“My name is Diane, and I am a queer person of color who works in the animation industry. I’m half Egyptian, half Chinese and was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. I grew up on the Egyptian side of my family since my father and his family all lived and worked in the United States, and eventually deserted my mom. I come from a very small family that came from Cairo in the late 1960’s. We were somewhat religious growing up; we celebrated Eid, Ramadan, and went to the mosque for these holidays about once or twice a year. However, that tradition didn’t last a long time.
Eventually, my immediate family moved to Ottawa and became less religious, including my mom, since we moved away from my grandparents who were the most religious in the family. I never really prayed growing up, and neither did my mom, from what I can remember. I think being in Canada westernized my family, so perhaps that is partly why we slowly drifted from Islam. We stopped fasting, and never really covered ourselves with hijabs except for in the mosque when we were younger.
I always believed in God growing up, all the stories my grandfather would tell me about the afterlife, and about our religion. He made it all seem so glamorous, like after death, in heaven, we’d all have houses made of gold and you could have anything you ever wanted! But I never really practiced the religion very well, but I didn’t think that would be an issue with going to heaven.
When I was a kid in school, I remember always noticing certain girls in my classes. I would always have this particular feeling towards them, but never knew exactly what it was. I would always have this thought and behavior of wanting to impress them, or do something that would make them notice me. Such as trying to play a sport really well, or trying to make myself seem cooler in front of them. I never really thought anything of this behavior towards them, I just thought this was ‘normal,’ and for some reason it never occurred to me until recently, that I didn’t think the same or do the same for the boys growing up.
I remember one time when I was in fourth grade . My mom took me to The Bay to go shopping for new clothes. She took me to the girls section, and none of it ever seemed appealing to me. So I walked over to the boys section, and all the clothes just looked way cooler! So I picked out some things and she explained to me that it was for boys, and I begged her to buy them for me! Because wearing a shirt with a dragon on it was way cooler than a pink shirt with frills and sequins on it.
Right before I went to high school, I can remember my mom telling me that I needed to start walking and dressing like a girl, and to start hanging out with the girls. Because no girls or boys would want to be friends with a tomboy. I thought that was totally bizarre. Why would I just ditch my guy friends as soon as I go to high school? There was no way they would do that to me either? And so what if I dressed like a boy when it made me feel good and confident?
However I had to comply because in Egyptian culture, family comes first and you need to always do things to please and honor your parents and family even if it makes you unhappy. So she bought me a whole new wardrobe so that I would be ‘girly,’ and could attract the boys. I ended up dating one guy in grade 11, however, it didn’t feel right to me. But my mom was happy about it, so I felt I was doing it more for her than myself. I eventually ended it because I wasn’t feeling it. She was more sad about it than me.
When I was in college, I completely reverted back to my true tomboy self. I had moved out of my parents’ house and was on my own, so I was able to buy myself my own clothes that made me happy. Although when my mom would visit, she would make negative comments on what I was wearing, as if I was doing something wrong.
A few of my close friends in school and outside of school were gay, and one of them I ended up having close relations with back in 2014. Eventually we got together one night, and everything made sense after that.
After that time, I was having a lot of inner conflict about having feelings for girls. Because growing up, my mom would always threaten me, saying, ‘You better not be gay!’ and how it’s a sin in our religion. She would also talk very negatively about gay people, and how disgusting it was and what a shame it is that some people ‘chose’ that lifestyle. She even mentioned it about my best friend and roommate at the time, whom she adored. I was insulted and confused about her comment about him.
So it was really painful for me knowing my mom had these views on the LGBTQia+ community. I was in denial, and couldn’t accept myself. I would have these thoughts, ‘There’s no way I can be gay. What would my mom think, and everyone in my family?!’
I was really scared and distraught at the time. I even remember crying to my roommate one night about it, and saying, ‘I could never be in a relationship with a girl or ever get married!’
About a year later, I became more okay with it and started accepting it. I started drifting more away from my religion, because it didn’t make sense to me. ‘Why would God create me, and basically send me straight to hell just for being born?’ So once I became more ok with my sexuality, I started embracing it a little more and more and joined Tinder. However, I was still afraid that my mom would find out, so I didn’t end up dating any girls for the remainder of my college years.
It wasn’t until I moved to Vancouver after graduating college in 2017 that I fully accepted myself and wasn’t afraid anymore. I would go to a lot of lesbian events, almost every weekend! I was finally happy to be able to be myself without any immediate consequences. After spending the summer going to all these events and building the confidence, I finally came out to my mom in November. November 10th, to be exact. I remember I had the urge after work one day to come out to her. I felt I needed to get it off my chest once and for all. I had never been more scared and anxious in my life. I called and she told me it had been a while since we last spoke, and I apologized. And told her I had something to tell her, and she asked me what it was, so I said, ‘I’m gay.’ And I can still remember her voice and how furious she was. She was livid, and I was terrified. Thankfully I was across the country so she couldn’t hurt me, but I was still so scared. She told me awful things that no mother should tell her child, such as, ‘I can’t believe I gave birth to you,’ ‘You’re not my daughter,’ and ‘I guarantee you will not have a happy life.’ After that night I had suicidal thoughts, but knew I couldn’t actually go through with it, because I cared too much about the people around me and knew how devastating that would be, and thankfully I was rational enough.
After that my mom and I didn’t speak for about a year and half. Although I still wished her a happy birthday and happy Mother’s day. The calls were extremely short but I felt that maybe if I still showed respect, she would show it back? Between those dates there was no communication. She would call me on my birthday, but would end the conversation asking me if I’m still participating in this disgusting lifestyle or something just as insulting.
Only recently have things gotten slightly better between us. We talk, but our calls are shorter than they used to be prior to coming out. The last thing she told me regarding this matter was on my birthday of 2019. She called me and told me happy birthday, and asked me the usual stuff, but ended the call saying, ‘Oh, how I hope you find a man that will sweep you off your feet!’ I was quiet, I didn’t respond and did not want to start another fight, so I left it at that. We both haven’t said ‘love you’ since 2017.
Since then she hasn’t spoken a word about me coming out, I believe she has completely ignored it or doesn’t want anything to do with it.
Having my mom not apologize for all the awful things she said to me after coming out back in 2017 still really hurts to this day. It’s really painful knowing that my own mother who raised me and was there for me growing up doesn’t accept me for who I am, and will only love me conditionally just because of a religion. I have never committed a crime, I have never done anything bad, and for some reason, this is far worse than all of that. I have only ever done things to please her and make her happy. She used to tell me to stand up for myself when I was growing up, and so I finally did. It’s sad to see that religion has created this great divide between us, as if it’s far more important than the love for your own child.
It’s now 2021, and I have been in a relationship with my partner for two years, and recently got a haircut that my mom never allowed me to get growing up, because it’s for ‘boys.’ I am now living my most authentic life, and now own a queer clothing business called ‘PHRSH threads,’ which is all for equality and the LGBTQIa+ community, and am planning to expand my queer business in 2022. I know that if mom wasn’t homophobic she would be proud of me for starting my own business and being successful, but it’s up to her to realize that who I love doesn’t make a difference for who I am.
I sincerely hope one day my mom will eventually rationalize and apologize for all the things she had said to me. However I recently planned a trip to Ontario, and have decided that if things don’t work out, then it’s okay to cut off family members that don’t respect you for the sake of your own mental health. Especially now that I’m an adult, and am nearing 30 years of age, I should be able to make my own decisions and do things for myself that make me happy. I think for others that have gone through similar situations or are in the same situation as me, should also realize that if you’re an adult it’s okay to cut people out of your life if it means you’ll be happier and living authentically.
‘Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind’ -Dr. Suess”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Diane. You can follow their journey on Instagram here and here and their website. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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