Sunday, May 10, 2009

Milk and Mom

A few weeks ago, I Netflixed Gus Van Sant's terrific movie "Milk." It got me to thinking about changes in society, homophobia and my mother.

The movie depicted Anita Bryant's hate campaign against gay folks. I remember it well. I was in high school, and was a good old American teenaged homophobe. Like racism and sexism, homophobia was entrenched in white suburban society.

One day, my mother and I happened to be in the kitchen at the same time, and the ever-present radio was on. The WGN newscaster recounted how Bryant had said that homosexuals should be wiped off the face of the earth. I chuckled and said that she was right. My mother, a little shocked, turned to me and asked why I would say a thing like that-- what have they ever done to you?

I stood there in shocked silence-- and thought. I realized that she was right. It was a turning point in my life. If I hadn't dropped the homophobia, I would have missed out on a bunch of terrific friendships, including that of my best friend Jim. On this Mother's Day, decades later, I realize how many of the core values I have were thanks to my mother, whom I'm lucky enough to have around still. Not everyone is so lucky. Thanks Mom, for what you gave me, and for being you.


Mathman6293 said...

Glad you changed your mind. And happy mother's day to all the mom's in your family.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Great post. It reminded me that I'm ashamed of my former homophobia.

Erik Donald France said...

Wow. Way to go, Mom! One of my sisters had a lot of gay friends in the 70s in North Carolina, which was cool. I didn't like Anita Bryant nor the "Moral Majority" at all ;-> On the one hand, they were a joke; on the other hand, they were destructive.

Churlita said...

I was lucky too. My parents were beatniks and most of their friends were gay. I was raised to think it was just another way to be. I hope some day, everyone is raised that way.

Mnmom said...

That took a lot of courage to admit - thank you for your honesty. My parents were the original odd couple. Mom a die-hard liberal and Dad a knee-jerk reactionary. Life wasn't always easy with them but hardly every boring.

bubbles said...

Great story, JY.

My dad was gay-bashing once, not that he was a bad guy - just a guy of his times. Without thinking (teenager) I said, "I think your reaction is the fear of the homosexual within you."

My dad said nothing. My mom told me years later that she was so proud of me, and that my dad never, ever said anything anti-gay again.

From the mouths of babes.... I was just a kid!

GETkristiLOVE said...

That's sweet.

I remember hating Anita Bryant's campaign from the start. Of course because of the whole equality thing, but also because she had really bad hair.

Erik Donald France said...

p.s. Happy belated birthday, dude!

vikkitikkitavi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vikkitikkitavi said...

Johnny, you're the only blogger out there who doesn't make me feel old.

I appreciated the subject matter of the movie, but I thought the direction was pretty workman-like. I would've enjoyed a more imaginative approach.

Distributorcap said...

very belated birthday

and what a great mom

Johnny Yen said...


Dr. Monkerstein-
No shame needed-- it would only be shameful if you hadn't ditched it!

Reminds me of a bumper sticker I've seen-- "The Moral Majority are neither."

Me too!

I love the your parents were beatniks! When I was very young, my family lived in Chicago's Lincoln Park. It's now a yuppie ghetto, but back in the mid-sixties, it was filled with wonderful hipsters. Unfortunately, my family ended up in the suburbs by the time I was in junior high school. The first thing I did when I graduated college was to move back to the city.

Thanks! My folks were very liberal when they were young, got conservative in middle age and have slowly moved back to being flaming liberals again, which I'm very happy about.

I'm glad you straightened your father out!

Yeah, her hair never left the fifties, did it?

I guess I didn't pay too much attention to the artistic end-- I got really wrapped up in the story-- Milk's development as a person. The movie really reminded me of how rough it was for gay folks-- and still is in a lot of the world.

Thanks! She is great, thank you!

vikkitikkitavi said...

JY, not to be one of those "I prefer the documentary" kind of stuck-up jerks, but if you haven't seen "The Life and Times of Harvey Milk," it's really good.

Johnny Yen said...

A couple of people have actually told me that-- I actually checked it out from my local library branch and made a copy-- I should make a point to make the time to watch it before summer school starts.

Have you ever read Martin Duberman's book "Stonewall?" One of the people the book is about, Craig something, actually dated Harvey Milk, before Milk became an activist, and Duberman mentions this in the book. I highly recommend the book, BTW.

Freida Bee, MD said...

Wow! What a smart mother you have. I was fortunate to have not even have heard of homosexuality growing up in Arkansas until I was contemplating it in myself (uhhh) and hence very in favor of it. I have however had to undo a lot of racism in my adult years and found in a situation similar to Bubbles' that children do have a great influence on their parents.

My step-father's seems pretty unhappy about the changes in the times, but my mom's going with the flow quite well.