I’ve been OUT, for over 15 years. I’ve never been an in-your-face lesbian. In fact I hardly ever use the word, lesbian.
My original outing was difficult, but not traumatic. My father took a while to come around, but never stopped talking to me or ever treated my partner poorly. I once had to set him straight on his thoughts about Mercy, he unjustly thought that Mercy was using me. This was one argument, but I ended it by storming out of his house and driving away, only to come back 15 minutes later and tore him a new one and then calmly telling him why he was wrong and full of shit. My dad seemed to come around almost immediately after this fight. My sister and I stopped talking for about 10 years due to a misunderstanding that surrounded her new ultra conservative church at the time. We now are great. About 5 years ago we started talking and we got back to being best friends.
At first when I started teaching, I was afraid that students would judge me if I mentioned anything about being gay. But I had been out for years, so I was always mentioning Mercy’s name when talking about my private life in any way. Or at least I would always use “us” or “we” when talking about my home life. The first time I said something about “my partner”, I thought to myself “Wow, I just outed myself in class.” When I really thought about it later and the ‘reactions’, I realized that there really weren’t any reactions. First, I live in a city that is pretty accepting. Secondly, I don’t treat male students different from female students and I’m pretty open and honest about many things with my students, so they just don’t care.
I really don’t care about anyone knowing that I am gay, but I also don’t talk about it constantly. It just isn’t on my mind that much. I don’t spend time thinking that Mercy is the woman that I love. I just think about Mercy. I probably mention her the same amount or less than most people talk about their spouse. If it doesn’t pertain to the conversation, then there is no business adding it into the conversation. I don’t know if any of that makes sense. I don’t mean that I don’t think or talk about MErcy with people. I just don’t make her be the only thing that I talk about.
Now onto the reason that I am writing this post.
My father is from the South and has a very racist/prejudice family. I remember spending time with my Aunt Marie when I was at my grandmother’s during a break at college when I was 19. My college was in a nearby big city. Marie and I were in a mall in her hometown walking around and she said, “I bet you see a lot of that in the city.” Of what? I had no clue what she was talking about. I started to look around to see if I could figure out what she was talking about. Then I realized, a mixed race couple had just walked by holding hands. What century was my aunt in? I was stunned and didn’t know what to say. My parents never taught us to treat anyone differently. I later found out that my father was always having arguments with his racist family about how he raised us, especially when we lived in his hometown when I was a baby. I’d always known that his brothers were racist, but Marie had always been great and I never noticed her prejudice until that day at the mall.
So needless to say, we have never told my dad’s family that I am gay. I never worried about it, because we live over 2500 miles away and they never really made us feel like family. Except for about 5 years of my life, we always lived really far away from them and they always treated us differently when we visited. I learned at a very young age that my FAMILY really was just my mom, dad, brother, and sister. All extended family were more like distant relatives and really more like mere acquaintances.
A few years ago, my sister and my dad went to see his family because one of his brothers was diagnosed with stage four cancer and wasn’t expected to live long. Before heading down on this trip my dad asked me what I wanted him to say about me. I told him not to lie, but if they didn’t ask he didn’t have to volunteer. My dad was really afraid that his family would say bad things about me and he didn’t have the heart to hear these things. I understood what he meant and it didn’t bother me at all. I really didn’t care what these strangers thought or knew about me.
It ended up that his family didn’t ask about anyone in my family. They didnt even ask my sister, who was there with my father, anything about her life. They just don’t care about us, which I knew for a very long time. There was one incident. My Uncle Cal is a big wig in their town. Cal was bragging to my father that he had blackballed a gay man from being hired by the local school district. My father was fuming. He finally said something to the effect of, “You know, Cal, being gay doesn’t make you a pedophile.” He said more, but I don’t remember what it was. He didn’t say anything about me, because he didn’t want me hurt in any way by this asshole. And to my dad, even if I didn’t hear anything about it, Cal would still be hurting me. He then got up and left Cal’s house and didn’t return the rest of the trip.
You might think that what my dad did wasn’t enough, but then you don’t know my dad or his family. He is the youngest in his family and they still treat him like he is a baby who doesn’t know anything. It is very hard for him to stand up t his brothers, especially Cal. I was so proud of him. My sister was so proud of him. And I think he was proud of himself.
Ok, long story even longer…
After this trip, some of my dad’s family have befriended my sister and mom on Facebook. This year, my sister and mom have posted many things about me and Mercy, since Mercy almost died this year and was in the ICU and a nursing home for over 3 months this year. This was well documented on Facebook and I had made my FB account public during this time so everyone could see Mercy’s progress even if they weren’t my friend. None of these family members have tried to add me at all in this time, even though they could easily find me since I share their last name and it is not a common last name. So part of me thought, well they probably know and are avoiding me. My sister insists that they just don’t care anything about our family, so they probably just don’t pay any attention to us at all…maybe…who knows.
Ok, on to today…
Aunt Marie sent me a friend request. Well, shit. I have to accept it. I mean who would reject their aunt as a friend. So I did. So now I have to sit back and wait for a reaction that may never come. Outing myself all over again to a new group of people. The only thing is I really don’t care what they think about me, I just care how they treat my father. I mean once they figure things out, if they treat me poorly I can just unfriend them. My dad doesn’t have the strength to disown them.
Who knows? Maybe Marie will surprise me and accept me and my partner…