Los Angeles Times
Why I started watching queer movies with my mom
‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ opened me up to family
After 10 years of hiding my queer identity, I finally came out to my mom at the kitchen table of my childhood home in Irvine. Tearfully reading a letter full of “I know’s” and “I’m sorry’s,” I looked up, expecting her to disown me. Instead, my mom looked at me with pleading eyes, asking: “Does that mean you’re not going to move back home?”
What did my geo location have to do with my sexuality? I simply could not fathom her perplexing response — until I watched “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” At the climax of the multiverse epic, Michelle Yeoh’s character, Evelyn, catches up with her daughter Joy, where the psychedelic journey began — in the parking lot of their humble laundromat.
Naturally, I saw myself in Joy as she begs her mom: “Just let me … go.” I had fled as far as I could since turning 18 — to college across the country, to working abroad afterward, and to graduate school on the East Coast.
But like Joy, I couldn’t escape my mother’s reach, nor her love, no matter how far I traveled. When Evelyn tearfully declares to Joy, “No matter what, I still want to be here with you,” I finally understood my mom — perhaps for the first time.
No matter who I was or whom I loved, no matter what other universes might exist, my mother, like Evelyn, wanted only one thing — to be with her child, to be close to family and to be home together.
The full force of that realization hit me like a train. While I had spent the better part of the last decade distancing myself from my family — to spare them the pain of becoming socially ostracized because of my sexual identity — I was really inflicting on them the pain of a distant family and of broken relationships.
The film captured exactly what my mom and I couldn’t previously communicate to each other. I began to wonder if watching queer movies together could bridge the gap between my unapologetic queerness and my mom’s homophobic apprehension.
I called my mom as I left the theater. Since then, my family has embarked on a virtual queermovie marathon that changed our relationship forever.
We have now watched “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Rocketman” (my mom loves biopics) and even the shockingly sexual Korean lesbian thriller “The Handmaiden” together.
After each viewing, my mom peppers me with questions about love and sexuality we used to be embarrassed to broach. As she grows more comfortable with our movie nights and the possibility of my queer life lived happily ever after, I am reminded that we are a species that fears what we do not understand.
Not only do queer movies depict the joyous continuum of queer love, but they also open the conversation to the things that can be the most difficult for parents of queer children to talk about.
Our movie nights have allowed me and my family to talk about sexuality outside the intensely personal context of me and my personal relationships.
Instead of asking me why I wouldn’t just marry a man to fit into society, queer movies like “Bohemian Rhapsody” pushed my parents to consider why Freddie Mercury couldn’t just marry Mary Austin. It gave me a reprieve from defending my way of life and gave my parents the answers they needed.
Watching queer movies isn’t the perfect antidote for all families — especially as the burden of emotional labor often falls on the queer family member. Just ask Joy, who shouts to her mom, “That’s great. You’re figuring your shit out … but I’m tired.”
It’s true, watching Taron Egerton and Richard Madden have at it in “Rocketman” with my parents in awkward silence was perhaps not a panacea for difficult parental relationships. But the openness, communication and connection with my parents that came afterward was still worth it.
In the end, representation isn’t just a descriptive notion — it’s a transcendent one. I didn’t just see myself reflected on screen in “Everything Everywhere All at Once” — I saw my mother’s love amplified across the multiverse.
Ten years ago, I couldn’t even dream of a universe in which my mom accepted me for all of me. Today, I live in it every day.