As an imaginary lamp cooked my face, the question I’d been dreading my whole life, (that let’s be real, was probably overdue), finally escaped Momster’s mouth: “Christopher, are you gay?”
Cue the resulting procession of tunnel vision, hyperventilation and tears.
Naive-closeted-me never expected Costco to be the stage where I would publicly out myself to my Iranian juggernaut of a mother, but it happened. And by some Gay Divine Force, I lived to tell the tale.
It was winter break after my first semester at UC Berkeley, meaning that Crossroads had effectively hijacked my tastebuds from the quality meals of the past. Momster suggested we raid my favorite bulk grocery outlet, citing one of my distraught phone calls home where I frantically detailed my longing for Dino Nuggets and free samples. I, of course, instantly leapt at the gluttonous opportunity.
Upon entry, I immediately snatched up a container of Nutella the size of a small child and then made a beeline to the frozen foods section, which is essentially the store’s onsite Narnia of cryogenic chimichangas and endless possibilities. The sky was the limit, and I was loading up our cart with that infinite ceiling in mind.
Throughout the indulgent tirade, I longed for my childhood days of frequent Costco hauls and quality time with my mom.
Momster grew up in Tehran, an environment notoriously characterized by its grotesque human rights offenses toward members of the LGBTQ+ community. Her youth was spent reading the Bible under the scrutinizing glares of ruler-wielding nuns and then exiting Armenian Catholic school to the suffocating expectations of the surrounding conservative Muslim community.
In Iran, being gay can oftentimes lead to corporal punishment, imprisonment or worse. In fact, in Farsi, the word used to refer to gays is “Kooni.” “Kooni” is actually derived from the word “Koon,” which literally means “ass.” So, with the identity and existence of gay males embedded into her common vernacular as “disgusting ass-fuckers,” my mother grew up with the perception of people like me as the “other” — as less than and, worst of all, as deserving of hate.
This toxic attitude manifested itself when my mother caught me and a male friend experimenting when I was 10. We didn’t really know what we were doing, but as soon as my mom heatedly banned us from ever seeing each other again, I knew that it definitely wasn’t “right.” On top of that, she found a trove of gay porn search history — before Incognito mode was a thing — on our family PC. She restricted my internet access, enrolled me in a plethora of youth sports programs and repeatedly detailed the hellish fate of homosexuals.
I was definitely scared straight.
But, all it took was me accidentally choking on a $1.50 polish hot dog in the middle of a crowded Costco lunch patio for her to know that I wasn’t.
I was the Kooni who lived.
After receiving confirmation of what she likely knew all along, Momster broke down sobbing in front of a lunching public, called me every name in the book and verbally shanked my fucking heart.
I retreated to the couches of friends and family and fled to Berkeley later that week on the verge of a mental breakdown. As a single first-generation parent, my mom provided for me when no one else would, and that’s what made the idea of her rejection that much more painful. She was the only concrete support system I had.
Now, nearly two years later, I write Sex on Tuesday with similar feelings of fear, dread and anxiety. As accepting of queer identities as the modern world claims to be, I know firsthand that the war is not close to being over. My mother’s initial reaction, the phrases of straight pride that were recently chalked throughout our campus and the homophobic slurs spray painted on the garage of my queer professor are all testaments that hate is alive and well.
It lives on in our neighbors, in our loved ones and potentially within ourselves.
I want to use my privilege as the writer of this historic column to dispel this insidious force. By creating a greater understanding of queer identity through the lens of my sexual experiences, I hope to destigmatize what it means to be me.
So, join me in my journey from the trials and tribulations of bottoming, to the effects of internalized homophobia, to male body image and, beyond all, in the name of making my existence more normal and less of a Costco crisis.
I fuck, I suck and, if I ever feel like being on RuPaul’s drag race, I’ll tuck too. I am so gay that it actually hurts. But it shouldn’t have to.
Chris Cox writes the Tuesday column on sex. Contact him at [email protected].