June is Pride month, a chance to celebrate self respect, love and the assertion that, as a gay man or woman, you have the right to exist as you are without justifying your happiness to anyone else. It’s a month, a weekend, a parade of freedom and celebration. These coming-out stories offer a glimpse at what it can mean to come out of the closet as an African American, before the nation elected its first black president, when Oval Office support for marriage equality was a mirage on the horizon. Here is 31-year-old Autumn Dotson’s story.
My mother was the most significant person I came out to. . . . I had just joined the military and I was sent overseas to Japan.
I met a young lady I began to date. It became serious, but it was a bad relationship. It was my first relationship with a woman. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. I was dealing with my religious background. My mom’s an evangelist. We have our own family church.
My girlfriend was a lot older than me and she was manipulative. We got into a fight and I ended up having to go to the hospital. One night, I was in my dorm room and my mom happened to call. I told her and she got very silent. I told her I got into a physical altercation. I told her I was dating this woman. . . . She began to tell me it was a sin.
After we got off the phone, I didn’t hear from her for about a year.
She sent me a letter around Christmastime. In the letter it basically said, “You’re my daughter, I love you no matter what.” It was a long letter broken down into scriptures. She said, “I don’t approve of your lifestyle, but I accept you the way you are because you are my daughter.”
I was crying. I felt a sense of relief at the same time because I felt now we could finally talk about it. . . When I first told her, we didn’t talk about it. When I got the letter, I read it over and over again. She had 50 million questions about my sexuality. Did anyone else know? Was it just a phase? Had I been with any other women? She was really detailed -- “Does your brother know? Does your dad know?”
I’m with someone now, who I think is pretty much forever. . . If I go home for Christmas, I might bring her with me. My mom knows she exists, but she hasn’t asked me about her.
It is hard, but I’ve always had in my head, I’mma be me regardless. I didn’t tell my mom she couldn’t marry my stepfather. I didn’t get along with him at all. I moved out when I was 16 because I didn’t like him. But I didn’t tell her she couldn’t marry him. I wanted her to be happy. . . . Don’t ever let anyone stop you from being happy, no matter who it is.