Monday, December 1, 2008

we don't discuss that

It's almost December. I've missed a self-imposed deadline by about two months now.

I was determined, way back in early September, to come out to the rest of my family as soon as possible, by Thanksgiving (Mid-October here) because I wanted to move forward, keep going with my new life, make sure that everyone important to me had a chance to know who I really am. It didn't happen that way.

And on the heels of another needless argument with N over nothing in particular, where he made perfect rational sense and I became angry and defensive yet again, I started to wonder - why? Why can't I tell my brothers, their wives, their families that I am queer. What's holding me back? I barely slept last night - there's a virus setting in, and I am just overwhelmed with worry and fear. How will they react? What happens if they reject me, because they might. More likely, it will become, as it seems to have already, the next family secret. The thing we don't talk about.

N spent a lot of time reassuring me in September - our parents love us unconditionally. They will accept me for who I am, they will understand and support me. And when I drove down to see them, to tell them about myself, I did it when I was raging over something else, when I had no support, no one to talk to, nobody around me who could give me the comfort that I badly needed. For goddess' sake, my relationship was over, I was grieving, he obviously wasn't because he just sailed into something else like I didn't matter, like I'd never mattered. At least, that was my mindset at the time.

What I had hoped for in coming out to my parents never materialized. They didn't disown me or anything - I'm still family, family sticks together, don't you know, and there I am, cooking thanksgiving dinner, making birthday supper for Meg's family party, hovering in the background with this big thing to say, and no courage to say it. I silenced myself, again, I am waiting for this big opportunity to come, and it never will, unless I create it. And how do I do that?

My parents said it didn't matter. But they act like it does. Do they ask me how I am, how things are going for me? No. When I told them that I was grieving, they said to me "well you can't really blame him for moving on." Like there was someone to blame, and the someone to blame was me. I wasn't throwing blame around at the time, just carrying a lot of shame and guilt for having wreaked so much havoc in so many lives. On bad days I still do.

They told me that they wouldn't tell anyone else. That it was up to me to come out, in my own time, in my own way. But they added a caveat - that I should let my siblings tell their children - or not - as they see fit. Which means, that I structure my revelation in a way that does not include the kids, even though my older nephews and nieces at 21, 16, and 14, are well able to understand what I'm talking about.

There is something to hide. There is something to be embarrassed about. There's something wrong with me. That's the message I got when I came out to them, the message that I internalized and carried with me, giving it no conscious thought until yesterday, when I was trying to explain that I didn't have time to come out - why? Because when do I ever see my brothers without their kids unless the occasion is completely contrived? So do I feed them dinner and make a big announcement? Do I drive an hour to my hometown in the dead of night to tell them when their teenage children are asleep, giving them the opportunity to lie or conceal the truth from their almost grown-up kids? Do I become the pariah, the person tolerated but not accepted because my being flies in the face of the 'traditional" values they espouse?

My mother told me that I could have come out to her when I was 21 and it would have been okay. I told her that I didn't believe her. It's not okay now, it's so not okay that I have not had a conversation with them about my sexuality since that day. And it's so important to me right now - it's what i spend a lot of my time thinking about, mulling over. Every major decision and change I've made in the last three months has been a direct result of being queer and acknowledging it to myself. So why can't I talk about it, given that it's such a huge part of my life right now, and always will be?

I feel like I'm standing at the foot of this giant mountain, with all my gear, ready to climb, and there's no one to spot me. I can't do this alone. How do I do this at all?


Avril Fleur said...

It almost sounds like you're waiting for permission from someone to come out. You know that you don't need your parents' permission to tell anyone you please. I think you're using that as an excuse to give in to your fear of rejection. You don't need for your family or anyone else to accept your sexuality, this is about being able to live your truth authentically. Acceptance by others is completely secondary. You need to be able to accept yourself first and you certainly don't need to change them or their beliefs. I don't mean to be harsh and I realize that it is far different when you're actually in the midst of a situation than when you're sitting on the outside as an observer. I can say until the cows come home what I would do "if" but I think you're handling this in the time and manner that works for you. But you've got to accept responsibility for it and not blame your parents. Nobody can dictate to you without your permission.

Camlin said...

It wasn't about asking permission. But, at the same time, I did not have the courage to say to my parents "I'm going to do this my way." Instead, I did what I've always done - I allowed my parents to determine the course of action, and I gave them ownership over something that is uniquely mine. Only I can determine how and when I come out - that's my perogative. My parents would rather I do it their way. N wants me to do it sooner rather than later, because he worries about others' perceptions of him, and his role in our separation. So I was getting it from both ends and my response was - to do nothing.

I don't blame my parents. They didn't choose this any more than I did. Their response is a product of their culture, their own upbringing, and the unique dynamics of our family - we don't discuss things that are unpleasant or unsettling. I bought into it - again I allowed myself to be silent when I should be talking, even if it means that my mom can't pretend that things are as they always were. I wasn't aware of how their response affected me and my choices until a few days ago - I internalized their half-baked acceptance and decided (subconsciously) that there really was something wrong with me. I kept apologizing to myself for being who I am. And I stalled, as I often do, because for a little while I need to be safe, and not take risks. So many thing have happened, one after another, that I needed a mental break. The post was my way of re-routing my attention to what's important, to what I need to do in order to be whole.

I'm not seeking permission or laying blame when I try to set my course of action. There is no "if," because I need to do this. But how? When? Why am I assuming that I have to be alone when I have family and friends that I know and love who can be there to support me? I know that I will come out to my family. I'd like it to be sooner rather than later. It's the hardest thing I've ever done, and no matter how I do it, or what the outcome, it won't be easy.

Avril Fleur said...

Does it have to be a formal "announcement" to the group though? That would be intimidating for anyone.

Are there one or two people that you feel closer to that you could just have a conversation with in a more casual tone? Someone who you can approach who you feel would be fairly receptive and understanding, or at least sensitive to your feelings? Maybe you could invite one of your brothers or SIL's to lunch or coffee and go from there. It may seem odd if it's not something you would normally do with them on a one on one basis, but then again, coming out to your family isn't exactly an everyday occurrence either. I think you need to find a way to do it that isn't going to seem so scary and intimidating. Of course, you're right, it won't be easy whatever way you choose, but there must be some ways that will at least be easier for you.

Whatever happens you know that I wish you the best!

Blessings and love!

Earth Muffin said...

I can't pretend to know how you're feeling right now and I wouldn't begin to know what kind of advice to give you in regards to this matter. Just know that you have nothing to hide, nothing to be embarrassed about and there is nothing wrong with you. Far-away hugs to you as you navigate your way through this difficult time. You'll come out stronger on the other side!

trinity2 said...

I think it's unfair of your parents to put that stipulation on how you come out to your other relatives. Say whats in your heart to them - your own way. I know it's difficult but you are very brave. Don't beat yourself up on timing. You'll do it!

Writes Like A Girl said...

When I came out to my family I did it on a more one on one basis. It took months, more than a year, in many cases for my family to really process it and see me in this new way. It took a long time for me to see me in that new way without any shift in thinking, without it jarring me. I'm sure you don't have time to read a year's worth of my own rambling but I have recently been down this path and blogged about it. I know that I am a stragner and very far away but if there is anything I can do, if you want to email me, feel free. My heart goes out to you, I know it is a daily, even minute by minute struggle, but know that it is worth every second of it to feel in your heart that you are being true to yourself. And it is a great gift that you give to your child everyday, a mother that is real and honest.

Janet said...

You do it in little bits and you keep doing it -in little bits. It's never over really not in your lifetime.

And the only acceptance one really needs is their own -- one must never wait or rely on that from others.

You are your own parent, spouse, friend, sister -- you can be and from *that place* you will accept yourself and others will be more accepting of you.

NOW ...if I could learn to follow my own fucking advice that would be great.