This is the third interview I’m posting today. I have known Cheryl for over half of my life now and I remember standing over her kitchen stove while she asked me about her son Brad and her exact words: “I just hope he knows that no matter who he is dating, I will love him no matter what.” We all laugh about this now and how I later told Brad: “just tell her, she knows.” Thank you, Ms. Cheryl, for doing this interview.
Cheryl Fairchild, Atlanta, Georgia
How old was your son/daughter when you first suspected he/she was gay?
I don’t think there was a time when we just said, “Oh my God, I think he’s gay”. I suppose the first inkling had something to do with sports. He was not really interested in sports. He was always interested in reading, arts, etc.
When you had that realization what were your initial thoughts and feelings?
I don’t think any mother holds her newborn baby and says, “Oh, I hope he’s gay”. I think there is too much potential danger and heartache for your child. There were signs that Brad was not like some boys, but he was not feminine at all. Maybe I kidded myself for a long time that he was not gay. When he finally came out it was not a surprise. I honestly was relieved to actually “know”.
If you had a conversation with your son/daughter about their orientation, how old was he/she and how did the conversation go?
My son was in college when he came out to me. We hosted a party for one of his friends at our house. His best friend was helping me in the kitchen and I was asking him some slyly probing questions about my son. He was trying to answer me without lying, but at the same time he needed to keep Brad’s secret. I suppose I made him really uncomfortable. He obviously warned Brad that I was suspicious. Later, as we were cleaning up, we started talking. Brad told me that he was gay. He was so scared. It broke my heart to know that he actually thought we would turn away from him when he told us. That would never happen. There were some tears and hugging. I assured Brad that I loved him and nothing would change that. I was so happy to finally know the truth. Brad was happy to be out.
Have you ever attended a support group, such as PFLAG? If yes, did you get what you needed from the support group? Did you know what kind of support you needed?
No, I’ve never attended a support group meeting.
Currently, there are many politicians that actively discriminate against the LGBTQ community, or run on anti-gay platforms. When you vote, do you try to make sure the candidate is supportive of your son/daughter?
Have you ever voted for an anti-gay candidate?
I probably have. Not because of that, but because of other issues.
What would you like younger LGBTQ people to know or to take away from reading this interview?
I wish that I had known that he was gay much earlier. I could have helped him through some of those hard times. I know when he was in high school he must have struggled and not really understood what was going on. It hurts me to think of him going through that without my support. I’m his mother and I’m there to take care of him and help him. When you don’t know about it, you can’t help with it.
I love my son. He is one of the most wonderful people I have ever known. I’m so proud of the type of person that he is. I thank God that he was brave enough to make it through the hard times so that I can still have him in my life now. I would feel such emptiness without him.
Thank you, Cheryl. If you know of a young person needing support, please also contact the Trevor Project.