When I was 15, I came out to my parents on accident. I wrote a “boy meets boy” story and “accidentally” left it on the floor next to the couch.
That night, I am up late reading it to a friend. I had come out to some of them as bisexual a month or two before. In the morning, I get a note from my mom saying something like we need to talk tonight. Vague and cryptic is not the usual mode of communication in my family. When my mom, dad and I talk that night about the story it is daylight, but quickly it becomes darker. It was just a story. It was just a story. I don’t think it is just a story, Tim. Do you have something to tell us? No. Are you sure? It was just a story. Really? I’m bisexual.
I’m crying now. And I see my mom crying. I see my dad getting emotional. And I hear my mom say we are going to love you no matter who you bring home. We talk about adolescence and sexuality and fluidity, though I know I’m gonna be gay for a good long while. We talk about their fears of how my life is going to be more difficult now and how some people aren’t going to be as loving as our family. I am strong. I am ready to be gay in a world where gay troubles.
My brother finds out I am gay when he walks into the living room — while my boyfriend at the time is lying on top of me. I say to my boyfriend, that’s going to make things awkward. I get a talking to about respecting family space, not about making out with my boyfriend. Then I remember something about safe sex and using protection. I have no intention of sleeping with my boyfriend. I’m 18 and really not ready for sex, but I understand the need for my mom to talk about condoms. Mom says that this is a talk she would have with my brother and sister. It’s not about me being gay, but about being respectful and safe. I accept this and understand why should would draw the comparison.
I’m in college and my sister is driving me back to Ypsilanti after a weekend home. I have to tell you something. I cry. It’s okay, what’s up? I’m gay. Laughing she says, I know. I laugh, too. I tell her how hard that was for me to say because I love her so much. I stop crying. And we carry on to my dorm room.
I am at my cousin’s wedding. Family weddings are big and loud and full of food and drinks. My sister, brother, and I are having so much fun dancing and laughing with cousins. I am happy. We get ready to go and I need to run back and get my jacket. I prance back to my jacket without thinking and my cousin and her boyfriend see me. Happy and loved and feeling love for the newly married couple I say If they didn’t know, they do now! My cousin and her boyfriend laugh and I flit off to the next part of the celebration. They still tell me, years later, how funny and wonderful that moment was for them.
I am living with my boyfriend in Florida. We escape a hurricane by heading to his parents’ house in Arkansas. My grandparents are the last to know. I call them up and say Grandma, you know that guy I am living with? He’s not just my roommate; he’s my boyfriend. I’m gay. There is not even a second before my loving grandmother loudly proclaims Oh! Thanks for telling me. I love you more now than I did before. It’s so good to hear you trust me with that! My grandfather has the same reaction. I am crying.
Being gay gets you no plus or minus points in your family. My boyfriend tells me this in awe and wonder after meeting my family. It isn’t until I hear this from him that I really know how unique this is.
My family loves me, Timothy. I am gay and so they love that part of me as well. I am special and I am loved and my gay identity is part of that. My family does not bracket out my gay part in order to love me. I won’t let them, but they won’t do it. They love me and me being gay is part of what they need to love about me. There is no fighting there is no discussion there is no talking about it. They ask about my boyfriends. They ask about my work and what it’s like to live in Minnesota. They give me shit for Michelle Bachmann. I give them shit for the entire state of Michigan going red. My cousins and sister and I talk about hot male celebrities right along my brother and my cousin’s boyfriend talking about hot female celebrities. I watch sports with them and really enjoy it. We shout about politics together and really enjoy it. I bring a love of opera into the family. Though it feels as if my gay self doesn’t matter, it does. I bring a gay perspective and experience to politics. I remind them that trans issues and LGBT rights and queer perspectives challenge their liberal politics sometimes. And my gay perspective is honored as an important difference to the conversation.
And all this family love is juxtaposed with the thousands of kids who call the Trevor Help Line. Juxtaposed to the struggles my boyfriend is having with his (extended) family. Juxtaposed to the time we took in a friend of my sisters because her friend’s parents kicked her out of the house for being a lesbian. We can’t choose our families; that’s for sure. Damned if I am not lucky every day for the ones I’ve got.
Timothy is a teacher of writing He is an occasional Twitter user and obsessive FaceBook checker. When he grows up he wants to be Barney Frank during the 1980s or Rachel Maddow at any point in her life.