Join Gay Therapy Center Founder and Director Adam Blum for a conversation on gay men and their mothers. In this video, Adam is talking to Rick Miller, who is the founder and executive director of Gay Sons and Mothers. This organization does research on this important relationship. Rick is also a well-known psychotherapist in Boston and has written several books about gay men.
Adam and Rick discuss the themes that Rick has found in his research, how he came to be interested in this research, masculinity + femininity as a gay man, what makes a good mother, the romanticism of gay men and their mothers, the trauma of rejection, divas, beauty and aesthetics, and Rick’s nonprofit where he does his research.
Find Rick elsewhere:
Running time: 8.5 minutes.
Gay Sons and Mothers
Adam Blum: Hi, I’m Adam Blum. I’m the founder and director of the Gay Therapy Center. And today I’m talking to Rick Miller, who’s the founder and executive director of Gay Sons and Mothers. This organization does research on this important relationship. Rick is also a well known psychotherapist in Boston, and has written several books about gay men. Hi, Rick.
Rick Miller: Hi, thank you for the well known part. I appreciate that.
AB: You are well known, I mean, you’re a celebrity. You are interviewing so many gay men and their mothers. And I just want to hear about some of the themes that you’re seeing. What’s important about this relationship?
RM: Well, it’s a fascinating topic tome, being a gay man myself. And it came to be around the lack of literature that’s out there in the world, about gay men and their mothers. So I’ve met men and mothers of different ages, of different ethnic groups, different religions, different races, to ask them about their experiences of mom in support of her gay son, or mom’s lack of support, in regards to her son’s being gay. I’ve also spoken to mothers about how they’ve dealt with their sons coming out, both internally, but also, you know, externally, whether it be to her son, or with other family members, or community members. So that’s it in a nutshell.
What Makes a Good Mother to an LGBTQ Child?
AB: One thing I’m always interested about this relationship is that theme of masculinity and femininity among gay men, and how that intersects with our mothers, generally speaking, are you seeing any kind of rich themes there?
RM: Well, yeah, that’s a that’s a great topic. Masculinity is an interesting topic for gay men. As a psychotherapist, I probably spend a lot of time in my offices talking about how we feel as men and how we feel like we ought to be in the world as men. And so what happens is that boys grow up, feeling that they’re different, knowing that they’re not quite right. Perhaps they’re not the child, the son that their mother wants them to be, or their father wants them to be. And frequently, boys growing up gay notice that they’re different.
So a mother who is attuned may also recognize this in her child, and a mother who’s a good enough mom is able to let her son be whoever he is, without trying to conform him into societal standards. And from this project, from my research, what I’m finding is the best mothers have been accepting of their sons being who they are. What I mean by that is, she may not even know he’s gay, he may not have come out, but a good mother lets their child be who they are, regardless of orientation. Yeah.
Being Seen As an LGBTQ Youth
AB: So this may be for some people, one of the few places they get to be who they are, or most of who they are. Yeah, gay boys. Yeah. In that relationship.
RM: Sorry, what what I’m finding is that gay men, gay teens, frequently credit their mothers, for seeing them and allowing them to be who they are. And they almost take on a hero like status as a result.
AB: What happens when things don’t go well? You must be hearing those stories as well.
RM: Well, what’s interesting about that is those stories are hard for me to get recorded, because no one really wants to talk about it that much. But there’s such a romanticism about gay men and their mothers and the closeness and the things that we share that I think it’s even more of a letdown for gay boys who needed their moms as a lifeline. And also when they become men to realize that they were g*pped out of something so important, and so essential that a lot of gay friends and gay peers have.
So I think it’s pretty traumatizing and pretty big. In an ideal world, a mother will go to bat for her son in their family or in their community. But I’ve also spoken to people whose mothers have gone in tandem against being gay and have been downright cruel, traumatizing their sons as a result, which is tough.
The Relationship Between Gay Men + Divas
AB: Yeah, yeah. One thing I’m curious about is, there seems to be sometimes this relationship between gay men and divas. And women. And Lady Gaga, and glamour. And I remember you talking about glamour shots of mothers. Talk a little bit about that what is anything you’re seeing there?
RM: Well, so I’ll start with what I said to you, which is that while I, when I started this project, it was really interesting to look for photos of gay men and their mothers or to follow my friends who were posting their mothers. And every gay man seemed to find some beautiful, glamorous shot of their mother at some point in time, and that there’s a lot of kudos in the gay community for having a beautiful mother.
So that’s how our conversation started. And it’s really interesting about the notion of beauty and femininity and how we are aesthetically drawn to a certain kind of woman. So I don’t know if you want to add to that as well. But I see a lot of that.
AB: Mm hmm. Well it strikes me that that divas essentially get to really celebrate their femininity, in perhaps a way that a gay boy would like to and can’t possibly do.
RM: That’s a great point that they get to personify something within themselves. They don’t have to be embarrassed by or squelch, and so many gay boys have unconsciously and consciously squelched themselves throughout their lives. Yeah.
AB: So you have started a nonprofit around this. Yeah. Yeah. talk about that a little bit.
Understanding Gay Sons + Mothers
RM: I started filming people and interviewing people on my own, at great expense, and with a lot of time needed to do this. And someone said to me, why don’t you start a nonprofit, you’re going to reach a larger audience this way, and you’ll have a greater access to people who are going to be less suspicious of what you’re doing as a nonprofit. Plus, you can do fundraising. So two years ago, I started the nonprofit Gay Sons and Mothers and I have to confess, I knew nothing about nonprofits. And it’s been a growing experience. And luckily, it’s working out great. But I’ve learned a lot along the way as a result.
AB: What if we want to learn more? How do we get in touch with this organization?
RM: The website is www.gaysonsandmothers.org. We also have an Instagram page and a Facebook page, GaySonsAndMothers. And also we have a YouTube page with our videos, GaySonsAndMothers.
AB: Okay, I checked out some of those. You have a few celebrities, I think on some Yeah,
RM: Yeah. That that’s been a wonderful help. One of the interviews that I loved the most was Davey Wavey. He’s a great media sensation. And his mother and I went to Rhode Island where he grew up and interviewed he and his mother, and it was such a touching afternoon. And at the end of the interview, she cooked lunch for me. I mean, it was so generous and so lovely.
AB: Well, Rick, I want to thank you for the work you’re doing on behalf of the organization, it’s been great talking to you.
RM: Well, it’s work that I love doing, and I’m so glad that you and I connected Adam.
AB: Yeah me too. I’ll put all the stuff in a link on this so if people are more interested in this organization, they can easily find how to get there. All right, you take care.
RM: Thank you. Take care.