My mother was born in the South, in Savannah, Georgia, in the 1920’s. As you can imagine during that time and that place, society was very strict. She grew up in a home with just her mother because her father had abandoned them. My mom grew up with society telling her she could only grow up to be a nurse or a school teacher or a mother, and that she had to be married, but she always wanted more from life. She wanted to be a singer. She wanted to be single. She never wanted to marry and have children. My mother was bisexual. She was gay. We didn’t know that until much later, but it affected us all. If we had known earlier it would have explained it a lot.
She got married in 1947 and in 1951 she had my sister. I think the only reason she had her willingly was because it cemented a marriage she was forced into. She got pregnant again, and then I came along. With me she had tried to give herself an abortion. It wasn’t easy growing up with her because she would just leave us for days with our sister. Once my sister beat up a kid and pushed her out the window and the police came. My mother was nowhere to be found so they took us to an orphanage called St. Marys. We stayed there until my mom came back or my father came back to town. He was a truck driver and was away a lot. I think he was escaping from her. If I had a nickel for every time she told me he didn’t want me and that she tried to miscarry (she threw herself down the stairs)... She told me the only reason I was alive was because abortions were illegal. Pills were not available. While we were at St. Mary’s a Jewish couple came that wanted to adopt me because they found out that my grandmother was Jewish and that I could be raised Jewish. My mother said Yes. Great! But then my father came back and said no. So we all moved back into the projects where we lived.
My mother hated her life and hated her kids. I used to go to school with a busted lip and black eyes. Not once did an adult ask me what was wrong. I would have told someone but no one asked. I was failed in that way.In the 70’s my parents divorced, and we all moved out of the house.
College was really where I developed my own self worth and I realized despite years of someone telling me the opposite - I am wanted. I do have a place. It made me understand my mother, and I felt bad for her. Because no matter how much I hated her for the things she did she didn’t know how to be any other way. She was a victim. She was forced into a roll that she didn’t want. I accepted that. She was a woman who had no choices. Understanding that really made me reflect and see that I do have choices. The realization gave me strength to lead the life I want.
My mother, finally being able to live her life freely, started to come out more when she was older. She started singing in gay clubs. She would put on a tiara and a feather boa and get the attention she had always craved.
As far as I can remember my mother had a best friend named Jane. She was always around, but we didn’t realize what their relationship might have really been until later. When Jane died I remember my mother speaking at the funeral and looking down at her tissue and saying, “I know y’all know this...but I’ll just say it out loud - Jane was the only person that ever did make me happy.”