Childhood and Family

Growing up, David was very close to his mother, Mary, who let him draw in church to encourage his artistic side. David wrote that although he never understood the phrase “God is Love,” he did understand one thing: “Mom was love, more than God was Love.” When David came out as gay to his parents, his mother hugged him tightly. “My tears aren’t because of what you just told us,” she said, “they’re because of all the pain you must’ve felt while growing up.”

David’s relationship with his father, Revered Matias Rodríguez, was more complicated. Reverend Matias was a WWII veteran and Baptist minister, fourth in a line of soldiers, ranchers, hunters, and preachers. Revered Matias often told David that a good son must have children to carry on the family name. When David came out as gay, Reverend Matias swore that he would pray for David’s conversion until the day he died. The Reverend never thought he would outlive his only son.

After hearing David’s diagnosis, Reverend Matias softened. He began to mail news clippings about possible HIV treatments, and sometimes called his son just to say “I love you.” He welcomed Lenny as part of the family. David embraced the new relationship with his father. “Once he accepted me,” he said, “I could accept his faults.”