This Mother’s Day is far different for me than the previous 27. In late April, I realized that for Mother’s Day 2023, I am now the same age as my mother was when she died 28 years ago.

I was fortunate to have a mother who invested so much love, attention and devotion into me. She was a first-generation college graduate and wanted me to be successful. She rejoiced at my placement into an academically gifted magnet school, encouraged all my interests and easily forgave me for my many shortcomings. She helped me furnish my first apartment and cheered for my then-fledgling career in college fundraising. She was a best friend to a kid who didn’t have many close friendships. We agreed that our best mother-son trip would be to take the bus to Graceland, wearing our best triple-knit polyester outfits to pay homage to Elvis Presley. It was our dream to do so, but it never happened.

While we talked a lot about many topics, there was one that I never brought up, even when she was in my care during her home hospice experience. I never shared that I was gay.

At one point when I was between high school and college, we were sitting alone in our family room watching television, and she asked if I was gay. My response was an immediate and complete refusal. My fear of discovery was enormous, and from that moment I did everything possible to hide who I was, despite knowing my sexual orientation since fourth grade.

I feared being kicked out of the house and my family’s life, and being cut off financially and emotionally. How would I pay for college on my own? Where would I go? To whom could I turn? I buried myself so deeply in my closet to ensure my gayness would never see the light of day.

That was 1984, and I now realize that my mother’s understanding of gay life was tattooed-and-pierced queens wearing little to nothing on floats in 1980s Gay Pride parades that she saw on newscasts. For her, all the love, sweat and devotion she poured into me would be wasted and there was no evidence of promise for a young gay man in the world that she knew. Our church life did not help. Mainstream Protestant denominations were nowhere close to the level of acceptance for LGBTQ+ communities we see today.

If Judy Stuart were alive today, I hope she would be proud of the person, leader and executive I have become. I hope she would rejoice in the 28-year loving relationship I have with my husband, Tim. I hope she would be happy that San Diego is a place where we can be fully who we are. I loved my mother deeply, miss her every day, and dream that she would have thought of San Diego as her favorite vacation destination because of us.

I’m also grateful to work for and lead an organization that allows us to bring our “whole selves” to work every day. At San Diego Foundation, we have a vision for just, equitable and resilient communities. It’s why we support our local LGBTQ+ community through scholarships; mental and behavioral health support for children, youth and families; and summer and after-school programs that help students feel supported to be themselves, among other initiatives. Our work will not be complete until everyone who calls San Diego home has the opportunity to prosper, thrive and feel like they belong.

On this Mother’s Day, I am certain there are moms out there who may be wondering about the gender identity or sexual orientation of their child. I ask that you place your love for that child above all else. Reframe your religious convictions, worries about the future, social norms, or what others may think of your child — and you. Too many of our homeless youth in San Diego are LGBTQ+ and were kicked out of their homes by parents who did not let love guide their decision-making. I know one thing for certain: Had I been kicked out of my family and home, I would not be the person, husband and community leader I am today.

This article first appeared in The San Diego Union-Tribune.