NOTE: link to view this referenced TEDx talk is at the bottom of this blog.
I am honored and pleased to now be serving on the board of a relatively new nonprofit, “Gay Sons and Mothers,” founded by Rick Miller, a psychotherapist, author and public speaker. Gay Sons and Mothers is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that chronicles the complex emotional bond that exists between gay sons and their mothers. The project was begun by founder Rick Miller in 2016 and Gay Sons and Mothers was formally organized in December of 2018.
Through interviews and the use of multimedia, Gay Sons and Mothers documents personal stories about the defining qualities of this unique relationship. We highlight how this special connection has the power to increase the overall acceptance of gay sons and their families, communities, and peers. Do read my initial blog introducing this organization.
In June, 2022, Rick invited all the board members to attend TEDx Provincetown, where he was one of eight inspirational speakers on a wide range of fascinating topics. In addition to hearing Rick, it was great to meet several of my fellow Gay Sons and Mothers board members in person.
Rick’s talk was titled, “The Mother Factor: Acceptance Works Both Ways.” What is so fascinating is that Rick is perhaps the first person to do extensive research on how a mother’s role is so critical to every person’s life, even as adults.
Here are some key points from Rick’s talk:
A mother is the person who has the greatest impact on her gay son’s psychological well-being. The main trait in healthy gay men is that they had mothers who just accepted him and let him be who he wanted to be. If that meant playing hopscotch or loving to wear glitter, she didn’t stop him.
Up until the mid to late ’70s, the medical and mental-health communities blamed mothers for “making their sons gay.” Imagine how a mother felt receiving these messages – from her husband, doctor, or clergy back then.
You’d think that mothers wouldn’t accept their sons for being different, yet there were many accepting mothers who simply ignored what they were being told – and privately followed their own intuition.
When a mother is supportive of her gay child, magic happens. Their bond is frequently private, unspoken, and even unrecognized, while they both experience a sense of togetherness.
Rick closed his talk with some important points on how all of us should think of and treat our mothers:
• First, step out of viewing your mother just as your mom. Instead recognize that she is a whole person, and give her the acceptance that she deserves. Instead of focusing on her weaknesses or what she didn’t do, also focus on her strengths and what she did well.
• Then, appreciate that she grew up in her own imperfect world, in a family system with vulnerabilities that existed long before you were even born.
• And recognize that how your mother was parented became the model of how she parented you. Maybe she did the best she could!
• If you want to be fully appreciative of your mother, do your best to let go of your grudges.
• If your mother is still alive, and you both have the opportunity to speak to each other about your experiences, why not do so while you can?
• And if she is no longer alive, remember, your relationship continues inside… and there is no expiration date on acceptance or forgiveness!
In an ideal world, mothers are seen as the emancipators, but now it is up to you- to turn the tables and emancipate her.
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