After Cal Schroeder’s mother came out, all she had to do was find the courage to do it for herself.
When I came out at 18, most of my close friends and family were completely supportive and utterly unfazed: they had just been waiting for me to actually tell them that I was gay.
The way my mother, Shari, tells the story, when I was a year-and-a-half old, she contemplated with the idea that I might be gay. I didn’t like dresses or make-up or dolls or anything a little girl would typically like. Instead I wanted to be outside and play sports with the boys, keep my hair short like theirs, and I even stole and wore my older brother’s clothes. Most people would think it was the typical tomboy phase, except that I never phased out of it.
Easing my coming-out was the fact that the year before, my twice-married mother (I have two siblings) met her now-partner Renée and had her own coming-out. That was taken with shock; no one had suspected it, not even me. But despite the surprise, everyone accepted it, except me. It was stereotypical actually; I already knew by then that I was a lesbian, but I didn’t know how to tell my family. I was mad that my own mother could come out but I couldn’t. It took me another year, and my mother confronting me, before I was out. I guess the reason I waited so long was that I was just looking for the right time. I finally realized that there was no such thing as a right time.
Having both my mothers around helped me transition easier and faster from being in the closet to being out. Both my mother and Renée had been waiting for me to come out and had plenty of advice to give me (as Mothers do), whether they meant to or not. Renée immediately gave me books with coming-out stories and movies with lesbian storylines. They showed me gay-friendly places in our community, and I got to watch and see how they dealt with ignorant and homophobic people. I also got to see an example of a positive and healthy relationship in my mom and Renée. Even better, having my mothers open the coffeeshop Java Cat made my being out even easier: instead of finding my way into the gay community, it came to me.
The one year I spent away from Madison at college in Platteville, I ended up with a homophobic roommate. Rather than tell me to pack it in and head home to Madison, my mom and Renée helped me find the GSA and get a new roommate. In this way, they reinforced for me that being gay wasn’t a problem, and if someone thought it was, it was that person’s problem, not mine.
Like most people, there are members of my extended family who didn’t accept me when I came out and probably never will, but I have my immediate family, my grandmother, my friends and our gay community right here supporting me.