Remember when you were a little kid, and your parents asked you what you wanted to be and you smiled all dopey and cute like and said something along the lines of: “I want to be an astronaut that saves kittens and puppies and takes over for Santa Claus when he gets too tired to give everyone presents.” And your parents smiled down at you and totally were like: my kid is the most adorbs. And then you grew up, and those teenage years were a total bitch, but you guys got passed it. Somewhere in that time period, from being a toothless toddler to a rebellious teenager you came to your own realizations. One of them being that you were shall we say a little different.
The videos you watched in health class depicted all of these situations that you just couldn’t relate to. In your mind you were like, but wait, what if the two people involved were of the same sex? Can I still get the same STD’s? If I’m a girl having sex with a girl where does the condom go? On my fingers? You looked at yourself naked in the mirror and you could not fathom why on Earth you had been born into this body? When you looked around your high school and saw that the people you were most attracted to, you knew that you would probably get punched in the face if you left a love letter in their locker. You were part of a student body who would not accept you for your true body. If your peers couldn’t understand you, what would your parents say?
Your parents for better or for worse are, your fucking parents, and deep down inside every single one of us wants to be accepted by them. Which, for most of us is like finding a needle in a universe sized haystack.
Will Smith pointed it out the best over a decade ago:
This whole parents not getting their kids thing, it isn’t new. Ask your folks how their parents feel about them. Ask your grandparents how they feel about your parents. Your mind will be fucked. No matter how proud a parent is of their kid, they always saw life differently for them. Always.
This relationship is hard enough without adding one monumental thing to the equation. YOU being L,G,B,T,or Q. Your parents seriously did not envision that one. In fact most of them prayed that it would never happen. All of them? No. But most of them. Most of them would prefer straight kids. And a good amount would prefer that not because they are homophobes, but because they see the way the world treats the queer community. No parent wants to know that on top of every other problem their children could face in society, the cherry if you will on top of that “kick me sundae” is being LGBTQ.
I have no tolerance for homophobia. I have no tolerance for someone telling me that who I choose to love, or the way I choose to present myself is bothering them. Because well. I will never see them again. Or as Ru would say:
Now while this attitude flies perfectly well on the street it simply doesn’t hold up inside the walls of “home”. You are still that little kid in the sandbox to your parents. To you, coming out is coming into who you have always been. It is standing on your own two feet and screaming at the world:
I AM WHO I AM AND I AM 1,000% OK WITH THAT. Your parents, well lets just say they aren’t exactly hearing that battle cry.
When you come out to your parents, you have to realize that you have had years to come to terms with, and accept who you are. Your family needs that time too. If there is one thing that has been the hardest for me to swallow it is talking to people about being queer and seeing blankness in their eyes. No matter how many times I try and explain to my dad that I don’t feel comfortable using women’s bathrooms he will always respond with: “Well that’s just ridiculous, you’re a girl.” And every time he speaks those words I want to slap him. But I can’t, because he is my dad. I take a deep breath and have the same conversation in my head every time.
He still see’s you as his little girl. No matter what clothes you are wearing, or how bald you are, or how many girlfriends you have that call you their boifriend, to your dad, you are that little girl who loved Rafi and had a baby blanket until she was 16. You are his Neena Beana (lets not talk about it) infinitely. Frustrating? Yes. Always. But, it’s kind of like how he would yell at me for playing my music really loud in middle school he would, I would lower it, but we both knew that the volume would eventually find its way back up to max. And the conversation would happen again, neither of us really seeing the others point of view, but both of us accepting it on some level.
I’m lucky. When it comes to my sexuality, my family doesn’t care. They however do not understand. Which for me is equally as frustrating. So what do we do with this frustration? Before I changed my name, I had to come out to people within the first minute of meeting them. You see Nina is quite possibly the girliest name my parents could have bestowed upon my queer ass. I quickly learned that to deal with the looks, and the questions people felt like they were naturally entitled to throw my way I had to ground myself. I had to essentially establish a wall that could not be shot through. In order to build that wall I had to establish the bricks and mortar. Where would those come from? They would come from me reaching deep inside myself. Was I really truly ok with who I had become? Was I capable of facing myself? So I took a step back, and started combing through what was going on inside of me. It is very easy to ignore inner conflict, but that inner conflict will show itself in one way or another if you don’t address it. It is the difference of you hearing fag in a bar and being able to walk away and you punching someone in the face.
So I got in touch with myself. I smiled when I saw my reflection in a window on the street. My skin was finally my own. When ignorant strangers say things to me out of the blue am I still caught off guard? Yes. But I have the dialogue down. Somehow, all of that still manages to go out the window when someone in my family will ask me a question about who I have become. I don’t have the wall built yet for them, but I think that is because I don’t want to have one.
So what do we do of our families? What do we do with their questions? How do we feel equal to our brothers and sisters? When we bring home the person we want to settle down with, how to we act like their eyes of judgement don’t bother us? Too many LGBTQ people lose their families. We establish groups of friends who become our families. People who know what we have been through and accept us for who we are without question. The best thing that we can do in this life is show others the love we have. Is to speak out to those going through things that we have already been to, and assure them that they can get through it.
Last week, I attended Queer Pratt’s Gender Fuck. An open mic night of sorts put together for all of the universities students to attend and essentially spread a ridiculous amount of love and support. A space where everyone is encouraged to come on stage and share whatever it is that they want to get out. Stories of coming out, dance numbers (they are gays after all), acoustic covers (lesbians will not be shown up), and just raw expression. It is in moments like this where I am blissfully happy to be queer. Oppressed people find each other and create community, this has never been more apparent then spending a Friday night with a bunch of college age LGBTQ kids and their ally friends wanting nothing more then to A. Be accepted and B. Show that they have nothing but open arms to anyone going through tough times, or struggling with identity. That is your family. In colleges and high schools, in coffee shops, and living rooms, LGBTQ people are creating families.
I dont’t want to every promote a message of: fuck your parents, but the reality is you and your parents will never 100% be on the same page. The best parents will try their hardest to understand their kids, but they won’t always get it. The worst of them? Well, forget them. As an out teenager with shitty parents, it is no easy task to ignore them. And if you are a teenager reading this, and dealing with parents or peers who refuse to accept your lifestyle please, please, please know that there is a world out there who understand you. Who want nothing more then to make you feel like you are part of something. As alone as you may feel, you aren’t. As you get older, you will meet people who truly don’t care who you love, or how you dress; they will have been there too, and will want nothing more then to show you the love you missed out on. They go home as adults for Thanksgiving and know that they have to bite their tongue when Uncle Frank calls a ref a faggot for a play he didn’t agree with. Growing up means becoming yourself and being ok with that self. It means starting a family of your own and knowing that you will support your kids no matter what their gender or sexuality choices. Is it a tough pill to swallow? Absolutely. But just know that a hundred other kids are swallowing it too.
There are more people in this country that agree with gay marriage and gay rights then there are those who are against it. For the first time in history an openly gay woman is in the senate. The way that straight people see gay people is changing. Anyone who has ever been a minority will tell you that change takes time. To win a fight, you have to be prepared for the fight. Sometimes your opponent is going to land some punches. But if you’re in it for the win, you will prevail, and I promise you that you will look at those battle scars and smile.
No one ever said that your parents were the end all and be all. You did not choose the cards you were given, but any poker player can tell you that you can bluff your ass off and come out a winner. Society wants you to look at the deck of cards in your hand and pull out. Don’t you dare. Up the anti, call every bluff. You are more in control of your life then you may know, and when you fall back or falter let your friends catch you. And when they falter, be those arms for them. Your parents were the start of your life, but life is long. Don’t be afraid to step out from under the umbrella and let the rain hit you in the face.