So I’m like really really horrible at coming out. My first verbal expression of “I have something to tell you” was over a year ago to my Dad. In order to muster the strength/energy to do so, I worked myself up into an emotional frenzy. You can read about it here but what’s pretty crazy is how rotten of a job I did to deal with the rest of my family.
Living a life of secrecy and hidden love is nothing new to me. In fact, nearly two and a half years of my time at Duke had been spent in this melodramatic heart-wrenching, heart-breaking relationship that caused so much pain to so many people that it is hard to think of myself as the same person. One thing that always stuck with me through all that was a complete loss of how to be transparent and truly honest. It is through these means that honor and pride manifest themselves.
So I vowed: No more secrets. No more bullshit. Let’s do this.
Except it’s really hard. I certainly don’t want to blame this on my recent history of secrecy since I was in a period of re-thinking my self image, my gender expression, and the true manifestations of love (I even shaved my head, damnit), but I didn’t have many clear examples of what to do.
To my own credit, I did come out to both of my grandmothers, but the talking stopped there. The thing about my extended family, is that they’re really a lot more like immediate family. We all live within a few minutes of each other, and my grandparents live next door. So it’s not a once-a-year kind of family, it’s a most-nights-during-the-week kind of family. I knew it was my responsibility to tell everyone myself, for my sake, and those who were holding and suffering from my news. But also for Hilary’s sake. The silence of a partnership—however it’s employed—is suffocating, infuriating, and never, ever okay.
I failed her. I failed Hilary and myself. I was crushed by the pressure and withdrew from taking action. Quite possibly the best example of proving love: to announce it, to celebrate it, to be honest.
So the night before Hilary and I flew out to San Diego together, my dad sat my family down, and told them the news for me because I hadn’t done it yet. It might work for some people to come out this way, it gets a lot of conversations done quickly. But my family refused to meet her.
Now, my family is the kind of family that will like all go out to one of our favorite restaurants to welcome a new friend, or my sister’s boyfriends (& her girlfriends since they didn’t know they were girlfriends). So it was a sinking, sick feeling. Dinners are like the ultimate expression of welcome and acceptance. Also a great opportunity to tease, and to test, and to talk about poop.
But Hilary didn’t get that. Not yet anyway. Because I fucked it up. I hope we can someday. It certainly isn’t a rejection of her as it is a rejection of a shocking truth told second hand and with less than 24 hours to react. I can only blame myself.
I know my grandpa cried when he found out. The only other time that’s happened is when he found out that I got into Duke, and he said, “I can’t believe a Puente is gonna go to Duke.” He’s a quiet hard-working man who I love dearly. I wish he could celebrate my love with me.
But my dad, who has sat with this news for over a year, COMPLETELY kicked ass. He had an awesome family dinner with my siblings and Hilary. Then after she left to return to Durham, he took my little brother, my sister and I to a GAY THEATRE. To see a GAY PLAY. Isn’t that the craziest shit you ever heard? He even knew the reputation of the theatre, and all this gay culture stuff in the city. It was clear that he had been doing his research, and the fact that he would plan a family outing with gay themes (sex included) for my 15-year-old brother to see, is a huge step for him. So back home, I felt more simultaneously accepted and furious at myself than I have in awhile.
Now—on to the step that, for me, is infinitely harder and oppressive than coming out: the follow up conversation. How the hell am I gonna conquer that one?