AE: So having done it, do you feel like you have disappointed her or would not telling her have been a disappointment?
K: Um, Iâ€™m happy that I told her. You know, the selfish side of me is happy because I felt like a weight has been lifted. I donâ€™t have to lie anymore. I can be open and honest about who I am because I can be open and honest to others about who I am. Because when you lie to someone about yourself, youâ€™re really lying to yourself as well. So that part is lifted.
Now, as far as my mom, it has brought us closer. She has accepted it. Sheâ€™s okay with it. One of the funniest things about the showâ€”itâ€™s hysterical, people just laugh and cry through the whole thing. And at the end my mom says to me, â€œYou know, this is no great big deal.â€ I said, â€œItâ€™s not?â€ â€œNo, Karen. I had two divorces and if I could start all over again, Iâ€™d probably do it your way.â€ And I just fell apart laughing. I couldnâ€™t believe that she said that. Oh my God, Mom. I canâ€™t believe you just said that!
AE: So she was able to joke about it. This was right after you did it?
K: It was within a second of me telling her. She was fine with it. And then, I was like, â€œMom, I can call you now and say, â€˜Hey, I have a date.â€™ And you can say, â€˜whatâ€™s her name?â€™ And she goes to me, â€œYeah, weâ€™ll talk.â€ [Laughs]
AE: Thatâ€™s asking a little too much just yet, I guess.
K: Yes. So I was kind of pushing the envelope there. But she met the girl I was dating at the time, Kelly. It was great. My mom said, â€œWhatâ€™s up with you two? And Kelly said, â€œI really like your daughter.â€ Kellyâ€™s great. And my mom said, â€œWelcome to the family.â€
AE: Wow. Even though you were afraid to do thisâ€”like all of us are at whatever point in our lives before we come outâ€”but knowing your mom, did you have a sense that in the end she would be accepting? She must be a pretty open-minded, accepting person to that quickly be okay with it.
K: Yeah, she is. Sheâ€™s a Catholic, old-school Italian mother, so in that respect I thought that she was going to flip. But I really do believe that because of her disease, it has opened her mind up to the more important things in life, like life itself. Which is great. Not that she wouldnâ€™t have accepted it before the disease. Iâ€™m sure she eventually would have. But now she takes everything with a grain of salt. You know, â€œOkay, I can deal with this. Iâ€™m not going to waste another moment of my life being upset with my daughter.â€
Sheâ€™s okay with it. Sheâ€™s fine and itâ€™s great. I was out to lunch with her on Sunday and she wanted to know about the girl I was dating. I had mentioned her name and she had said, â€œWhoâ€™s that?â€ I told her weâ€™re dating and she started asking questions. If my mom doesnâ€™t want to know anything she wonâ€™t say anything. But she was actually like, â€œWhereâ€™d you meet her?â€ and â€œHow long have you guys been seeing each other?â€ Iâ€™m like, â€œAll right!â€ Now we can pretty much talk and itâ€™s normal. Itâ€™s great.
My mom is such a hero in the gay community, you have no idea.
AE: So it sounds like you guys were already close, but now youâ€™re close on a whole different level.
AE: You came out to your sister as well on the show, right?
K: I did, I did. But my sister had an idea, even though we never talked about it. Emotionally, I was a mess, crying, and I actually had to walk away at one point. I went completely pale and I thought I was going to throw up because my sister and I are also very close. And because my momâ€™s sick, my dadâ€™s not around and I have my sonâ€”me and my sister are pretty much just the two of us. We support each other. And if she ever mentioned anything about it for the past, you know, 13 years, I would change the subject. So she knew she probably shouldnâ€™t bring it up. She had an idea but we had never officially talked about it.
So I was so upset telling her because I thought, not that sheâ€™d be mad that I was gay, but that she would be mad, like, â€œYou know, Karen, thereâ€™s no reason why you couldnâ€™t have told me ten years ago.â€ You know, keeping it from her and lying. I became a mess because I was sorry and regretfulâ€”I thought Iâ€™d be hurting her. But she just hugged me and said, â€œIâ€™m so glad you finally came out with it. I canâ€™t wait to hear some good details.â€ She was into it and said, â€œYou know, that was a brave thing for you to do.â€ Which really itâ€™s true.
People are closeted their entire lives. They never come out. You know, the husband, the kids, wivesâ€”they just completely cover it. Itâ€™s one thing coming to terms with it yourself and itâ€™s another thing to come to terms with it with family members. And then Iâ€™m not even going to mention it, but itâ€™s a whole other thing to do it in front of 15 million people.