“I want you to be everything that’s you, deep at the center of your being.” – Confucius
So here I was, sitting on my navy blue leather sofa, thinking aimlessly about what topic to write for my next article, which had been due a month ago. I had nothing to rant about, nothing to laud or obsess over. I am staring at my journal and it is blank, which means I am doomed to eternal writer’s block.
Just as I was about to gently close my journal shut and accept my unfortunate fate, my father came and sat next to me, and for the first few moments we heard silence. Wondering what could pop up at any given moment (school grades, boyfriend talk, my very late “The Next Family” article), I finally heard him speak.
“So, we have our family reunion on Saturday. Will it be okay with you if I come out and introduce my partner to our extended relatives?”. For everyone’s background, my dad is gay. He came out of a straight relationship with my mom, and now he is happily together with his gay partner. My dad has already come out to my immediate family, but the family fairy-tale ends here. He remains discreet about his sexuality when in front of our mostly conservative extended family.
“Hmmm…”, I heaved a sigh of relief knowing that this is not an awkward conversation after all (guess he didn’t see my grades yet), “Why ask?”
There goes my father’s anxious face again. “Not everyone is accepting of gay families. Their reactions can be judgemental and very hurting to you. I love you and I wanted to make sure you are ready for the consequences.”
Momentarily speechless, not just by the thought of my father’s caring notions but also by the thought of writing my new article, which is a response to the question.
Dear Overly-Anxious Parent,
I am super excited about our family reunion. Grandpa makes the best potato salad and your sister’s dip deserves the blue ribbon. You have already passed the first obstacle in coming out to our immediate family. Although I would have preferred that you make a grand entrance on you being gay (idea: show them your room, go in your closet, then come out of it with Diana’s “I’m Coming Out” song in the background), I guess telling them casually at the dinner table is okay too. Now you are at a standstill over coming out to our extended family. It’s hard, I know. But then again, it’s not that hard.
Dad, I like when you’re you. You always bawl while watching Anne Hathway dish out “I Dream a Dream” in Les Miserables (not to mention you have purchased the special blu-ray edition and watched it seventeen times). You belt hymns out in falsetto second voice at church louder than the priest. You are always the imaginary second guest judge on “Project Runway,” always critiquing people’s sense of style (including mine). You have two walk-in closets (and I only have one, so we should really talk about splitting one later) and dress better than Michael Kors. Maybe there are things that you can work on (and by that, maybe the singing?), but you do those things loudly and proudly. You are different and that is what makes you special to me.
But when you hide yourself for the fear of people judging our family for being gay, that is not okay because that person who they see is not the person who I see. The person they see is not you. After a few family get-togethers, it took me a while to realize that you were doing all this to protect me. You think that those cruel homophobes out there will lash out against our poor family by breaking my bones and shattering my oh-so-fragile heart and send me running away to the dark world with no cookies.
Though very honored with your paternal instincts and wisdom, I would like to share a few words of my seventeen years of wisdom. Yes, there will be people who are not okay with the gay community. Yes, there will be people who will look at our family as something other than a family. But there are also people who are and will be okay with the gay community, and who will look at us as family. Throughout the years, tolerance for LGBTQ people have grown. Though it may not be enough, it is enough for you to be you.
Secondly, I am ready to defend myself against any nasty remarks hurled against our family. Like the wise rapper Drake said, I don’t really mind the people who are not okay with us, because I am too busy loving the people who care for us. I’ve got an army of COLAGErs and other LGBTQ organizations behind me, who are ready to support us with their love.
I am proud of my family. I will not let anyone tell me otherwise what they think of our family because I know my family better than anyone else’s.
So go ahead. During our next family reunion, proudly hold hands with your partner and tell our family members who you were watching the sunset with at Santorini last summer. Throw away that plain floral white tee and hideous brown khaki pants (your walk-in closet does not deserve that!), and wear your shirt and blue leather jacket instead.
Be you, and be only you. In our great big world, there is no hiding. There is only you, your family, good company, and the world that we strive to make a better place to live in.