Oh hi! It’s me again. Didn’t think you could get rid of me that easily did you? A silly, little ceremony and piece of paper couldn’t keep me away for long. So, just a quick update on me: I graduated back in May. Woohoo! And, now, I work at Duke! Even bigger woohoo! I’ll be around for a few more years and, hopefully, keep contributing to this amazing blog.
So, what’s this post about? Well, graduating put me face-to-face with a decision that I had been struggling with for years: whether or not to come out to the rest of my family. My mom, one of my aunts, one uncle, two cousins, and my godmother were all coming up for graduation. I’m only out to my mom. Other family members have hinted at knowing my sexuality but never outright asked and I never said anything about it. That presented a lot of problems for me: What about my rainbow tassel from Lav Grad? What about the rainbow flag I have hanging in my living room? What about my favorite poster ever that was above my bed? What was I going to do with all the symbols of who I am when they came to visit me? I could leave them all up and be like “SURPRISE!” when my family walks in. I’ve wanted to come out to them for a while now and that could be the way to do it. Just rip it off like a Band-Aid and leave it at that.
I took a long, hard look at the Love=Love sticker on my messenger bag. Did I want to keep it on there or take it off? Who knew a decision as small as a leaving sticker on a bag would keep me awake for hours every night? In a fit of delirium and anxiety, I picked up my bag and ripped the sticker off. I ripped it off just like a Band-Aid.
After I pulled off the sticker, a metaphorical wound opened and so did my tear ducts. I cried for a really long time. It felt awful. In a teary haze, I went around my apartment taking down any symbol of my pride, feeling shameful with each sign I tucked away under my bed. As I took each pin out of the wall, I felt as though I was putting a pin in my heart. Once again, I was going back into the closet. The part of myself that I hated for so long but finally grew to accept and love was once again going into the deep, dark abyss of that wretched closet (or, at least, as far as I could make it go lolz). After the de-gayification of my apartment, I sat on my couch looking at the bare walls, tears still dripping down my face. The whole process was so emotionally draining for me. I felt exhausted. I felt like a traitor not only to the community but also to myself. I felt like a fraud. Mostly, I felt like a coward.
I was taking the easy way out, brushing things under the rug to be dealt with another day. I mean, I didn’t want to ruin my graduation weekend for my family which would in turn ruin it for myself, but in the end, it still ended up being more stressful and anxiety-ridden than joyous. I felt like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. If I came out to my family then, who knows what they would have done. By not coming out to them, I could never fully relax and enjoy the momentous weekend. It was a catch 22. I felt as though I chose the lesser of two evils: 1) stressing myself out and tarnishing graduation for myself or 2) putting the ball in my family’s court and hoping they aren’t upset enough to turn around and go home thereby still tarnishing my weekend.
So, graduation came and went. The weekend was mildly successful in that my family enjoyed themselves and loved seeing Duke. It was a failure in terms of excitement for me. I didn’t really relax and enjoy my graduation until the night it was over. My family was leaving the next morning so it gave me a reason to actually be happy. I could return to my actual life and just be me. It was this realization, this sudden relief, and the wave of happiness that led me to my big decision: I’m cutting ties to my family.
I’ve always had issues with my family or more like; my family has always had issues with itself. It wasn’t really a great environment to grow up in. I learned a lot about people’s behaviors and the awful ways they can treat each other from my family. There’s always been a lot of conflict. Even at big family gatherings, the underlying tensions hung in the air like the smell of the Thanksgiving feast we were about to devour. Since coming to Duke, I’ve been very estranged from my family anyway. I’d only see a handful of them when I went home for winter break. Didn’t really talk to any of them while I was at Duke except for my mom and very occasional call to or from my grandma. There was already a lot of space (physical and emotional) between us. It seemed like the next step. Why agonize over telling my family when they’re not a part of my life anymore?
I’m here at Duke working now. I’m (almost) self-sustaining. I don’t owe them anything and they have nothing to give me. I don’t ever plan to or ever see myself moving back home. I can live my life without their judgment and they can live obliviously to my life. I don’t have to go through the emotional trauma of coming out to people who honestly don’t mean that much to me and they are free to have whatever mental image of me they want to have. Sounds like a win-win to me.
But why do I still feel like a fraud?