Once again, thank you to the speakers who, on Tuesday, decided to share with us their experiences. From what I could tell based on the conversation that followed, there was a great deal of takeaway from these two families’ stories.
Part Two: Verna and Josh
“I taught Josh when we was younger, and he’s teaching me now.”
Josh is twenty years old, and he came out to his mother, Verna, two years ago. Verna, having been brought up in the same generation as Susan, faced the same situation in a very different time.
She said she had an idea about Josh’s sexuality when he was as young as three. “If any one of my four boys is gay, it’s Joshua,” she retells this thought jokingly.
But she opened her story, not with the distress of Josh’s coming out to her, but with the unconditional love she felt then and still feels now for him and all of her children. She strives to teach them to be strong, knowing they (especially her second son) will face adversity. She taught them to take others’ opinions with a grain of salt. It is within your own self and the people that love you that you should find comfort.
One day, Josh called his mom, and she could tell he was nervous. She could tell he had something big to tell her, and it was tough for him.
“Mom, I’m gay.”
“And…? I know Josh; I’ve always known.”
And the simplicity of realizing that maybe his identity was not as secretive as he had thought has forged an even stronger bond between mother and son. She never pushed him; she never even asked him. It was his story to tell. When asked a direct question, Verna’s advice, based upon her own experience was: wait for them to tell you. Even if you have an idea and you want to test the waters, be vague, generic and open-ended. Don’t make them feel pressured to tell something they’re not ready to tell yet. They’ve got to come to terms with it themselves before they can trust others.
For a time, after that confirming conversation, Verna felt legitimate fear for her child. As a Catholic, she honestly believed that, as a gay man, Josh could not go to heaven. Reconciling her feelings for her son and the knowledge that this is something with which he was born, with the belief system of the Catholic church has been a struggle. From the beginning, Verna told Josh to never “lose his faith in God.”
Josh is adamant that he owes all his success to the encouragement from his mother. As of next weekend, Joshua will be a college graduate, having served on the North Idaho College student senate body (ASNIC), as President for the Gender and Sexuality Alliance and as Treasurer for the NIC Signers’ Club.
Verna said of Josh’s accomplishments, “I couldn’t be more proud– not because he’s gay, but because he’s my son.”
Josh and his mom, Verna
This award was presented to the North Idaho College Footsteps Committee by the Task Force On Human Relations for their work in diversity and human rights.
Josh (center) and his siblings