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Stephanie Covington Armstrong Headshot

My Mother Wishes I Were Gay

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My mother keeps prodding me to come out of the closet. She wants me to accept my rightful place in the world as a gay woman. I am probably the only straight woman in America whose mother keeps a watch for latent homosexual urges. Nothing would make her happier or prouder then to see me, her baby girl, fall in love with a woman.

"It's not over till the fat lady sings," she announces in a tone that screams "mother knows best."

"No, Mom, I really like men," I shriek like a petulant child, aware that my defensiveness will be perceived as yet another sign that she's right. She says she's only half-kidding, but it's the half that's convinced I'm better suited for a Michelle than a Michael that annoys me. She's bought into the "like mother, like daughter" fantasy, and there is nothing I can say to end her mini-me dreams.

When I turned 12 my mother met her boyfriend, who would become a quasi-stepfather figure to me. He was 10 years younger than she was, a blond-haired, well-bred idealist who provided us with a Southern address and membership in the Communist Party. She swiftly abandoned her Vogue patterns and pantyhose, dragging me to marches on Washington where they fought either for or against something, usually against whatever the government supported. By my junior year of high school, their relationship had reached its expiration date. My mother quickly reverted back to her single status.

At 21 I fell in love with the man I believed I would marry. For the first time, I was able to comprehend all the fuss about love. At the same time, my mother began to brighten at the mention of her "female friend." My sisters and I immediately became suspicious. That's when we learned that she, too, had fallen in love... with a woman.

Unlike in high school, when I rebelled against her political involvement by becoming a cheerleader, I couldn't convince her that my blatant heterosexuality wasn't a cry for her attention. Instead of taking my side in this debate, my sisters insisted that unlike them, I'd always been my mother's clone. Yes, I'm outspoken like my mother. Like my mother, I'm a free spirit who shaved off my hair at 30. Unlike my sisters, who would never date outside our race, I've always taken a color-blind approach to my love life, just like my mother. But that still doesn't mean I'm destined to come flying out of the closet waving a striped banner like my mother had done.

At 41 she fell madly in love with a blonde woman named Jane. Tarzan had a Jane, Dick had a Jane, and now Louise had a Jane. My sisters weren't able to accept my mother's transformation from hot mom to political mom to butch-lesbian mom. They kept hoping she'd revert back to her original self. I was just glad she had found someone and finally settled down. A year into the relationship, Jane, my mother's starter girlfriend, became a distant memory, but by then my mother's conversion to lesbianism was complete. She'd found her people.

When I turned 40 and was suddenly single, she called to console me. "I wasn't gay at your age, either," she said. "Life is long, and you never know what's ahead of you, so keep an open mind."

"Mom, I'd be gay if I could stop this crazy attraction I have to men," I explained ad nauseam. "I'm sorry, but I was born this way."

She went on, relentless: "The fat lady hasn't sung yet."

"That fat lady is dead," I laughed.

I don't bother getting annoyed anymore. She means well. Wanting me to be gay has nothing to do with signals or mother's intuition. It's because we are so similar that she believes that what finally made her happy would also lead to me to joy.

If I were gay, I'd be all rainbow flags and gay babies and moving to a state where I could have a big gay wedding and live in gay happily-ever-afterdom. My mother accepts that about me. After I became a mother, I pledged that I'd allow my daughter be her own self and separate from me, and that I would not place any expectations on her sexuality. One afternoon I arrived at her preschool to learn that she had been reprimanded for kissing a boy. "That's my girl," I secretly thought as I explained to her that she was too young to kiss boys.

My 4-year-old fixed me with a stare: "But I like to kiss girls, too, Mommy," she declared. At that moment I was relieved to know that life is long. After all, my mother had assured me of it.