Happy Boxing Day, everyone!
Well, we made it through another Christmas without being swept away by some long-foretold doomsday disaster. And I made it through my first family Christmas with a significant other, which is noteworthy. This is the first year I’ve been with a guy for a major holiday like Christmas. Last year I spent it depressed, mostly holed up in my room, alone and drunk, so this was a nice change of pace and scenery.
It’s also been a full year since I told my parents that I didn’t want any further contact with them, so long as they believe what they do about homosexuality. Since being outed to them by my first ex-boyfriend in November 2010, they’ve had plenty of opportunity to reconsider their conviction that homosexuality is unnatural. They budged a little on the notion that it’s “uncurable,” which for them means that I should be living a lonely and celibate life. So there’s no real change from 2010.
Last fall they said that they would never acknowledge any romantic relationship of mine with another man, or come to any wedding or commitment ceremony of mine. This was a particular slap in the face, considering how big of a deal my younger sister’s wedding was, and knowing that I’ll never experience that kind of celebration. She has three kids now with her husband, and my family would never dream of pretending that they’re just friends or roommates. Yet that’s the life they deem appropriate and reasonable for me, all because I fancy men instead of women.
The last exchange between my dad and me took place on Christmas Day of last year. I’d stopped by to write him a check for the last of the money I owed him for car repairs, after which I told my parents that I wanted nothing more to do with them because of their beliefs about my sexuality. He made a comment about how he didn’t think my “lifestyle” was making me very happy, how Jesus could’ve helped me “be straight” if I’d let him, and how I’d “never really given Jesus a chance.” I responded that my unhappiness had to do with the fact that my entire world had been recently tipped upside-down, and on top of that my family thinks I should be content being a second-class citizen, both in society and in their company. I asked if he knew the difference between sadness and clinical depression, and he remarked that “Jesus is bigger than depression.”
To which I replied, before slamming the door behind me: “I spit on your Jesus.”
That was last Christmas.
This Christmas was spent with my boyfriend Jay and his family. I had some anxiety in the weeks leading up to it, not so much about large numbers of people but rather about gift-giving. In my family, or at least among my siblings once we were older, gift-giving always felt like an exercise in posturing. The gift had to be nice enough to show that you spent a decent amount of money on someone, but not so expensive that it looked like you were showing off. It was the thought that counted, so long as the thought was interpreted in the right way.
Add to that the fact that for me it’s so hard picking out gifts. Something has to jump out at me as being just the thing for a person. For example, Jay’s uncle has some pretty right-wing political views, and a few months ago I was at Barnes & Noble looking for another book and saw a book by David Horowitz, The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and sixties radicals seized control of the Democratic Party. I thought, “That’s perfect!”
As for the rest of his family, it’s hard to get a read sometimes. I was worried about them seeing me as rude or that I didn’t really try, and that therefore I’m a bad boyfriend and not really a part of the family. A few weeks ago a friend of Jay’s sister came over and played a game with us, and I felt like everyone liked him way more than me. My rational mind was saying that they have more of a history with him, and that’s what’s going on. My lizard brain was saying that everyone was wondering what I was even doing there.
Family is tricky for me, for many reasons. As I’m learning in therapy, I was never able to connect with my family growing up (at least during my teen years) because I was so preoccupied with trying to hide from them and everyone else the enormous fact that I was gay. And, as I feared, they are unable to accept their gay son for who he is, which means that we can’t have a relationship.
In the summer of 2011, while I was staying with my parents while finding a new place to live, my dad and I had an argument. This isn’t out of the ordinary since we’ve fought most of my life. We were on the topic of sexual orientation, and he growled, “You’ve made your whole identity now about being gay! You’re so focused on it!”
I said: “Yes. Because I am gay. Contrary to what you think, it’s not some separate thing apart from myself. It defines who I am, just like your being married to mom defines you. And someday there’s going to be a man in my life who forms the other part of that central relationship for me. And you refuse to acknowledge that part of me. So yeah, I’m kinda focused on that right now.”
I’ll never know what it’s like to have my own parents love my spouse in the way they love my sister’s husband. I’ll never know what it’s like to introduce the man I love to the people who, for better or worse, I spent most of my life with and who raised me. That’s not an easy pill to swallow.