“Dear Mama”

One of the most moving moments in Armistead Maupin’s brilliant Tales of the City, is when one of the main characters, Michael, comes out to his mother in a letter. His coming out at this point in the narrative is prompted by the news that his mother has joined Anita Bryant’s hateful and anti-gay “Save The Children” campaign, which was launched in the late 1970s.

This is an incredibly moving and inspirational piece which has been recited countless times by gay choruses, actors and those just coming out. Here, then, is the full text of the letter:

Dear Mama:

I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to write. Every time I try to write you and Papa I realize I’m not saying the things that are in my heart. That would be OK, if I loved you any less than I do, but you are still my parents and I am still your child.

I have friends who think I’m foolish to write this letter. I hope they’re wrong. I hope their doubts are based on parents who love and trust them less than mine do. I hope especially that you’ll see this as an act of love on my part, a sign of my continuing need to share my life with you. I wouldn’t have written, I guess, if you hadn’t told me about your involvement in the Save Our Children campaign. That, more than anything, made it clear that my responsibility was to tell you the truth, that your own child is homosexual, and that I never needed saving from anything except the cruel and ignorant piety of people like Anita Bryant.

I’m sorry, Mama. Not for what I am, but for how you must feel at this moment. I know what that feeling is, for I felt it for most of my life. Revulsion, shame, disbelief — rejection through fear of something I knew, even as a child, was as basic to my nature as the color of my eyes.

No, Mama, I wasn’t “recruited.” No seasoned homosexual ever served as my mentor. But you know what? I wish someone had. I wish someone older than me and wiser than the people in Orlando had taken me aside and said, “You’re all right, kid. You can grow up to be a doctor or a teacher just like anyone else. You’re not crazy or sick or evil. You can succeed and be happy and find peace with friends — all kinds of friends — who don’t give a damn who you go to bed with. Most of all, though, you can love and be loved, without hating yourself for it.”

But no one ever said that to me, Mama. I had to find it out on my own, with the help of the city that has become my home. I know this may be hard for you to believe, but San Francisco is full of men and women, both straight and gay, who don’t consider sexuality in measuring the worth of another human being.

These aren’t radicals or weirdos, Mama. They are shop clerks and bankers and little old ladies and people who nod and smile to you when you meet them on the bus. Their attitude is neither patronizing nor pitying. And their message is so simple: Yes, you are a person. Yes, I like you. Yes, it’s all right for you to like me, too.

I know what you must be thinking now. You’re asking yourself: What did we do wrong? How did we let this happen? Which one of us made him that way?

I can’t answer that, Mama. In the long run, I guess I really don’t care. All I know is this: If you and Papa are responsible for the way I am, then I thank you with all my heart, for it’s the light and the joy of my life.

I know I can’t tell you what it is to be gay. But I can tell you what it’s not.

It’s not hiding behind words, Mama. Like family and decency and Christianity. It’s not fearing your body, or the pleasures that God made for it. It’s not judging your neighbor, except when he’s crass or unkind.

Being gay has taught me tolerance, compassion and humility. It has shown me the limitless possibilities of living. It has given me people whose passion and kindness and sensitivity have provided a constant source of strength.

It has brought me into the family of man, Mama, and I like it here. I like it.

There’s not much else I can say, except that I’m the same Michael you’ve always known. You just know me better now. I have never consciously done anything to hurt you. I never will.

Please don’t feel you have to answer this right away. It’s enough for me to know that I no longer have to lie to the people who taught me to value truth.

Mary Ann sends her love.

Everything is fine at 28 Barbary Lane.

Your loving son,

Michael


If you’d like to hear this letter being read, I’ve embedded a couple of outstanding clips below. Ian McKellan and several of the cast from Netflix’s Tales of the City are moved to tears by the reading:

TOTC | Letter to Mama Reading | Netflix

More than 30 years after it was published, Armistead Maupin's Letter To Mama is still so powerful that Laura Linney, Ellen Page, and their Tales Of The City co-stars can barely get through reading it without crying

Posted by Netflix on Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Capote Quotes: In Cold Blood & Music For Chameleons

I’m on a Truman Capote binge lately. I’ve been re-reading a couple of his novels as well as discovering some of the ones new to me. The more of Capote’s work I read, the more I appreciate this man’s incredible writing. He truly was a literary genius but a tortured one in his private life, at least in the last few years of his life.

I’ve just finished re-reading In Cold Blood and am now working on Music For Chameleons. I’ve lifted a few notable Capote quotes from these two brilliant books:

But I’m not a saint yet. I’m an alcoholic. I’m a drug addict. I’m homosexual. I’m a genius.

Music for Chameleons


The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call “out there”.

In Cold Blood


Then starting home, he walked toward the trees, and under them, leaving behind him the big sky, the whisper of wind voices in the wind-bent wheat.

In Cold Blood


It is no shame to have a dirty face- the shame comes when you keep it dirty.

In Cold Blood


Strange where our passions carry us, floggingly pursue us, forcing upon us unwanted dreams, unwelcome destinies.

Music for Chameleons


Just remember: If one bird carried every grain of sand, grain by grain, across the ocean, by the time he got them all on the other side, that would only be the beginning of eternity.

In Cold Blood


Imagination, of course, can open any door – turn the key and let terror walk right in.

In Cold Blood


We all, sometimes, leave each other there under the skies, and we never understand why.

Music for Chameleons


Some cities, like wrapped boxes under Christmas trees, conceal unexpected gifts, secret delights. Some cities will always remain wrapped boxes, containers of riddles never to be solved, nor even to be seen by vacationing visitors, or, for that matter, the most inquisitive, persistent travelers.

Music for Chameleons


It is easy to ignore the rain if you have a raincoat.

In Cold Blood

My Favourite Quotes

These are quotes I enjoy. They originate from songs, movies, TV, and various other pop culture sources. Some quotes are profound, some silly, some hilarious, some fun, and some are near and dear to my heart. Several of these quotes have permanently worked their way into the daily lexicon at our house over the years.

This post is a work in progress and I’ll be adding more quotes here as time goes on.


Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight / Got to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight.

Bruce Cockburn
Lovers In A Dangerous Time


Do it now! Do it Edna, or forever wish you had!!

Wilbur Turnblad
Hairspray (1988)


Ain’t that a kick in the rubber parts?

Arnold Beckoff (Harvey Fierstein)
Torch Song Trilogy


They say travel broadens the mind / So I went over the falls in a barrel / I found the North Pole / In a field of ice / And in the land of dreams / I found you

Thomas Dolby
I Live In A Suitcase


Mos Eisley spaceport. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy…

Obi-Wan Kenobi
Star Wars, Episode IV – A New Hope


Oh for goodness sake. Look at yourself Mitz.  How many times have I told you? Green is not your color!

Felicia Jollygoodfellow
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert


Every old sock meets an old shoe

Kate Bush
Moments Of Pleasure


I never dreamt that I would get to be / the creature that I always meant to be

Pet Shop Boys
Being Boring


I like that Wookiee

Maz Kanata
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens


I think my biggest problem is being young and beautiful. It’s my biggest problem because I’ve never been young and beautiful. Oh, I’ve been beautiful, and God knows I’ve been young, but never the twain have met.

Arnold Beckoff (Harvey Fierstein)
Torch Song Trilogy


I need that wedding. I need some beauty and some music and some placecards before I die. It’s like heroin.

Bernice Brackett (Debbie Reynolds)
In & Out


What we need is a few good taters.
What’s taters, precious?
PO-TAY-TOES! Boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew…

Samwise Gamgee & Gollum
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers


Oh yes!! Yes Mr. Cobb!! Call me your cheap slut sex poodle!!!!

Terry Hoskins (Victoria Tennant) to Roger Cobb (Steve Martin)
All Of Me


Wait! Wait for Sugar!!

Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe)
Some Like It Hot


Well… La-di-da, la-di-da, la la

Annie Hall (Diane Keaton)
Annie Hall


…could we have everything louder than everything else?…

Ian Gillan of Deep Purple
Made In Japan


Don’t it always seem to go / That you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone

Joni Mitchell
Big Yellow Taxi


I’m Free!

Mr. Humphries (John Inman)
Are You Being Served?


The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize

– Clairee Belcher (Olympia Dukakis), Steel Magnolias


I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special

Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie (Julia Roberts)
Steel Magnolias


Her life has been an experiment in terror… I have to tell you, when it comes to suffering, she’s right up there with Elizabeth Taylor

Truvy Jones (Dolly Parton)
Steel Magnolias


Speaking for myself, and I am unanimous in this…

Mrs. Slocombe (Molly Sugden)
Are You Being Served?


There is freedom within, there is freedom without / Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup

Crowded House
Don’t Dream It’s Over


Oh, listen to yourselves. You sound like two fat slags at a pie bake-off

Bernadette Bassenger (Terence Stamp)
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert


…I want total sensory deprivation and backup drugs. All right?

Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders)
Absolutely Fabulous


Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

Oscar Wilde


Don’t walk in front of me… I may not follow / Don’t walk behind me… I may not lead / Walk beside me… just be my friend.

Albert Camus


A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.

Elbert Hubbard


Honey, I’m more man than you’ll ever be and more woman than you’ll ever get.

Lindy (Antonio Fargas)
Car Wash


I wanna pair of pink high heels that catch the lights up on the Ferris wheel, but what I really want I just can’t buy.

Deborah Harry
I Want That Man