The Rebirth of Dr. David Malebranche: How A Devastating Loss & Professional Detour Fueled A Comeback
There was a bedtime and morning ritual in the Malebranche household. A kiss from the family patriarch to his son David and daughter Michelle that was so routine—his decision to replace David’s kiss with deafening silence—reverberated loudly throughout their home in Schenectady, NY, in the summer of 1993.
Despite being an exceptional student with degrees from Princeton, Emory, and Columbia Universities, Malebranche, now 53, had become accustomed to achieving a level of success that appeared to impress everyone but the Haitian-born surgeon he called dad. Yet he was not accustomed to being viewed as a disappointment by the man he idolized.
“Donna, is our son trying to tell us something?” Malebranche recalls his father asking his mother almost daily, particularly after getting his ears pierced, and choosing to wear an earring in the right ear only on this particular day, which in the early 90s was a cultural indicator that a man was not heterosexual.
“He would ask her that question every morning. He would not let it go,” Malebranche said. “So after the third or fourth morning, she'd say, ‘What do you want me to do? I can’t cover for you.’”
“I'm 23. If he's not man enough to ask me directly, he’s not man enough to hear it from me, so you tell him,” he said. “And so she did. Those three days that I was home, he didn’t speak to me at all.”
Malebranche tells The Reckoning that his mother kept his secret from his father for over a year. She was first confronted with the possibility that her son might be attracted to men upon opening and discarding mail from the now-defunct Black porn company Black Forest Productions.
“We can’t tell your father,” she said at the time. “It’ll kill him.”
But his secret was now out in the open, with the elder Malebranche making his disappointment with his son’s truth abundantly clear.
“Basically, the gist of it was, all my dreams are dashed because you're gay,” Malebranche said, through the kind of laughter that is only possible with time and healing.
“We cried a lot. We got a lot of stuff out,” he said. “I drove from upstate New York all the way back to [Michigan State University] East Lansing, Michigan, that night. I got in at maybe nine o'clock in the morning and just passed out and slept—probably one of the best sleeps of my life because it was finally done.”
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