Monday, December 24, 2007

in the story of my life

A lot of events have been occurring as of late and I have been avoiding blogging about them until I had them straight in my head. Or at least figured out slightly better than when they first occurred.
Here are the details: It was decided by my Aunt and Uncle who are hosting Christmas this year that Monster Squad is not invited. I was told this by my sister. I was needless to say, not really all that impressed.
I thought about this un-invitation for about a month and decided that this was not okay, as poor as my relationship is with my family – to allow this to happen and to not say something goes against my moral code.
So a very angry letter was written and mailed off. I hesitated in putting the letter into the mailbox for fear that once again I was messing things up, and then decided that my relationship with my family is messed up and that this letter would at least allow me to have my say in things. I sent the letter and as usual, heard nothing. Typical.
One day several weeks later talking to my sister she informed me that my Aunt was very unhappy about the letter and was working on a response. I took this information to heart and called and left a message saying that if she wanted to talk about the letter she was certainly free to do so. She did not call me back.
I received a letter from my Aunt AND Uncle a week later. The letter did a very good job of telling me what a bad person I am. Here is the letter in a nutshell:
The family is not impressed with how I have handled telling Grandma that I am gay, stating it was “disastrous”.
They do not want me to talk about politics at family gathers.
They don’t think that anyone needs know I am gay aside from close friends and relatives; that the rest of the world only needs to accept me for who I am.
They feel that I have broken ties much earlier than I think I did and that was when I went off to university.
The reason Monster Squad was not invited was because a they do not have a relationship with me, and therefore do not have a relationship with him.
They said that I only attend family gathers to ignore all of them after an obligatory greeting of “Hello.”
They told me that I am an adult and that I can make my own decisions, but that I need to grow up.
They told me that I am certainly welcome to come to Christmas but only if I want to mend fences and leave politics at the door (I am assuming that by politics that they mean being gay).
They also suggested that therapy was not working for me since I seemed to bitter and angry.
The letter also said that there are certain social rules that must be adhered to by me since I am a homo. These rules were not stated but it was insinuated that the rules meant not discussing, referring to, or talking about being gay in any format.

This gave me pause for thought.
The letter did a very good job of convincing me that I am a bad person. That the reasons for the strained relationship with my parents and family began with me and that it is my responsibility to fix them.
In the letter I suggested that my parents suffer from depression, which my Aunt and Uncle insinuated that would be because I am gay, and suggested I hook them up with literature or a support group for parents of gay and lesbian children.
I thought about the letter for a long time.
I discussed the letter with Monster Squad, Fabers, The Tofu Pirate and a few others. In the end I realized that once again I think my family is wrong and that they are passing the buck and responsibility over to me.
My logic for this was that for the first time in my life I am happy. Things are still difficult and I am still working on things, but at least I am happy and engaged with my emotions.

Here is my response to my Aunt and Uncle which I have yet to write to them.

Why would I come to Christmas when you clearly do not want me to be me? You want the most socially acceptable version of me that apply to your aesthetics of how I should behave. I disagree with that since then you are not actually spending Christmas with me but with a performance or a caricature. The reason I did not talk to you historically was that the whole family, especially my parents made it very clear that they did not actually want to talk to me. You ask for me to leave politics at the door, but how can I? Those politics are who I am and they are what I am interested in. Asking me to leave them out is asking me too much and it leaves me with nothing to talk about and I think that they same patterns will repeat of me saying nothing to you, since in my opinion that is what you are asking me to do.
Your letter states that you have never ridiculed me for being gay and this is true, but you have not shown any form of acceptance – only tolerance. There is a huge difference between the two. Tolerance still leaves a great deal to be desired as it does not allow me to be me. Acceptance would be letting me say what I want to say, and not asking me to leave things aside.
I don’t see how my telling Grandma I was gay in a letter was disastrous. She did not die, no one got hurt, and all it did was challenge her. As a family you all coddle her, but she is an adult and I feel fit to treat her as one. If she does not like my being gay then she could have written me back, called me, etc. She did not follow any of those social rules of communication, so why would I do a follow up when I have not received any response to my letter? If she can not be bothered to tell me how she feels about me, then why would I continue to communicate with her in what would most likely be an in vain measure.
The family also seems to negate my abusive childhood, adolescence, and teenager years. But those experiences make up who I am and I find it very difficult to face my father and to not want to be yell at him or defy him for the way that he treated me and my sisters and my mother. I also find him repulsive, not just physically but also emotionally and mentally. I am not sure if he is someone that I want to have in my life. I am disheartened that he is excused for his behavior and that I am disliked for mine – but a great deal of my behavior is a direct reaction to what he did with me. I do not think that it is asking too much for time away from him in order to heal. But the family must also know that I may never forgive him for the horrible things that he did. I hate it that as a group you all ignore his behavior and pretend that it is okay by not expecting him to face up to his actions.
I find it fascinating that since I am the one expecting change that I am the one being vilified. I have tried my best with my parents to engage them in me and to open some form of communication, I have done this since I went off to university and it has all been wasted energy. The message being very clear that they do not want to know me for me and that it is just easier to play the familial concern game. I do not want to play the familial concern game. If these people are going to be in my life I want a relationship that goes beneath the weather and my job or schooling. I want how I feel, who I am, what I am writing, what I am reading, what I am listening to, who I am dating, who my friends are to be included. All of those things make up who I am. They are all important aspects of my life. And with my parents and to a great extent the rest of the family all of those things are ignored.
The main theme that I see in your response to my letter is what evoked me to write the first letter. Homophobia. To expect me to leave all these things to the side when I am in your presence is unfair. You say that only close friends and relatives need to know, does that mean that you adhere to the same rules? Do you not tell your co-workers about your marriage, your children, your family vacations, etc? Do you not wear your wedding rings unless you are in the presence of close friends or family who know you are heterosexual? Do you not discuss your family pride or family concerns except with close friends or family? I don’t think that you do.
By asking me to not discuss the things that I am interested in is akin to asking you to not discuss the things mentioned above. It is heteronormativitiy at play here and in my opinion that is the same thing as homophobia.
The reason I wrote you my first letter stating my anger with you not inviting my boyfriend is because I felt that you were treating me and my relationship as second class. You don’t seem to think that you are, but the undertone and subtext of your letter makes me disagree with you. Homophobia is expecting me to act or behave any different than you do in terms of family closeness or personal behavior. Do you really think that you are treating me the same way that you would want to be treated?

And although that is not all I want to say, it is the main gist of it.

Although this does sadden me and makes me wonder if I will be estranged from my family forever it also confirmed one thing for me. That I am finding my voice and finding strength in myself, and that is much more important to me than playing the familial concern game with them.


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