You might wonder why I stayed completely in the closet until I was almost 35. Why I never breathed a word of it to anyone. Why I was celibate, a monk in the Order of Engineering.
Not fear of my mother. Love of my mother. I could not break her heart.
My mother is uncompromising. She does not know how to compromise. She has never done it.
She would not let us compromise, either. She would never accept – would never let us accept – anything less than our best. Schoolwork, sports, morality, hygiene, household chores, summer and weekend jobs – all had to be done to our utmost ability. Learning by rote was unacceptable. I had to understand what I was learning, question it until I understood the underlying ideas.
She never had to tell me that. I just knew it.
Unlike many uncompromising people, however, she is tolerant of other beliefs and the failings of others.
My mother certainly does not compromise on religion: She is a devout Catholic. She raised us strictly in the Church.
My Catechism and confirmation classes sorely tested her belief that I should question until I understood. I questioned the priest relentlessly. It not only tested her belief that I should question, it tested her patience with me.
But she defended me to our priest and the bishop. She wasn’t afraid for my soul then; the disciples, the prophets and Augustine all had their moments of doubt.
It hurt her when I left the Church, but she never rebuked me. It hurt her more when I joined a Protestant church. She knew I would never return to the Church.
She could accept that I might be a heretic. But I knew that she could never accept that I might be a lesbian.
My greatest fear in the first 30 years of my life was that she would learn that I was gay.
I stayed resolutely in the closet. I never acted on – or even thought of acting on – my orientation. I withdrew into celibacy and solitude.
I didn’t come out to my mother.
I still didn’t come out to my mother.