Have you ever been on the verge of coming out to someone only to remember at the last second that you can’t, not now?
Things have been weird with my family since I moved back in with them a couple months ago. Besides the whole “treat me like an adult, goddammit, I’m 25, not 15” thing, it’s a lot like moving back into a cage I thought I had escaped. I’m trying to nurture myself, my art, my inner voice. But I feel that as long as I am here, I can never be my whole self. I will always have to hide part of who I am.
I have tried to live authentically around here. Trust me. But when my family comes face-to-face with our differences, they brush those differences under the carpet, gaze at me with an expression that clearly reads, “We will never speak of this again,” and carry on as if their worldview is the only one that exists. It’s not acceptance. It’s a refusal to acknowledge that I am someone whose values and beliefs do not match theirs.
And in case I had any doubts about how my parents feel about gays, they’ve left plenty of literature lying around the house. Below are some photos of a Christian magazine they subscribe to, World. Supposedly “it’s like Newsweek, but from a Christian perspective.” In the 2 months that I’ve been home and have happened to notice the magazine (since I don’t generally make a point of tearing into each issue when it arrives), there have been 2 front-cover stories about how the gays are taking over America.
Yup, this was sitting on the kitchen table the week I got home.
If you open the image in a new tab, you can read the article. This pompous business owner who refuses to process an order for an LGBT organization and then runs crying to the media about being bullied is actually supposed to be the hero of this story. That’s right, he’s the one being bullied.
“Discrimination,” in quotes, 4th paragraph down, because being denied service based on sexual orientation clearly doesn’t qualify. (Kind of ironic that they missed the guy holding the sign in the bottom left-hand corner with the definition of the word on it.) Also, are magazines still allowed to call people “homosexuals”?
Because that just reminds me of Arrested Development…
Where was I? Oh yeah, coming out.
For everyone’s best interest, I have decided it best not to come out to my family while I am living under their roof. It is a temporary situation, and once I move back to the city and gain some financial stability, I will gather the courage to tell them. Maybe this is cowardly. But I don’t want to end up homeless should they throw me out or disown me or something. At the moment, I have a few promising job interviews set up for this week, and this is my escape plan if I get an offer: 1. Save up a little money, enough for a few months’ rent. 2. Buy a car. (I used to have one, not even 6 months ago, but Mark said it would be a good idea to sell it because I wasn’t really using it in the city as we were using only his car, and we would be together forever anyway, so what’s the point?) 3. Find a roommate in the city who is cool and LGBT-friendly. 4. Move out. Of course, any number of factors could throw off this plan. But I’m staying positive, for now.
So I have a teenage brother, Liam. We’ve always been close. He’s been pretty much my best friend since I moved back, and with him, there are no strings attached. He’s not concerned with religion or politics or judging people. We do random shit together: go for long walks in the rain, design our dream houses, change out the hardware around the house for fun, make bowls of chocolate frosting just for eating, tell each other our secrets. Liam is probably the reason I haven’t completely lost my mind.
He’s at that point in life where he’s not quite thinking about girls yet, but he can still tease me about boys. What he doesn’t know is that there aren’t any boys to tease me about.
This weekend we were playing computer games at 2:00 in the morning (or, rather, I was playing to humor him), and he got on a roll. “I bet you still like Nate,” he said, referring to a guy I’d graduated with and had a crush on in high school.
I made a face. “No way!”
He paused the game and turned around. “OK then…Steven?”
It went on this way for quite a while. He named every guy I’d ever mentioned. He got into celebrities, some of which I didn’t know, so he found ridiculous YouTube videos to market them to me. He tried to set me up with guys who were way too old/too young/too nerdy and laughed his ass off at the faces I made. He even named some actors who are most definitely gay, and when I said, “Liam, I don’t think that one likes girls, if you know what I mean,” he didn’t seem to know what I meant.
Finally I stopped him. “Look,” I laughed, “I don’t want to date any guys right now. I’m not interested in men at the moment.” Liam looked at me blankly. He didn’t get it AT ALL.
“OK, why don’t we see how your name sounds with their last names,” he continued. “Jenny Wilson…”
It was then that I realized this kid doesn’t even know what “gay” means. No one ever told him. In his sheltered Christian bubble, gay does not exist. He doesn’t know that some families have two mommies or two daddies. He doesn’t know that sometimes you fall in love with someone whose gender is the same as yours. And he certainly doesn’t know that sometimes people are born with a body whose gender doesn’t match how they feel inside. But the good thing is, he also doesn’t know that he’s supposed to hate people like this. Liam is a blank slate, ripe for the teaching.
I’m not saying Liam has never heard the word before. My mom has probably indoctrinated him in passing, but all the coverage he’s probably experienced on the subject has probably been, “Oh, there are some guys who like each other and some girls who like each other, but that’s wrong and gross.”
I can’t tell you how tempted I was to swoop in and get to his mind before my parents did. To tell him what gay means and that people don’t choose it, and that whoever he ends up falling in love with, or not falling in love with, is perfectly OK. (Right now technology is his girlfriend – if we allow gays to marry, what’s next? People marrying their computers? is something I would have heard from my parents as a child.)
I wanted to tell him that I’m not sure how I feel about guys, but that I want to go on a date with a girl, and I want to have a girlfriend – and that if he wants to tease me about a celebrity crush, he can tease me all he wants about Sara Quin.
But I didn’t. I probably just made him confused.
Maybe, when the time comes, I’ll tell him first. I have a feeling he won’t care. I have a feeling “Should I still love/accept her as my sister?” won’t even be a question he asks himself. Kids are my heroes.