Wednesday, June 25, 2008

your bias is showing

Last night, I went to my niece's elementary school graduation. She's thirteen.
Longest. Graduation. Ever.
Almost three hours for thirty-five kids. I kid you not.

Of course, she's going to a catholic school, so it involved attending mass. Yay! That's an hour. And then there were speeches. And awards. And more speeches. And a slide show. And more speeches. By the time they were done my eleven year old ADHD nephew was literally crying in the pew. And the grads got to dance (their own celebration) for a grand total of one hour and forty-five minutes. I am so glad that my four year old stayed behind with her dad.

Prior to the ceremony we gathered at my brother's house for dinner. My parents are on holiday and my grandmother is in respite care this week, so conversation flowed a little more freely than usual. Like, when it's just the kids, even if the kids are forty or older, they feel like they don't have to censor themselves.

I can't remember who made the comment. But someone made reference to a server at a local pub who "looked gay." And then there was another comment. And then my sister-in-law talked about a woman she knew with a certain tattoo. She never would have known, she said, if she hadn't seen it. And then there were more comments.

I squirmed. I kept my head down and ate. I wondered what I could say, diplomatically, to shut my idiot family up. And finally what I did say was, "I'm really not comfortable with this conversation."

They stared at me. All of them. "Why not?"

"Well, would you make reference to someone's skin colour? Or make derogatory remarks about their size? It's all bigotry to me."
"Oh." That was it. Subject changed.

What would they say if they knew? How would they explain it to their kids? Themselves? What if one day, I bring a woman home and say to them "I love this person?"

It could happen.

I made a pact with myself a few weeks ago. I promised that I would cultivate fearlessness, that I would welcome passion into my life in whatever form it came, and that I would no longer hide. In any way. I've been hiding and running away from things for years. No more. I am not censoring myself for my family's sake. I'm not going to keep quiet about things because that's the way they'd rather have it.

Are there others in my extended family who are gay? Or bisexual? Absolutely.

But we never talk about them. Questions I ask about a distant relative who bought a house with another man are never really answered. And he doesn't come to family gatherings anymore. Is he ashamed? Has he been told to stay away? He warrants nothing more than a single line in a family Christmas letter, and although this is my aunt's brother I am referring to, and not a direct relative, I practically grew up with him. He's only two years older than I am. Where did he go? Now I'm going to track him down.

I refuse refuse refuse to disappear like that. It will not happen. Or so I say.

But what if I was asked to choose? How would I respond today to the dilemma posed to me more than twenty years ago?

I wouldn't back down. I will live my life as I choose. I may be exiled for a while, but I think that many of my family members would come to understand me a little better. And in time, there would not only be an acceptance of who I am, but a welcoming of the new person in my life.

After all, we were all catholic once and now my sister and I are openly pagan. Back in the day, I had a baby out of wedlock, and that was okay too, after my parents got over the shock of learning that their twenty-three year old daughter had been sexually active. They've come to realize that the world is changing.

My brother the priest...well, that may be another story. But he'll have to get used to it.

I have no reason to be "out" with them yet. Although I don't need a reason. And there are people in my life who know.

My sister.
My eighteen year old (tit for tat, that one).
About ninety women from the witchcamp that I went to two weeks ago (although, to be frank, not everyone would have understood what I was doing when I sang a particularly poignant song during our final ritual, but the people there who matter to me understood). It is much easier to come out to strangers sometimes than your own family. Especially when a good proportion of those people are part of a strong gblt community already.
My coven, most of whom are queer identified in some way.
My partner. I couldn't stand it any more and told him about three days after I got home from camp. I knew he would understand. What me might not understand is how my feelings for him have changed, or maybe never were what they should have been.

So that leaves my immediate family.

I had a lot of time to think about this yesterday. After all I spent an hour during mass, biting my lip, willing myself not to give the responses that still permeate my brain. The priest says "The Lord be with you," and I automatically want to say "And also with you...." I believe that words have power, and when I give those automatic responses, I am invoking something into my life that I do not want. It's funny what thirty-five years of churchgoing can do to your brain.

I have been a pagan for a number of years now, but for some reason, perhaps because of years of conditioning, I can't exclude Jesus from my practice. I think of him in a very different way than I used to, but he's still there, and I think he's still listening. and since a catholic church is a good place to converse with the man, he and I had a little conversation.

When I visualize him in my mind, he's this totally radical hippie type - he was a radical, his ideas were rejected by established religions, he was a revolutionary. He had dreads, and a long beard. He's sitting on a blanket in a meadow gazing peacefully at his surroundings.

Okay, I tell him. You know what I want from my life, you know that I am not ever going to settle for less than what I deserve. I've been mulling all these things over for months, now. But what do I do about my family? How do i keep them in my life, how do we maintain the positive, close relationship that we have, in spite of our differences?

And then a phrase popped into my head:

Be the change that you wish to see in the world.

No, my Jesus doesn't go around quoting himself. He's inspired by greatness as much as I am. This led me to remember another favourite quote of mine.

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.


Let the beauty we love - let the things and people we love inspire us, become us, be our life's work. Don't let fear overtake us, prevent us from finding joy. Let that joy fill us, let love become the way in which we honour the divine.

I can do that.

It doesn't really answer my questions, but I have to trust that everything will be okay.

1 comment:

greg said...

I am so impressed that you spoke up and told your family that what they were saying was wrong. Fantastic.