“The Mother Factor: Acceptance Works Both Ways” with Rick Miller, Gay Sons and Mothers

It was wonderful to meeting some of my fellow “Gay Sons and Mothers” board members in person!

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 Miller giving his talk at TEDx Provincetown

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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You can now watch the 10-minute talk on Youtube using this link!!

Introducing a cool new organization: “Gay Sons and Mothers” and founder Rick Miller!

I got introduced to “Gay Sons and Mothers” through my friendship with out Olympian figure skater Adam Rippon and his mother Kelly.

As a diversity consultant and trainer with several areas of deep expertise including LGBTQ+, I always enjoy discovering new groups that are doing innovative work within the diversity and inclusion space. And recently I discovered this unique organization focusing on the relationships between gay sons and their mothers. I thank Kelly Rippon, mother of Olympian figure skater Adam Rippon, who invited me to a webinar discussion on her new book “Parent Up,” with Gay Sons and Mothers’ founder Rick Miller. Please enjoy this brief introductory interview I recently had with Rick:

STAN: First Rick, can you tell us a little about yourself?

RICK: I am a gay man, who was the youngest of three kids , and used my status of mom’s favorite with my siblings throughout our growing up years, and maybe into adulthood as well. On a more serious note, I am also a psychotherapist, author and Executive Director of the nonprofit Gay Sons and Mothers.

Gay Sons and Mothers founder Rick Miller


STAN: What inspired you to start “Gay Sons and Mothers?”

RICK: Aside from wanting to share my special status with the world, while writing a book for mental health and medical providers about working with gay men, I was surprised to see that no literature about this topic existed about this. I decided that I wanted to share the message with people of all cultures, races and ethnic groups that a mother can be a savior to her gay son. This is especially important since historically, in the psychiatric and medical field, mothers were often blamed for making their sons gay.


STAN: What exactly is the mission of “Gay Sons and Mothers?” What do you hope to accomplish?

RICK: The mission for Gay Sons and Mother is to collect, curate, celebrate, and preserve narratives that educate, inspire, and bring hope to audiences about the significance of this emotional bond.


STAN: What kinds of programs and resources does “Gay Sons and Mothers” offer?

RICK: We offer education via workshops and lectures at the workplace or community settings, we share videos through our social media pages and Youtube page, we hold special live events throughout the year sharing how this unique mother son bond is profoundly significant in promoting LGBTQ+ acceptance, and we also provide support to individuals struggling with being gay or having gay family members community members.

 

My own loving mother and I enjoying dinner and wine while attending a figure skating competition.

STAN: Would you like to share an example of a positive impact that “Gay Sons and Mothers” has had?

RICK: One of the stories I feel most proud about is how a teenager in high school was leery to come out to his class mates, and his mom who he had already come out to and was affirming, suggested he chat with me and follow our instagram page. From seeing our posts, he was brave enough to build up his courage and come out to his classmates! I consider this a triumph!

Another incredible story which was beyond moving was that a 74 year old psychiatrist who lived in CA drove 7 hours to attend my Gay Sons and Mothers workshop at an international conference, and said “I never ever thought I would say this out loud in my lifetime, I am a 74 year old man who has never told anybody else before this moment, that I am gay!”

Rick Miller with his loving mother


STAN: Do spend full time with “Gay Sons and Mothers,” or do you have another vocation?

RICK: It feels like running gay sons and mothers is a full time job because it is always in my mind and the energy behind it is positive and exciting. But, actually, I work full time in my psychotherapy practice and my writing!


STAN: How can people learn more about “Gay Sons and Mothers” and how can they be in touch with you? Are there ways people can support this work?

RICK: Please follow us on Instagram or Facebook gaysonsandmothers, or visit us at our website www.gaysonsandmothers.org, or view a sample of our videos on our Youtube channel Gay Sons and Mothers and view our playlist content. Or I can be reached directly at [email protected]


STAN: Is there anything else you would like to share?

RICK: Just reminder to share your love with your mom, or if you are a mom, with your children!

STAN: Thank you for this inspiring chat! I love what you are doing to bring love and understanding into our world, and I wish you and Gay Sons and Mothers the very best of success.