Friday, March 7, 2008

Family (Not mine this time)

Our friend P came over Saturday night. I cooked him dinner because he was depressed about family issues and thought I could understand. He has a southern family just like mine and we've commiserated in the past. He's a single gay man and decided recently that he's never talking to his family again. He's been putting up with them for 13 years since he came out and he's not going to put up with them anymore.

I told him about how I didn't talk to my family for 1.5 years after I came out. I told them I wouldn't compromise for them. They would either accept me or lose me. They tried to wait me out, but when they saw that I was serious, they came around. Now they accept me and my family and treat us like people or they don't see us. They aren't perfect, but they certainly come a long way.

There is a long history of gay people who don't talk to their parents. It's hard, but we have to stop needing them for anything - no emotional support, no bonding, no love, no advice, no money. Once you get yourself to that place where you really don't need them, then you let them into your lives or not. It's your choice. You never let yourself feel guilty when they say that you are a bad person for not including them in your lives. You're not guilty - they are. If they treated you better, you'd let them back in. And if you do let them back in, it's always as an accessory to your life. You have to have a full life without them. You don't need them and you're okay without them.

This is not easy, of course, and it requires a community of friends that you can count on like family. And it requires having people who understand you. This is why P & I need each other. This is why GLB people need each other. We know what it's like to be rejected. We know what it's like to have a wedding that our parents don't attend. That our sister attends but then later complains about. We know what it's like to tell our parents we're going to have children and have them react poorly. We know what it's like to be told not to bring your partner around. We know what it's like to be told you are a pervert, likened to a child molester, by your own parents. No one who is not GLB could ever understand this, and they may tell you that you need to give your family a break. They are wrong. You need to take care of yourself first. This is why GLB people refer to each other as 'family'. We need each other and we don't have anyone else.

But it's not just GLB people who need to stick together. Southerners do to. Around here people are liberal and grew up with diversity. People are shocked with the racism, homophobia, sexism, close-mindedness, and alcoholism that comes with being a part of a southern family. When we moved from FL to IA for grad school, people said 'how are an interracial, same-sex couple going to fair in IA?' Very well, actually. Midwesterners are not diverse - IA is like 96% white. But they aren't close-minded. Southerners are very big on conformity, but Midwesterners are more hands-off. You don't tell me what to do and I won't tell you what to do. Such a relief from the conformity of diverse FL. Of course, nothing was better than moving to the DC area - diverse and liberal and open-minded! Anyway, P & I have a shared experience that few people understand. We need each other. We are family.

1 comment:

j.k-c. said...

I think you are so right with this! I'm not from the south, but I certainly know the pain of people not accepting GLBT people. I've had my life threatened just because I'm queer. I'm glad now to be in a place and time when I feel loved and accepted and safe for exactly who I am!