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The Mom Every Gay Kid Needs

Sandburg High School senior Jacob Szymanski will attend his prom dressed in drag. And his mom Jodette is gushing with pride.

Jodette Szymanski, with son Jacob, 17. | Photo Provided.
Jodette Szymanski, with son Jacob, 17. | Photo Provided.
It's not that Jodette Szymanski wasn't scared of what people would think. 

The Orland Park mom simply understood her son Jacob, 17, was the same "good kid" he'd always been, as he was before he revealed he was gay.

"As a parent, it's your job to support your kid, love them no matter what," she said. "I was scared for him because I just know what a hard road he has ahead of him. 

"He's my son. I love him. I'm so proud of him."

Since the age of 12, Jacob has gradually been coming out of his shell as a gay teen with a growing interest in dressing in drag and becoming an active participant in Chicago's gay community. He recently declared that he will attend prom dressed as his drag queen alter-ego "Harlet Wench."

She'll help him choose a dress and shoes for his big night. They'll decide on hair and makeup. Because that's what she would do if she had birthed a daughter. 

"It's just me being involved in his life," she said. "My whole life revolves around him, and I think it always will."

As a single mom, former flight attendant Szymanski showed Jacob as much of the world as she could. They traveled together often: the Caribbean, other states. Europe is next on the list. She'd love for him to experience the vivid gay culture in France. 

But she did all of that because he's earned it: good grades and behavior. She's accepting of his sexuality because he was open enough to share it, and she admires him for that.

"He doesn't do drugs, he doesn't drink," she said. "If this is the worst thing that can happen, I think we're doing pretty good." 

She had an inkling of his homosexuality as early as the age of 12, saying he expressed little interest in sports but more in cosmetics. She once asked if he liked girls or boys, and he stated sweetly that he likes everyone "as long as they're a good person." In the years before he attained a driver's license, she drove drag-clad Jacob into Chicago for the Gay Pride Parade. She watched as he was invited onto a float and embraced by those around him.

"He's in his element," she said. "You don't want anything to cloud who they (kids) are."

Society has come a long way in its understanding of the gay culture, but there's still room for improvement, she said. Though she admires Jacob for his decision to show this side of himself to his classmates and community, she fears intolerance. But he is safe from that in his own family. He comes to her freely for advice on makeup, shoes and wigs. 

"I want him to be who he truly feels he is inside," she said. "Be who he feels he was born to be."

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