On March 12, Board Chair John Duran’s Mother passed away suddenly. A remarkable woman at the head of a large family, she was the model of what a loving mother could be – and that extended especially to her gay son. John writes:
“My mother was a tiny Latina woman at barely 100 pounds but a fierce advocate for many causes. She moved with my father Edward Duran from Silver City, New Mexico to Los Angeles in the 1950’s when there were separate bathrooms for “whites” and “Mexicans”. She became a Chicana activist with the United Farmer Workers and Cesar Chavez in the 1960’s. She fought for quality education for Latino kids on the eastside and battled against gangs to keep kids away from them. She was elected to the Los Nietos School Board in the Whitter area where she served as a school board member for 16 years.
But she was one of those “chorus moms” that every gay kid wishes to have. She was my local den mother in the Cub Scouts. She was a Little League Baseball volunteer in the “snack shack”. She was involved with the PTA. And everybody in the city of Santa Fe Springs knew the powerhouse of “Mama Duran”. She was my rock and inspiration. And I wouldn’t be half the man I am without her loving care and hand.
I came out to her in 1979. She didn’t flinch when I told her. She said she knew she had a gay son when I would wrap my towel around my head to mimic Barbara Eden from “I Dream of Jeannie”. She joined PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) shortly thereafter to learn more about the LGBT community. Whenever Latino kids came out to their parents in her East LA community, they were sent to Mama Duran for counsel. Parents would ask: “were you upset when John told you he was gay”? She would smile wryly and respond: “No. I was upset when my son Tony told me he was a Republican!”
She once rode in a car with me when I was “Man of the Year” for Orange County’s first gay pride parade in 1989. As we passed the fundamentalist protest zone, the radical right zealots were screaming at her “Lesbian witch! Lesbian witch!”. She laughed and waved at them. When I apologized for asking her to ride in the car with me she said: “Oh no mijo! (My son). Don’t you see? I went to Mass this morning and prayed to God to help me understand what it was like to be gay. And these people. They knew nothing about me or my family or my values. But they were angry and screaming at me in fear! You see? God answered my prayers! That must be what it is like to be gay!”
During the Proposition 8 battle for marriage equality, her Catholic priest was preaching from the pulpit for congregants to vote YES on Prop 8 and ban marriage equality. Mom caught the eye of the other PFLAG mothers in the church. And she stood in protest during the sermon. Right in front of the pulpit. And the other parents with gay kids stood in the pews in protest with her. And then they walked out of the Mass. Apparently, the priest got quite a tongue lashing after the Mass about thinking more carefully about what he has to say about LGBT people and their families!
Mom was an AIDS activist also. My two gay cousins Jody and Tudy died in the epidemic. She held my Aunt Betty through those tough times. She and my Aunt Betty would walk in the AIDS walk every year to raise money to fight AIDS. She even jumped out of an airplane with a parachute to raise money for the LGBT center! She was actually lost for a few hours because her tiny body was carried away by the parachute a mile away from the target! But when she hiked back to the launch point for the fundraiser -sunburned and bruised from a rough landing, she had the biggest smile on her face and vowed she would NEVER do that again but check mark off her bucket list!
Mom loved GMCLA. She came to almost every concert for the past 2 decades. She absolutely LOVED the drag queens and the humor. And she loved the songs that would make her cry. Mom had a gay cousin back in New Mexico who was bullied terribly in the 1950’s. She was his protector and shield! The concerts emboldened her belief that she was on the right side of justice and goodness in the world. And she fought for LGBT equality for decades. She even met President Obama and thanked him for helping her son.
To all the chorus Moms and Dads out there! Thank you for your love and support. We need you by our sides to see us struggle towards victory – equality for all.”