I was able meet Keith Boykin and hear him offer some encouraging remarks and speak about a new anthology called for Colored Boys Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Was Not Enough. A story that stood out to me from his speech was about his grandmother, who apparently told a man he was dating that she didn’t approve of her grandsons “life style” at the very moment he was walking across the stage to receive his law degree. Grandmothers are funny. They are the rocks of our families, the backbone to the kindred, and the glue that usually holds dysfunctional groups together. Yet, more often than not, for any gay kid embarking on coming out of the closet, the granny represents something much more difficult. This difficulty is usually presented by other family members saying, “whatever you do, don’t tell granny.”
My grandmother is what I call a soul food grandma. She might be in physical pain, but as long as she is on this earth, she will put herself before others, regardless of any personal difficulties she is going through. She helped to raise me and instilled in me pretty much every lick of sense that I have. In less than a month my grandmother will celebrate her 81st birthday. She literally is the wisest person I know. The type of grandmother that spewed phrases like “I aint studding you” or “there’s a right way, and there’s a wrong way.” She now lives in Mississippi. So needless to say that when I had to come out to her, it was not an easy feat. As a matter of fact, if it had of been up to me, my Grandmother would probably not have found out to this day. But fate had other plans.
Thankfully Keith and I found out that a grandmother’s love is stronger than the hateful, divisive, religiously charged, and traditionalist conservative paradigms that were the norm two or three generations ago. When I finally came out to my grandmother, I got two responses. She said,
“Jon, I have two things to say. One, I still love you. And two, I don’t want no body messing with my grandson”
As I reflect on national coming out day, I am blessed to know that my family and friends accept my identity, including my grandmother. As we all know if it difficult for those boys and girls of color growing up in a world that seeks to judge before learning first and last names. What eases that difficulty, if not only a little, is knowing that granny doesn’t think of your lifestyle as deviant. But the question remains, how does one accomplish this?
Well the answer is intertwined into one of the most overused words and one of the most powerful concepts known to mankind: Love. One thing we know grandmothers around the world have to give— is love. Any loving grandmother, parent, or true friend will only accept you for who you are, and spend the rest of the time loving you. It might not be easy at first, but love always conquers bias, hate, and discrimination. Happy Coming Out Day.