My mom was born in China and didn't know the Lord. She came to America for graduate school, but instead married my father against her parents' wishes. Because of her strained relationship with her parents, she longed to create a new family with my father where she could belong and be loved. With hard work and persistence, my mother helped my father receive two doctoral degrees and establish a successful dental practice.
On the outside, they were living the "American Dream." They seemed to have it all: a new dream home in the suburbs of Chicago, two luxury cars, and two sons in dental school. According to the ways of the world, my mother should have been happy. But she was completely miserable. I knew this because even when I was a child and my parents argued—which was often—I was the shoulder on which my mother would cry. They had already begun the paperwork for a divorce when I decided to make a public declaration.
On May 17, 1993, I came home after my first year at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry and announced to my parents: "I am gay." This devastated my mom. News of my death would have been easier for her to take than this. She thought an ultimatum would bring me to my senses, and demanded that I choose either the family or "that" (she could not even say the word gay). In my mind, there was no choice. I could not change. It felt like I had been disowned, but to my mother, I had betrayed her. Without a church family, she had no one to turn to, so she started looking through the phone book and listening to the radio in the hopes of finding help. When she was at the end of her rope, she resolved to do the unthinkable—she was going to end her life.1