Ugh. You’d think I'd be past that by now. But no.
It's not entirely surprising. I’m out to all of my immediate family, and slowly to some of the less immediate ones, but it’s always hard to know what you can and can’t say (or wear—I brought all of my Love=Love shirts home, if only to annoy my sister. I wore it a few times last year while tutoring at an elementary school and was somewhat uncomfortable, but the school didn’t have a problem with it, so neither did I). My mother told me that she had recently told her sister(-in-law) and that her reaction had been something along the line of, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear he’s made that choice.” Which I’m not even for a moment going to pretend isn’t hugely offensive. It isn’t as though this particular woman doesn’t know me. I’ve stayed at her house probably a dozen times now and our family often spent Thanksgiving with hers.
I don’t know exactly what happened after that; hopefully my parents stood up for me, as they apparently did in another similar incident in which the folks said “love the sinner, hate the sin.” To which I simply respond with incredulity: I mean, you’ve already implicated yourselves in prejudice. You’re on a roll. Why not keep going?
At first I thought it had something to do with how exactly my parents were telling them. Tone of voice says a lot, as do the exact circumstances in which you tell them. If you treat it as a big deal, so will they. If you don’t, well, they’ll probably be so surprised by your cavalierism (It's a word. Promise.) they won’t get to show you their lack of acceptance.
So that's something I’ve been working on lately: casually introducing jokes or sexuality–relevant bits of discussion into conversation so that my family doesn’t treat it as such a big deal. We’ll see if it works (get back to you soon on that!).
It can be difficult with the family though—or, in general, with people who aren’t used to talking about it as much as I am. Last weekend I went to Portland to visit the only other guy from my high school class who’s come out. When I told my mom this, she made it sound like a disease: “Oh, so he's also…gay?” Yes, mother.
Additionally, it’s just kind of hard to talk about with my sister and brother–in–law, both of whom are fairly conservative Catholic (we’re all Catholic, but most of us aren’t quite as strictly traditional as those two). I’ve easily had eight hours of discussions of LGBT–related issues with the two of them, and after all that, my brother-in-law said, “Well, I guess I’m still just not sure that it isn’t a choice.” Which is, I hope, understandably frustrating to hear. But what do I say to that? It seems so obvious to me that no one would wish this upon themselves that I just don’t know what to say next—not that having it be undesirable means it’s not a choice, but there’s also a preponderance of evidence suggesting that it’s a natural thing.
There’s just such a huge range of how comfortable different people can be with it or talking about it that it can make communication difficult. For now, I do what I can for my family, sending them links to blog entries or news stories which have meant a lot to me and hoping they’ll get around to reading them. In a day or two they’ll all be around; I’m hoping to get them to that next level of comfort, and if they’re not ready for it, it’ll just be their responsibility to talk with me privately about it.
There’s no instruction manual to all this “being gay” business (though a friend tells me I can learn almost anything from the Golden Girls, so might have to give them a try). I hate that and I love it. But it’s part of my life. It’s not an opt-in thing; it will always be there, whether I like it or not. I think I like it.
But that’s just personal stuff. Forget about it. It is Christmas, after all. Let’s be friends and family and enjoy each other’s company. I hope all of you, dear readers and fellow contributors, have a wonderful holiday season, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, or anything else. Happy birthday, Jesus.