After all these years, I am still rendered silent. I was visiting my dad when the same sex marriage ruling came down. He is eighty, a widow of almost 4 years, lonely, bitter about the loss of my mother, and generally crabby and critical. I love him dearly. And I couldn’t express my joy at the Supreme Court ruling. I couldn’t even bring it up. And no one else did. I have 3 adult brothers and 3 sisters-in-law – none of them mentioned it.
Homophobia is a sneaky bastard. You think you are free of it but it sits there waiting for just the right opportunity to rear its ugly self. I have a lot of excuses going through my head about protecting my dad, not wanting to get into it, not wanting the attention. A lot of crap. I just didn’t have the nerve. I was afraid to bring it up because I know how he feels. He tolerates, but he does not accept. When I got married (8 years ago), my parents refused to attend, and if we had any kind of reception or celebration (which we did not), I was told under no uncertain terms, they would not attend that either.
During my recent visit my spouse was back home, my two teenage daughters were with me. I talked to them about it and we looked at photos of the White House and Disneyland lit up in the colors of the rainbow flag. I said something lame about not not mentioning it to Grandpa because who knows how he would react and we chuckled. We chalked it up to his grumpy nature.
But I feel lousy about it. I feel like I failed my kids and myself. I am out to my dad and my brothers, but I felt like I was back in the closet. It’s an awful feeling. A numbing, soul crushing feeling.
Love makes a family, but love is complicated. For me, love has meant hiding and appeasing and balancing who I am with who my parents, my brothers, even my extended family, want me to be. And I’m pretty old for this. At this point, I really shouldn’t care. But in the house I was raised in, with my father and my brothers and the ghost of my mother in every plate and painting and throw rug, I went silent.
It is hard to love people so deeply when they are closed to who you really are and what you are up against.
I am working on a novel, and this theme is at its crux, so no wonder I hem and haw and work hard to avoid writing. Those personal things are so, well, personal. But they are the stuff we have to get at if we are to make the writing worthy, whole, beautiful.
I just finished Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. I imagine this is the book she had to write. It is pretty amazing. While I read it I had almost an out-of-body experience. I have never met her, but I could feel her writing it, I could sense what it took. I knew that writing journey.
Writing is an art, a craft I am passionate about. I never thought of writing my novel as a cathartic or psychoanalytical process. But in truth, this huge part of it. I am writing to break the silence. Seems a bit extreme – an awful lot of work to come out of the closet. But writing has always been my weapon of choice.
In the eighties there was a poster/bumper sticker that I never see anymore: Silence=Death. Created in the wake of the AIDS epidemic, it was a rallying cry for coming out, for dignity, for activism. It would seem we are beyond this, with our rainbow flags and equal signs, but I still hold on to this image. For me, it resonates beyond the political. It speaks to me as a woman, a lesbian, a writer. Silence for me has been a crutch and a coping mechanism. It choked me at my fathers’ home and when I read the dissents of the justices the silence welled up in me again. There is so much hate.
Yes, we can choose our family. We can create a circle of like-minded friends and peeps. But that family we came from, despite time and distance and push and pull, they still have a lot of power. So I hug my kids. I cry on the phone to my other half. And I write. I choose to write.