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October 8, 2010

Like Mother, (Not) Like Daughter

How does a ripped-jeans-wearing, makeup-hating tomboy come out to her beauty queen of a mom?

stephanie and her mother

Fairyington today with a friend at a gay bar, and her mom on a date with a high-school boyfriend.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Stephanie Fairyington

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Me: "I didn’t want to hurt you."

Her: "What about Curtis? You told me you were infatuated with him."

Me: "Her name was actually Lisa Curtis."

Her: "And Andrew?"

Me: "Ann Pangan."

Her: "What about children ... my grandchildren?"

Me: "Mom, I’m not infertile."

A sigh.

Her: "Do you have a girlfriend?"

Me: "Yes."

Her: "What’s her name?"

Me: "Mary."

A moment of silence.

Mom: "Well ... what’s she like?"

It was as simple as that. I had expected anger, judgment, estrangement — everything but acceptance.

Soon after, I met my mom and her new husband for a vacation in Branson, Missouri, a town pulsing with Republican family values. I was a bit anxious about seeing her there, fearing she’d absorb the cultural climate around her and level me with disapproval. But she didn’t. She made a couple of off-color jokes about my being gay — like affectionately referring to me as her lesbianite (a riff on sodomite) — and managed to break the ice.

Ever since then, our relationship has grown. I’m no longer evading questions about my personal life. I tell her about my girl troubles in the same way I’d tell her about my boy troubles if I were straight. She can see that having a queer daughter isn’t so different after all. Of course, that doesn’t stop her from occasionally grabbing a billowy blouse off the rack and saying, "I think you’d look great in this." Although now she’ll follow up with, "But I know it’s not you."

Stephanie Fairyington is a research editor and freelance journalist who has written on gender and sexuality for ELLE, The New York Observer, Time Out New York, The Huffington Post, Dissent, Utne Reader, Advocate, and OUT.

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