“OH MY GOD I AM……not even shocked, was I supposed to be?” That was my estranged father’s response to the first time I told him I was dating a woman. Do most of us queer people have at least one person respond to their coming out like that? I was in the car with one of my brothers when I said, “I need to tell you something” and I got an immediate “You’re gay, I already know.” Was this a compliment? A stereotype? Was he playing with me and didn’t know I was going to agree?
And then another question popped in my mind – was I getting off too easy for being queer? Was this historical trauma of homophobia telling my brain that I deserved to be berated and disowned? Instead, so far, no one even seemed to care.
I “tested out” coming out to my dad and brother, people that felt more expendable if they had a negative reaction to it. Next in line was my mom – who I was very close to and lived with at the time. I was 23 years old and had always known her to be a hippy-type. She grew up in the 70s, fought for abortion rights, and even told me about her early-twenties acid trip. I figured she’d go over even smoother than the rest. She always touted about how everyone should just be themselves but always be kind. But sometimes “everyone should be able to love who they love” stops when it’s their own child that turns out queer.
I told her in a very nonchalant way – that I had a girlfriend that I’d love her to meet. She sort of froze. After seeing me almost marry a cis male a couple of years earlier, she couldn’t comprehend how both of these situations existed in the same child. I explained how the past was what I felt like I was supposed to do in life, but how I broke off the past engagement feeling like we were “just friends” and nothing else. And that was the first time I realized I would constantly have to explain why my queerness is valid, but I digress.
She begrudgingly put on a face of “no, I’m still open-minded, I swear” to meet my partners. Any time I would ask if she was uncomfortable with it, she would quickly move the subject to something else. Her main response was stating “I don’t want to know anything about my kids’ sex lives” – which always was weird to me. That being queer automatically made people imagine our sex lives, when all I was trying to tell her was that my girlfriend was even funnier than I am. I tried to see this one in her point of view, but she was simultaneously supporting my brother to get his fiancé pregnant – an actual view into your kid’s sex life.
I’ve been out for 8 years now. The discomfort in her eyes is still there, and she still won’t talk about it. Over these years I’ve had my brother tell me “they just want to see me become a mom” and explain how giving birth with a cis male was apparently my only chance at that. As if being queer ripped out my reproductive organs in exchange for everlasting gayness. Or, as if I ever even wanted to give birth in the first place (they didn’t ask). They spent more time over the years being concerned that my queerness stole something from me rather than noticing what coming out did to fulfill me. How coming out allowed me to be myself publicly. How I’d subtly been adding queerness to any creative project I’ve been in. How I became more confident and strong-willed.
Coming out again and again to each person I meet is exhausting, seeing the stares my partner and I get can be frustrating, having people explain to me that they know other gay people or watch Queer Eye (to feel like that makes them an automatic ally) makes me want to roll my eyes – but at least, after 23 years of mostly hiding, I get to be free, whether some people like it or not.