insistent on wearing it. Finally I said, ‘Just let him wear the damn thing.’ So we got to the school, and your teacher, Mrs. Rhodes, just gasped and said, ‘Blake, you look so handsome!’ And you turned around and looked at me—‘See?!’ You were just so happy with yourself. ‘I look handsome! Told ya so!’”
“See,” I reiterated. “I already knew how to put an outfit together. Even if it clashed.”
“Yep!” she laughed.
“Isn’t it ridiculous that some people think being gay is a choice? Obviously, I have always been!”
“Well, when you were even younger,” she recalls, “when I worked at the after-school program and you were like one and a half, you used to clog around in the high heels and dress-up stuff! And the girls just loved you. That older kid Teddy, a kindergartener, used to pinch you when I wasn’t looking because he was jealous over how much attention you got from the girls. The other boys would be playing with their trucks, but you wanted to play dress-up with the girls, in high heels, clogging around.”
For the record, I gave up the heels by age three.
Despite this early flamboyance, I didn’t come out to my family until I finished college and moved to New York, though at that point it was all but acknowledged.
“Daddy knew when he moved you and Brendan into your aunt’s apartment.”
“Oh, he did?” I came out three months later, but wasn’t sure he already knew.
“Well, yeah, you were moving to this place for two of you, but with one bed—it was pretty clear!”
Since then, my mom and the rest of my family have been nothing but supportive. “I hope that soon, people won’t have to come out. When do people have to come out as heterosexual?”
“Yeah, it’s like the law—innocent until proven guilty. Straight until proven gay,” I say, and my mom laughs.
“But it’s changing,” my mom says. “Look at someone like Neil Patrick Harris. He plays a womanizer on that show [How I Met Your Mother], but he’s also so open about his family, and now he and his husband have kids. He’s such a success. Having people like him coming out is a huge service to kids who are struggling, but see him…”
“…And say, ‘I can do that.’”
“Right. ‘I can be that.’ And the more people who come out, early on, that are high-profile, strong, self-confident, lovable people—like you—the faster it’ll change. Hopefully, soon,” she continues, “coming out will be a thing of the past. And people can just be who they are.”
“Here’s to hoping. I love you.”
“I love you, too. Now eat some of that soup—you look too thin.”
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.
Blake Hayes is the morning host at Mix 96.5 KHMX.