Nathan Hoskins knew from an early age that he was gay. But when he was growing up in rural Kentucky, his mother took extreme steps to convince him otherwise.
“When I was in sixth grade, I had met a good friend and he wasn’t interested in girls,” Hoskins, who’s now 33, tells his friend Sally Evans. “One day, he said, ‘I have a Valentine’s Day card for you.'”
“I asked him for it, and he said it was so special that he mailed it,” he says. “And he didn’t know he’d done a very terrible thing because at my house only one person got the mail — and that was my mother.”
As Hoskins rode the school bus home, he tried to think of ways to intercept the card.
“But when I got off the bus, Mom had already checked the mail,” he says. “And my mom came out and met me on the front steps.
“She had that envelope — and I could tell what it was ’cause it had little hearts on it, and you know, it was all cute and everything — and she’d asked me if I had read it.”
Hoskins says he did everything he could to convince his mother he did not solicit the card.
“And she took me into the house and pulled her shotgun out of the closet. She loaded it in front of me and put it in my hands and told me to hold on to that. She led me outside, and she put me in the back of the car. And she drove out into the country,” he says. “Now, when I say ‘country’ — it’s no man’s land.
Hoskins says she pulled the car over and led him out into the woods.
“She stood me up against a tree,” he says. “She took the shotgun out of my hands, and she put it to my head.
“She said, ‘This is the tree that I’d take my son to and blow his head off if he ever decided to be a faggot,'” Hoskins says.
He says at that moment he realized he had to do whatever it took not to be gay. “And I tried very hard. And I was a great liar for many years.”
Hoskins was married for nine years before he divorced his wife. Not long after that, he came out. But he rarely spoke with his mother about that day in the woods.
“Probably two years ago, when I first came out, I asked her about that,” he says. “I said, ‘Mom, remember this?’ And she would laugh. I said, ‘Mom, I just want to hear one time that what you did was wrong.’ And she couldn’t say it.”
“So did she acknowledge that it happened?” Evans asks.
“Oh yes, oh yes. You know, I guess she really did think that she was doing the right thing then,” Hoskins says.
Soon after that conversation, Hoskins and his mother stopped talking. He says he is no longer in contact with his family.
“I was always trying very hard to please others as a child,” he says. “But as an adult, I look back and I say, ‘I am who I’m supposed to be.’ There was never another alternative.”
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Nadia Reiman. Recorded in partnership with WUKY.