The Ellen Show & Harry Potter World // The True Story of a Mom’s Love for Her Gay Son
Just barely a week ago, my mom and I were in for the surprise of our lives. We were thrilled to experience the warmth and excitement that is the Ellen Show as an audience member, but as a shocking turn, Ellen herself invited us to join her on her famous couches on national television. My mom was crying from happiness and disbelief, and I was stunned, unable to feel my hands due to overwhelmed nerves and incitement. But, how did my mom and I get here?
Our story began when I was in middle school. I recognized I was gay the summer before eighth grade, though at the time I had no idea how people “came out.” I knew when I told one person I was gay I knew things would never be the same, and I would never be the same Bryden. According to my religious beliefs at the time, being a Christian and homosexual was not only incompatible; they were in absolute opposition. The continuous struggle of being one person inside but presenting another on the outside for four years eventually took its toll; inside, I became empty, lost, and destroyed. Being in the closet was a mysterious duality. As long as I stayed in the closet, I was safe. But, as long as I remained in the closet, I felt intense fear and shame, and it would eat at my soul bit by bit until it destroys you, which it nearly did.
I was taught a critical strategy to help stop with unhealthy self-talk, such as yelling at yourself or telling yourself you are not adequate enough, which was essential to my coming out process. The strategy goes like this: you picture your younger self sitting across from you. You imagine yelling at your younger self with the same toxic words you were telling yourself previously. Does the eight year-old version of yourself deserve to hear those heartbreaking words? No, and neither do you.
It was not until I read the Rolling Stone article depicting the nearby town Anoka’s war on gay teenagers, with nine suicides by teenagers outed as gay or perceived as such, and I realized I did not want to be pushed to such a dark mind space, and join my deceased gay family. I was allowing my religion and fear at the time to place myself into a black hole, but no longer. I told my first friend who I was, I realized I was right before; I was not the same Bryden, but in a way, I did not expect. I felt relieved, triumphant, and I just then realized how ready I was to celebrate who I am. Not long after I disclosed my sexual orientation to my friends and some family members did it dawn on me that I would have to tell my mom. I knew my mom would have a difficult time with it, and she did. When I finally revealed it to my mom, she cried and I cried. I left the house for the weekend and solely relied on my friends a few family members for comfort and support. I thought my mom and I would never be close again.
Fortunately, love was in our corner. Though my mom’s first initial reaction was heartbreaking and challenging, she took it upon herself to empathize my perspective, and it showed. When I moved into my first college dorm, she left a handwritten note ten pages long desiring patience from me. Patience. Something at the time that I did not grant my mother, something she deserved. My mom did not have gay friends, and her experience of crossing paths with openly-gay folks was lacking; so, why did I not give my mom the patience she deserved as much as I did?
“There are those from religious backgrounds who resist and oppose LGBT equality; some very obsessively and publicly. They make bold accusations and negative statements about gay and lesbian people, their supposed "lifestyle" and relationships. But when a son, daughter, brother, sister or close friend comes out it is no longer an "issue" it becomes a person. They realize everything they'd said was painfully targeted at someone they love.” - Anthony Venn-Brown
Three years later, while I was a junior, my mom came around. She expressed that she disclosed my sexuality to her father, who admitted that he had no problem with me being gay because Ellen, from his favorite show, was gay. This was a turning point for my mom, who also had been relying on the Ellen Show for support, education, and warmth during the challenging period my coming out had on her. My mom told me she was sorry for her initial reaction and asked me to forgive her. I shared with my mom that I forgave her a long time ago and completely understand why she reacted the way she did. We hugged and cried, alleviated we can return to being close friends again. To this day, mom and I could not be closer and our relationship is stronger than ever, which is an immense honor and fortunate privilege. Every day my mom tells me how proud she is of me, and how much of a light I am to her, my friends and family, and for the rest of the world.
Knowing my mom was a fan of the Ellen Show, I wrote a letter to the show every week for four months detailing why mom deserves to be in the audience and experience the show. Her love is powerful, unconditional, and so deserving of a dream of attending of the Ellen Show. My mom present day still will mention how she regrets how she first reacted when I came out. So, I thought what could be more of a powerful way of showing it’s all okay and you can forgive yourself by getting my mom to the Ellen Show? Long-story short, a few producers called me explaining they loved our story and invited us to be audience members of a live show. The rest, is history.
For those who have not seen Love, Simon I don’t want to ruin it, but I want to share a part of the film that left a significant impression on me and parallels this entire journey . Simon, the closeted high-schooler, asks his mother if she knows he’s gay and her response was powerful. She replied:
“I knew you had a secret. When you were little, you were so carefree. But these last few years, more and more, it almost like I can feel you holding your breath … I need you to hear this: You are still you … you get to exhale now. You get to be more you than you have been in a very long time. You deserve everything you want.” - Love, Simon
Like Simon, you get to exhale and be more you than you have ever been. You deserve everything you want and more.