Your mom sounds like she was a pretty loving, enlightened, and engaged lady. Why was accepting your sexuality so hard for her?
Solomon: Well, I think there are a couple of pieces to it. As I describe in the book, when I was a kid, homosexuality was generally accepted to be an illness. And a crime. And a sin. I don’t think she was particularly hung up on the “sin” piece, but it seemed like an illness, it seemed like a crime. I came of age in the age of AIDS. I think there was just a sense from her point of view, especially as someone who had grown up in the ’40s and ’50s, that I was consigning myself to the margins of society and that most of the people she knew, who had ended up so marginalized, hadn’t been very happy. I wrote in the book about how we had these gay surrogate “uncles.” So she wasn’t hideously homophobic. She was happy to have them with us for all of our holidays and so forth. But I think she thought that it just didn’t look like as happy a way forward. I also think that she was very…I’m lingering over the word “obsessed”…very deeply engaged with the idea that having children and a family was the meaning of life. And she thought that as a gay person, I wouldn’t have a family, and that that was tragic. So it contained both a critique and a compliment.
It was lovely that she thought that having children was the most important thing in life. That meant a lot to me. And I think she thought that I undervalued the conventional in some ways. She was very original in her thinking, but she had a relatively conservative way of interracting with the world.
In a completely separate project—I have been working on a Ph.D.—and it deals with motherhood. And I think the women in the study I did for it, that I’ve been interviewing longitudinally…I mean, you aren’t a mother and then you are a mother. That’s a huge shift in identity. And you can love your child, and not actually love the identity of being a mother. Or you can really get off on the identity of being a mother, and not really connect very much with your child. They’re really sort of separate. So I feel like all these parents were cast into this new identity and some of them ended up finding community there, and a new focus in their life, and wonderful things out of it, and some of them ended up finding only pain and horror in the experience. But either way, they’re profoundly changed. But they want both: they want their child to be okay and they want to be okay.