October 30, 2011

A Letter from Your Clandestinely Queer Daughter

[Editor's note: Please welcome our third newest blogger in as many days, Sara!]

Dear Mom and Dad,

You’ll never see this letter, but I make no promises I can’t necessarily keep. It doesn’t really matter; you would hear none of it. You’d refuse to see me, acknowledge me, let alone keep our precarious bond intact. It’d be shredded pieces of paper from a daughter that’s no longer a daughter to you, blood be damned. You’ll wash your hands clean of it, praying to God—you’d be furious with Him, albeit your loyalties made your bed, so lie in it, prayers and all—to give you the strength to go through this. You’ll smile, bear the burden of having raised some heretic that contradicts every inch of your stern belief system, occupy yourself with another daughter—she’s perfect, she won’t stray. She won’t break your heart in two, watch it go asunder, know it was of her own devices and still went through with it anyway.

If I were to open my hand, guide you through the many rooms occupying my thoughts, through each intricate, deeply concealed secret, my offer wouldn’t be extended for too long. You’d immediately shut the door before ever crossing over the threshold, and flee.

This is a story that may never reach you—you, the tragic heroes, and I, the villain who ripped the world apart.

Now it’s high time I’ve gotten some things off my chest. Because you won’t see this—assuming I’ll always remain the same meek, reserved child of ’95 frozen in time on the hordes of pictures stashed in some corner in your closet (oh, the imagery makes me swoon)—I am without reticence. I’m sad that reassures me more than when you held my hand on my first day of kindergarten, or when you held me close when I was wrecked of tears and unbidden cynicism, nineteen and angry and exasperated.

Mom. Dad. I love you. I also happen to not be straight.

I know, you’re wondering where you went wrong with your parenting. Actually, your parenting skills were incomparable, look how far I’ve come, how much I’ve accomplished? This isn’t you, not exactly. What is you, though, is what you’ll do with my confession.

So, I’m queer, if you haven’t noticed. I thought I was dropping some neon bright, anti-heterosexual sentiments the last time I was home; my adamant demands for the shortest haircut possible and my aversions on the topic of boys were definite givens. I’m attracted to both men and women, but I never equate physical attractiveness to sexual attraction; they’re two mutually exclusive things in my head, no argument there. Which is why for the longest time I thought I was asexual, since, y’know, I have intimacy issues—probably because I was touched inappropriately/coerced to perform sexual favors on my “friend” when I was seven-eight years old. Half of the time I identify as asexual, with convoluted explanations as to why I am and why I am not “strictly” asexual. But I’m absolutely positive I am not straight, sorry.

I am not, however, “out and proud”.

Remember that night, Mom, back in my first year? It was after the awkward ride back home when my older sister blurted out that many of my friends at Duke were G-A-Y. For a moment there I really thought the car swerved dangerously close to a conveniently placed ditch by the side of the road. Your knuckles were stark white against the backdrop of the steering wheel. The rest of the car ride continued in silence.

The next night remains seared into memory, leaves me sick to my stomach each time I replay the words that will forever and forever cause me to doubt the strength of a mother’s love for her daughter.

“If you ever,” you said, alarmingly calm, like the eye of a storm. I faintly recall that you gripped my hand and I heard bones creak under your fingers. “If you ever said you were a lesbian, Sara, I’ll disown you. I will disown you.” In the same breath, she asked me to join her in prayer.

My cheeks were burning. She placed my head against her shoulder, muttering a string of biblical verses against my forehead, rocking me back and forth: I was her little girl again, the one who hadn’t rough-housed with boys, the one who hadn’t walked straight to the menswear during back-to-school shopping, some ideal daughter I loathed with every fiber of my being. For the longest time that night she never relinquished my hand.

I remember my mother gesticulating in a booth of a diner, frustration lurking behind every word, as she relayed to my two sisters, my older sister’s husband, and me the rumors that claimed I was a butch, a lesbian, a dyke, a freak. My older sister glanced at me, as if she were searching for answers I didn’t have. Closing my eyes, legs trembling under the table, I took a shuddering breath as I burst into tears, hiding my face into my shaking hands. I couldn’t bear looking at my mother then, couldn’t bear explaining it to them. So I lied through my teeth, I’ve only liked boys, while in the deepest crevices of my heart, there lingered feelings for a friend who’s just recently passed away last month (September 9, 2011).

I love my mother, but…how can you be the best possible you for someone when your own mother — unbeknownst to her — denies a piece of you so fragile, so empowering, very much an integral part that makes you you?

Dad, I’ve neglected you for awhile. I don’t know you well enough to predict the consequences if I were to send this to you. I can’t say we’ve talked much about love, or about life, or about our lives as father and daughter. This does not invalidate our quiet bond. How could I, when we’re so similar? Sometimes, just leaning on you, my silent, impenetrable wall, offers me the greatest comfort and warmth. We easily slip into contentment. I can hear the ocean waves lapping against the white sands of Hawaii, long hair blowing in the wind, my heart full because I got the chance to sit there with my daddy, no care in the world, except for the worry bubbling in the pit of my stomach.

What would he say if he knew? What would he do? If you can’t even tell me you had a heart attack, how would you expect me to tell you I’ve had boyfriends, but I thought about girls, too, the ones who’ve rendered boys as mere candles next to her brilliance?

I want to tell my parents that I haven’t fallen in love yet—I’ve come close, but they all end up the same: I love the idea of a person I’ve fabricated and imposed on them, not the reality that sets fire to bridges between these infatuations, or they leave me first. (R.I.P, D.W.) Rarely with my family have we been on the same footing, which is becoming more and more evident in my third year at Duke. Lying is second nature now, something I never fathomed as a possibility. I was taught that lying was an ugly sin against your family. I was also taught that home was my sanctuary, my shelter, the center of a child’s universe. Sometimes home…isn’t safe. And that is terrifying.

I want to tell you, when it (eventually) happens, I’m head over heels for a person; they just happen to not be a man, and you won’t mind. When you meet her, I want to lean over and whisper, unabashedly and with no hint of irony, “She could be the girl of my dreams,” and you’ll grin and say, “She deserves you.” During holidays, when our fragmented family comes together under one household, the room lit up by your wonderful smiles and big, gracious hearts, I want my boyfriend—I want my girlfriend to receive the love I know you’re capable of giving. You’ll glance my way, say, “Welcome home, love, you’re always welcomed, never forget that.”

Unfortunately, I can’t have these things, not unless I tell you, and even then it’s not guaranteed. Not unless I unlock those secretive rooms floating in my head for you and you accept everything in stride could we be okay. You’ll say, “Thank you for sharing this with us. You won’t ever have to hide again.”

I will always love you, no matter what, you’ve once, twice, countless times, said.

I love you. I love you I love you I love you. Please, let it be true. (It won’t be.)

the girl behind closed doors


  1. This is all just really well put and super compelling. Thanks for writing - you rock.

    Personally, the part that resonated with me the most was "I thought I was dropping some neon bright, anti-heterosexual sentiments..." because I've thought that SO many times. People have really bad queerdars.

  2. I'm writing you a message because I can't respond to something this powerful online!!


  3. This almost brought me to tears because I really identified with a lot of sentiments about the conflict between your love for your parents and the want to be accepted. I really hope that sometime everything will work out.

  4. Hey Sara,

    First off, that was a beautiful letter and I know as I write this nothing I say can actually express what needs to be said. But I'm so sorry for what you're experiencing.

    I wish I could speak with your mother. I wish I could show her that her attitude is not only not Christian, but anti-Christian. For heaven's sake, even the Catholic Church, you know, the Church with such a well established pro-LGBT record, teaches in its Catechism, LGBT identified people "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity" (CCC 2358). No matter what your mom feel religiously about LGBT issues she should never make you feel like this.

    I'll pray for her and for you. I'll pray she understands that God is love. Unconditional love. She is called, as a Christian, is to love you as unconditionally as God does. I'll pray that somehow she comes to understand that, and, for your sake, soon. You may not believe in prayer, but at the very least, know my heart reaches out to you and is hurting with yours.

  5. I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend.