Her Mom Kept Telling Her That It Was Just A Phase. But On Her Dying Day, She Changed Her Mind.

Kate's parents seemed kind of amazing and supportive at first. But when she came out of the closet, they didn't handle it well. At 2:45, her parents say something heartbreaking. And at 4:08, I start tearing up a bit (for an awesome reason.)

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Woman: These were my parents while my sister and brother were growing up.

They enrolled us in voluntary school integration before it was mandated, and picketed department stores that refused to hire African American clerks.

Pictures of the Kennedy's and Reverend Martin Luther King lined our hallway, next to the art poster, "War Is Not Good For Children And Other Living Things"

Then something changed.

Around the time I was finishing elementary school, their political friends began knocking on the door late at night. The adults shared gin and whisky in the living room and their over rot voices wafted under the closed door of my bedroom.

The television news stayed on during dinner.

One week I remember driving to the hospital every day after school.

Standing with my mother on the curb, we waved up to a tiny window in the hospital building where she said my father was waving back.

Politics strained Daddy's heart, she explained.

We stopped going to church, the center of my parents' early activism.

I was changing too. In middle school, my mother laid out dresses on my bed in the morning. But I went out the door in jeans and boys' shirts that covered up the curves underneath.

My girlfriends became obsessed with organizing group dates. Sometimes I went along.

The subscription to Seventeen my parents gave me for Christmas stacked up on my bookcase, untouched.

It was my grandmother who took me to meetings. Fighting to free political prisoners, protesting the death penalty.

In high school when I invited my mom to join me in "Taking Back The Night" she said, "I don't do marches."

When I reported on teach-ins and rallies in college, Dad said, "Well, what are you doing for fun?"

When I got hired as an organizer to help pay for Grad School, they warned "trying to change the world causes a lot of heartache."

I came out to my parents in 1985. It took me two years build up the courage.

It took them five years to recover. "Please," they pleaded, "don't act on your feelings, it could ruin your future with a husband."

They knew of a good psychiatrist. "Would I go see him," they asked. "Whatever you do, don't tell your Grandmother."

After 10 years had passed, my mother finally sent a letter to her closest relatives, coming out as the 'Mother of a Lesbian.'

They never replied

Before he died, he told me he wished he had learned more about people like Lionel Trilling and Tennessee Williams.

He was "studying up on gay people" he said, because a book should be written about their contributions to society.'

Years later my life partner Sheila went with me the day I told my mom we were dropping all of our crazy activism to take care of her.

It was only a few days after that when we watched her struggle to sit up in her hospital bed.

The team of doctors had just left.

One by one she called my siblings to her bedside.

When it was my turn, she gestured for Sheila to come, too.

Holding our hands tightly, she took a moment to look into our eyes.

"Keep fighting the good fight," she said.

And three days later, she was gone.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

Original by Kate Burns for the Center for Digital Storytelling.

Aug 22, 2014

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