Yes: A Poem for National Coming Out Day

In celebration of National Coming Out Day, October 11, here is a poem about coming out to my mom, which I did at the end of my Junior year of high school, in the summer of 1999.


My mother asks me and it seems years pass
before I answer. When I first kissed a boy, I told her
about him, explained where we’d go or at least half

of everywhere he would take me.
First she said it would be okay and that she loved me.
But I said No, said He’s just a friend, laughed.

Then cried in the shower because she made me
lie to her. But I thought she was convinced
and, perhaps, so was I. Years before that,

she asked. Of you and your brother,
she said, you’d be the one to get an earring.
Wasn’t that her way of testing the water?

I said No and argued about the feeling
of metal in my skin, how I would never

do something permanent to my body.
Before that, years and years before
I could possibly know what I was

asking for, she slid me a sheet of paper, asked
what I wanted for Christmas: a Ninja Turtle
some watercolors, an Easy-Bake Oven.

And she didn’t say no. I opened the box, smiling,
not knowing how many boys had asked for it.

and got a football or a pair of skates. She asked me,
didn’t she? And each time I said No
and wanted her to believe me, maybe she did.

So after I say, finally, Yes, she’ll cry.
She’s known, she’ll say, since I was five

and I’ll want to ask why
she didn’t tell me sooner, but instead ask

if she’s okay. And she’ll give me that look
I’ve seen before. When I stepped
through the back windshield of her car while

playing on it. When I crawled out
of that hiding place and startled her.
It’s a mother’s look and a mother’s look only. It says

How dare you and It’s okay and I want you to be
safe and finally okay and finally conscious,

stepping toward me slowly, as if into
an ocean, she says Yes.

Read other poems from Talking in the Dark:
Folding Sheets
3 1/2 Love Sonnets
Give It Wings

From Talking in the Dark (PUSH/Scholastic, 2003) by Billy Merrell, now available as an ebook!