By Donalevan Maines
Carrying a plate of homemade cookies, the loving mother of Houston’s Ted “TR” Bowen IV arrives early at a Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) meeting in Boerne, Texas, a small town about 30 miles northwest of San Antonio.
Bowen’s friends know Boerne because they enjoy an open invitation to the home of his mom, Raydell, who is 65. Any friend of her gay son is a friend of Raydell’s. “I have a ton of adopted kids!” she says. “They are all special to my heart. They are always welcomed, whether as a group or alone.”
About the PFLAG group in Boerne, Raydell says, “We are not big, but we are dedicated.”
Twice a month, Raydell and about 10 others meet in the Cub Scout hut at Boerne’s First United Methodist Church. But every day is PFLAG Day for Raydell.
“If I had a problem, she would be here in a heartbeat,” says Mitch Martin of Dallas. “She is a very kind and caring woman. If she sees me on Facebook having a bad day, she calls, I talk, and she listens. When I met TR 15 years ago, Raydell took me under her wing. There is no one like her. She is the sweetest, most beautiful woman.”
Fritz McDonald, who lives in the Heights, agrees. “Several years ago, when Raydell heard that I would be spending Thanksgiving alone, she insisted that TR bring me to Boerne for the whole weekend. She is such an openhearted person, and she and TR are two peas in a pod. She is a wonderful woman, deep and insightful, and that carries forward from Raydell to TR.”
Longtime family friend Lorie Crawford knows them both. The mother of a lesbian, she never guessed her daughter was gay, but TR’s coming out was no surprise. “Since I had known him since he was a little boy, there were signs all along his growing up that he was gay,” she explains.
It’s not that Bowen played with Barbie dolls; rather, he displayed a playful exuberance unlike many boys who aren’t gay. “I always played outside, fishing and hunting, shooting guns and riding four-wheelers,” he explains. “I was quite the handful, like Dennis the Menace.”
Crawford adds, “I love him so much. He has always been the life of the party, and any gathering with Bubba [TR] was turned into a party. Of course, he’s got that ‘crazy’ gene from his mother! He is also as kind and generous as Raydell.
“I remember vividly the day she told me he was gay,” she says. “I remember crying with Raydell when she told me. It was not a surprise, but it was still hard to take. She worried that he would be a victim of a hate crime or of AIDS. She tried talking him into being into girls, and that was a waste of time. Girls loved TR, but not in that way. It has taken a few years for her to come to terms with his sexuality, but she has adjusted and seems to fully embrace his lifestyle and his friends. He is her pride and joy.”
Raydell says she never feared that TR’s life in the gay world would cause a separation between them. “It never entered my mind. Are you kidding? I am his world!” she laughs.
One of Raydell’s sisters, Charlene Lindsey, retorts, “And he is your world.”
Raydell also has a daughter, Julie; a son-in-law, Kurt; and grandchildren YaYa and Angela. “I also have two stepchildren.”
She doesn’t expect any grandchildren, much less a permanent son-in-law, from Bowen, who is 38. “Ya never know,” he laughs. “If gay marriage had [always] been legal, I would have been married and divorced seven times by now. I would give Elizabeth Taylor a run for her money.” The past five years, says Bowen, “I’ve been with the same guy off and on. It’s ‘on’ now, but by Mother’s Day, ya never know.”
Bowen lives in Houston’s Midtown district, lending his charisma and enthusiasm to the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau as a national account executive. “Every day, I sell Houston,” he explains.
Growing up, Bowen remembers his mother as “always beautiful and stylish, and so much fun.”
A wall at the Fort Bend Museum in Bowen’s hometown of Richmond, Texas, traces his father’s side of the family back to “the old 300” colonists whom Stephen F. Austin led to Texas when it was Spanish territory.
After graduating from high school, Bowen attended Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches to earn a degree in journalism with emphasis on public relations and advertising, with a minor in radio/television/film.
During the summer break between his sophomore and junior years, Bowen dated a fellow lifeguard at Weston Lakes Country Club in Fulshear. He says it felt like the right time to come out to his parents, who by then were divorced and each remarried.
“What was I afraid of?” he asks. “There wasn’t anything to be afraid of. My parents didn’t have any gay friends that I knew of, and gay people didn’t come around our house. I guess I felt I was too different from who they were. But coming out wasn’t bad. My dad told me, ‘I still love you,’ and I knew everything was going to be okay.”
Bowen is happy and proud that Raydell is such a beacon of light for him and his friends. He plans to joyfully share her with Raydell’s “adopted kids” when Mother’s Day is celebrated on May 8.
Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.