This year I will be participating in ALC for the 22nd time. I will be riding in honor of my mom who passed away last year.
The first time I did the ride in 1998, I couldn’t even tell my family. I just moved to the Bay Area and I wasn’t out. I was afraid that if I told my family, they would assume I was gay and that I had AIDS and that I was dying.
On the ride, I met parents who had lost their sons to HIV and they were doing the ride to honor their kids. I met parents who were riding with their hiv positive son. Meeting supportive families gave me the courage to come out to my family.
After the ride, I came out to my sister in law and I told her to tell the rest of my siblings. I’m the youngest of 10 kids and we were raised catholic. All my siblings felt that I shouldn’t tell our mom because she wouldn’t be able to take it.
When I finally did tell my mom, she didn’t take it very well. She told me that I needed to go to church and talk to a priest and confess all my sins, that I needed to try harder and that I needed to find the right woman. I had an answer for all those comments. But when she told me she didn’t think she could ever be proud of me, I was gutted. That comment ended the conversation.
We never really talked about it again.
The following year, I did 2 rides. The California ride and the Minneapolis to Chicago ride. To my surprise, my family came to closing ceremonies in Chicago. At the end of the ride, my friends and I were celebrating. As I hugged and kissed this guy friend, I looked out at the crowd and I see my mom and family standing there. My mom was expressionless. My heart started pounding. I didn’t know what she would say. We haven’t talked about me being gay since I came out to her and now she just saw me kissing some guys.
As I started walking to her, I was trying to figure out in my head what I would say to her. As I got close and before I was able to say anything, she reached out, gave me the biggest hug she’s ever given me, she doesn’t let go and when she finally does, she grabs and holds my hand while my other family members congratulated me. Even though she never said it, I knew she was proud of me. The following year in 2000 I did 5 rides across the country and in 2001 I did two rides. That year she gave me a hard time and asked why did I only do 2 rides?!?!
My mom knew that I continued to do the ride. But I never really told her to what extent. She didn’t know that I have inspired over 100 people to do the ride. That through the two teams that I have started, I have helped raise over 4 million dollar for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. She didn’t know that I have served on two non profit boards and that I am currently on the Board of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
Over the last 6 years, my mom knew that I travelled a lot. What she didn’t know was that part of the reason I travelled was to raise awareness regarding HIV. There are people around the world that I have shared my HIV status with but the one person that never knew was my mom.
So this year, I am coming back and riding to honor her. My mom taught me how to be kind. How to take care of others. I just wish I had the courage to tell her that I did all of this non profit work to make her proud.
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