On a typical night at a bar crawl in the Dallas “gayborhoods,” you would usually expect your loudmouthed friend to be hollering out the passenger's side window while drunkenly belting whatever is on the radio during the drive home. That friend usually isn't your mother, but here we are.
My mom has never had an issue with me being gay. She didn't exactly start tossing confetti and marching around the living room playing a trombone in celebration, though. Me liking dudes wasn't her concern, but rather, my safety as a homosexual man living in Texas, one of the worst states to be gay in, constantly weighs on her heart. She is open about her curiosity regarding gay people and asks questions like “How can you tell if drag queens are drag queens?” and “What's a top and a bottom?” That latter question isn't the most comfortable one to answer, so the “pitcher-catcher” baseball metaphor usually does the trick, while also soliciting that “Ooh, gotcha” response from the woman who gave you life. The best way I knew to answer my mom's questions was not by explaining the LGBT community, however, but by showing her. As if she'd been eagerly awaiting my invite to take her to a gay bar for centuries, she excitedly agreed when I asked her to come see my world with her own eyes.
Upon arriving at one of the largest gay bars in Dallas, my mom was like a social butterfly who had forgotten to take her Adderall.
“Sweetheart, are you gay?” she asked no less than probably 87 men that night.
“What a tall, pretty lady!” she exclaimed, pointing to a drag queen.
“Go talk to that guy, he's a hot butter biscuit!” she told me.
When I didn't, she gladly maneuvered her way through the crowd with me in tow, toward this attractive man who could have, for all she knew, be the second coming of the Craigslist Killer. It was like letting an overly excited yellow Lab off its leash during its first trip to a dog park. She talked to nearly everyone we stood around and almost mistook an advance from a lesbian to meet her in the bathroom. We had to have a meeting of the minds for me to explain to my mom that she wouldn't really be going to the restroom to help the woman “fix her makeup.”
The most common reaction from other patrons that night was them looking at me and saying, “You are so lucky. My mom would never come here with me.” Another was “My parents and I haven't spoken in years.” My mother, being the kind yellow Lab off her leash, would quickly reply with, “Aw sugar, I'll be your mom tonight then too, honey!” So while my mom and I danced to Top 40 songs she had never heard with people she'd never met in a place she'd never been, I watched her become everyone's mother. A substitute parent to everyone whose coming-out caused a rift in the relationship with their own moms, with whom they were probably once close, and to all the broken hearts who would never know the adventure of watching their own mothers dance the night away to a Kylie Minogue song. That night she got at least a dozen phone numbers, free Jell-o shots (which she had never done before), and several invitations to brunch the next morning.
“I can't remember the last time I had that much fun, I really can't,” she said loudly as we got in the car to go home. I don't think she really learned anything that night, because she still can't tell if a woman is a drag queen, and her “gator,” which she called her gaydar, doesn't work at all. Driving home, and watching her bob and sway to a Robyn song with the windows rolled down, however, I learned something I should have already known: I really am, without a doubt, one of the lucky ones.
ZACKARY ROSS is a writer and comedian from Dallas.