Wednesday, March 14, 2007

My Family

My family is dysfunctional. The dysfunction has not, over the past 10 or more years, directly involved me. I get a kick out of that. I enjoy being the "good" kid, the one "nothing is wrong with." Although I have no real problem with being gay, I know that would change my position in my family. It would be treated as something bad by some of my family members, not as something that doesn’t really matter—which is how I think of it.

I also am 99% certain that part of my family’s dysfunction would forever and always be blamed for my being gay, even though I was gay before the particular dysfunction I’m thinking about occurred. Trying to convince my mother that anything is not the case is irritating enough. Given that I am more of the kind of gay person who would like to live life approaching being gay as an "I’m gay—okay, let’s eat" kind of thing…I really am not interested in spending the rest of my life trying to convince my mother that that is not why I am gay.

As I told my mother not too long ago, every family in which there are at least two kids has a troublemaker. That’s my theory. My oldest sister is our troublemaker, which has been both good and bad for me. It has been good because I kind of feel like there is nothing I could do that is really all that bad. It has been bad because I have noticed that being a troublemaker is more lucrative than one would think. Even though these people bring problems upon themselves, they get sympathy and way more assistance than they could ever deserve. My sister is 10 years older than I am, and she goes from job to job—what usually happens is she gets fired. She only dates losers, each one more psychotic than the one before, until she married the craziest person I have ever personally known.

I have to think that my being gay would be preferable to that to my family, but I really don’t know. As evidence to the contrary, I have the facts that my aunt has given my sister thousands of dollars to "help" her—even though she should have known that all that money would just go to these crazy men my sister gets involved with—my parents have purchased several cars for my sister, my parents have tolerated my sister’s badmouthing them and conspiring with these crazy men to commit illegal acts in my parents’ names, and so on. I, on the other hand, am in law school—one of the best law schools in the country. My law school costs over $50,000 a year, for which I pay mostly with loans. Still, I receive $25, maybe $50 at best, a year from my aunt. My parents have never bought me a car. And though I complain about my parents, which everyone does, I would never think of committing illegal acts in their names or badmouthing them.

Oh, and the most interesting thing—my sister has slept with at least one woman before, and my parents know this. Word got back to them, but not through my sister. But they act like it never happened, like it’s not true. They talk about every other "crazy" thing she has ever done repeatedly, but they don’t talk about that. I have heard my mother say enough things about homosexuality to know that she thinks it’s gross. I have hardly heard my father say anything, but I know I have heard him refer to at least one gay male as a "fag."

So it wouldn’t be an "I’m gay—okay, let’s eat" kind of revelation. But it also wouldn’t be an "I feel so sorry for you" kind of thing where I get all kinds of stuff I may or may not deserve, even though I didn’t really have anything to do with being gay like my sister does with all the dumb decisions she makes. I wouldn’t get disowned. But if I think that I have to talk about being gay more than I want to with gay people, I think that because—unlike the situation with my sister—I’d be telling my family directly, I’d have to talk about—make that argue about—being gay way more than I ever want to.

Honestly…I think my family already knows the truth. And if they don’t, they really should. I mean, really…should. I think that’s how it is with so many black families and black environments. I have been reading several gay blacks combat arguments that homophobia is worse in the black community by using black churches as an example, the visibility of gays in these churches, and the widespread knowledge and "acceptance" of these gay blacks.

Two things about that. The thing about black churches—and, I think, blacks in general—is they are fine as long as you are not shoving your gay identity down their throats. I mean, sure—the piano boy flames. But you know why that’s fine? Because it’s entertaining to straight people. It’s not like straight blacks are fine with his being gay; they are joking to each other about it. It’s funny to them, but it’s still a negative and he’s still a "fag" behind his back.

But as long as he’s not kissing or groping other dudes in front of everyone, talking to straight church members about his dates—except for those who might be friends of his whom he believes will be fine with it—or verbally coming out to the church, everyone is willing to look the other way and not actually engage in a dialogue with him about his gay identity. Obviously, there are blacks who don’t fit this description—some have a problem regardless, and some don’t care. There are probably also gay blacks who are verbally out in the church, and people probably act fine to their faces. I'd bet money that some of them have made these gays one of the running church jokes, though.

I feel as if this is how my family is handling me, kind of like they handle the situation with my sister having slept with a woman. Truthfully, I feel as if I’m obvious. As I mentioned in Story 1, I have never been girly or liked girly things, and I have hardly shown signs of knowing that men are alive in that sense. But, just as this article I read in Essence magazine about Linda Villarosa’s coming out, I think everyone in my family has thought about my being a lesbian and has tried to tell themselves it’s not really so by making excuses for me…good excuses, but excuses they wouldn’t buy if it were anyone other than me, i.e. that I am putting school and a career first, then waiting to get into a serious relationship. I’m 26, and I’ve never had a serious relationship with a man. That sounds strange to everybody.

My mother has said before that she doesn’t believe gay people should announce being gay. I agree, actually. I am fine with some people knowing, but not with sitting them down to make an "announcement" as if it’s a big deal when it’s not, to me. Sometimes, I feel like she knows but feels like it’s okay for me not to actually tell her. But then there have been so many times when she has actually asked me that I question that. And I know that she was probably thinking more of celebrities announcing to the media their orientation, but I think it’s the same kind of principle. My family doesn’t know for sure because they don’t want to, and I’m not the kind of person who wants to make people face it, especially when I still don’t know exactly what it is that they’re supposed to face.

I want to make a second point about gays and the black church, but just a quick one since this is not the topic for it—it could become a separate entry at some point. But basically, I think the battle between blacks and gays is really about race. Yes, some straight blacks will argue using religion, morality, etc, like some straight whites. I think it’s more of a copout smokescreen for blacks, especially given the treatment of gay blacks in the church. Although these gay blacks are not totally accepted, in my opinion, they are still black. And the church is as much a social place for blacks as it is a religious place, another black community.

So I think straight blacks respond to homosexuality much the same way straight whites do, i.e. you might be gay, but at least you’re still one of us. I talk about wanting white gays to face that homosexuality for them doesn't erase race--well, it doesn't for us, either. And I think that, despite the presence of black gays, blacks still think homosexuality is a white issue or something invented by whites. That’s a part of the hostility people are picking up on from blacks. But black people are almost never quite willing to 100% alienate one of their own, regardless of their "not being black enough" or being gay.

Naturally, this is another situation that varies depending on the person. And, honestly, I don't have enough experience with being gay or churches, so this is an observation made from afar and applied in a very general sense.