“This is more than just a support group to me… A little over two years ago, I joined the Mama Dragons.”
I had a feeling my son Tyson was gay from an early age. I’m not completely sure why. I don’t think that I had ever honestly considered whether being gay was a choice. If I did, I don’t remember it. The thought of it being a choice just never made any sense at all. While visiting home during a particularly difficult time in his life, he said to me, “You know I’m gay, right?” I did know – and I knew that I knew. And yet, hearing the words was like a punch in my stomach. Why did I feel that way? Why did I even care? I said something dumb like, “Are you sure?” He said, “I’m sure – but I think I’m actually probably bi-sexual.” I said, “Well that sounds like you are confused.” I now realize that this was an ignorant thing to say, and in the big scheme of things, I didn’t care if he was gay or not. I really didn’t. I was just so worried about him in every way, that it was just one more thing. He was battling with a deadly drug addiction and his sexuality was not the most important issue to us.
During the next few years, he had ups and downs. He was in a relationship with a great guy, and yet, his addiction once again reared its ugly head. We talked almost every day and our conversations involved a lot of talk of him choosing to live and fight when he just wanted to give up and die. There were several suicide attempts before he finally entered treatment. After treatment, I let myself feel hope once again. One day I realized I hadn’t heard from him the day before. I called him and he didn’t answer. He had seemed to be doing so well the last time that we’d talked so I wasn’t too worried. That night, I got the call from his dad that the police had contacted him and our son was dead. He had hung himself two days earlier. This was just hours after he told me how much he loved school. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I was numb. I wasn’t surprised because I felt I had prepared myself for this possible outcome, but this time I had been so hopeful. I had this flood of emotions that included relief, horror, sadness and desperation. Mostly I just felt agony at the thought of him feeling so desperate and alone. I thought I should have been there. I could have stopped him. I knew I could have stopped him this time, but also knew there would have also been a next time. He had escaped from his pain. I knew that he had finally found relief. I didn’t blame him for giving up. My son had the acceptance and love of his family. He was lucky. But he did live with the judgment of his surrounding community. I cannot say that Tyson’s sexuality was the reason he decided to use drugs, but I do know that he spent a lot of time pretending to be something he wasn’t. The choice to use drugs for escape is often, unfortunately, the answer for some.
Tyson posted on my Facebook wall about a year before he died. It said, “I love you, Mom. You are so respectful and loving, I don’t know how I got so lucky. People should aspire to be more like you. You’re a beacon of light in your community. I love you more than you will ever know.” I realized that if this is the way my son saw me, I had some work to do. I needed to be the beacon of light that he saw in me. As I write this, it has been five months since I got the news. I am proud of myself for being strong. I often worry that I’ve been too strong and that I’m just putting off the inevitable. I spend plenty of time on my bathroom floor crying and wondering what I could have done differently. I spend some time feeling a little angry at this boy for leaving me and not fighting just a little bit harder. In the end, I cannot change what happened. I can only honor Tyson’s life by being there for others who need support and I hope that I can make a difference somehow. I have faith that my son is with me every step of the way.