Working on Letters for My AuntsPosted: March 3, 2014 Filed under: Writing | Tags: coming out, family, gender identity, genderqueer, lgbt, lgbtq, non-binary, parents, same-sex marriage, trans, writing 5 Comments
Lately, I’ve been focused on coming out to more of the people who are in my life, and also reaching out to some family members who have not really been in my life – seeing what’s going on for them, hope that they might respond to what’s going on for me. Mainly, my dad has 4 sisters who all have their own nuclear families, yet I really don’t know much about them and vice versa. So I’m working on composing emails to send to them, and from there, they can forward and/or talk about it with their family members.
Traditionally, I’d see them about once a year, at the holidays (and we’d never really talk about our lives). But this year, I didn’t even see them then. I really can’t say why, except that it feels like there’s a chasm that keeps getting wider and deeper, in the place where my dad might have built a bridge, a long time ago. It seems generally natural that one’s parent would be the link between the child and that parents’ extended family. That is strongly the case with my mom and her side of the family, at least. I never told any of them that I am gay (that’s not really all that accurate), that now I have a partner, that now I’m planning to get married, that now I am married, etc. My mom did all that for me, and then I (and we, my partner and me) just show up to extended family gatherings and feel accepted and included, even if none of this information is directly talked about. I most recently asked my mom to add “please use male pronouns, he doesn’t identify strongly with either gender, and he’ll be glad to answer questions if you’d like to ask,” to that list of stuff she conveys on my behalf to her side of the family. It has been an effective system thusfar, although this newest bit of info might throw some people for a loop. I’ll just have to wait and see…
My dad, however, does things very differently. I’m pretty sure he believes that things that did not happen to him firsthand are not for him to share. But there are definitely exceptions to this, so maybe another part of it is, if he feels awkward about it, it’s not for him to share. And maybe he feels awkward about most things. As far as I’m aware, no one on his side of the family knows that I am gay (although they could easily guess, and again, not accurate!), that I have a partner, that we planned to get married, and that we got married. My partner has never met any of them. Like I said, I’ve been seeing them once a year, but this year my parents went without me, and I think it has quite a bit to do with the fact there is too much unsaid information that’s recently happened and is piling up.
So, I’m going to break this bizarre pattern by telling my aunts and their families everything I’d like them to know about me and ask them about their families, in a grouping of 4 (almost) identical emails, one for each of them. Plus a written card for my grandpa because he doesn’t have an email address. It is psychically difficult. I’ve had this plan vaguely for about 3 months, and more seriously for about one month. And I’ve been putting it off. But this week feels like the week. I may be going to visit my grandpa next Sunday (because I talked to my mom about all of this, and she talked to my dad, and he then told me of when he was next going to visit, to which I replied, “Maybe I’d like to go”), so I wanna get this info out there!
In other news, I’m currently in the process of editing a piece for an anthology called Letters for My Siblings. It’s not a definite at this time, but it’s looking very promising that my piece will be included!!! Which is a huge deal for me. I’ve always seen myself as a writer, and I’m starting to feel like I could make something of that! I’m already on to the next thing even; I’m working on a submission for a magazine called “Iris: New LGBTQ+ Writing for Young Adults.” Check it out! Here’s their call for submissions for the next issue.
Congrats on the piece getting interest for the anthology! That’s really cool. Best of luck with the family coming out thing–let us know how it goes! I’ve often noticed that people tend to be closer to their mom’s side of the family than their dad’s side. I know I am. I don’t really know what’s up with that.
Thanks! I will let you know how it goes. And that’s interesting – maybe that’s a common trend, that people tend to be closer to their mom’s side – maybe in many cases, moms keep closer familial bonds & communication ties? I’m sure there are tons of exceptions, but does make some sense.
Extended families are a weird entity: strangers, but not…
I made the decision to NOT come out to any extended family. Mostly because I never see them / live in a different country, but also we were never really close. Same goes for friends of the past. Nobody asks about me, I don’t ask about them.
Though my dad is totally unabashed about all this, so I’m sure he’s told many a person already. I just stopped caring (well… worrying, cause I probably do care).
Also because it is scary. What you are doing is frightening and nerve wracking and you should know it’s no small feat. Deep breaths!
Yeah, disclosure decisions are largely a matter of looking at who in my life I’m actually connected to, and going from there. And then also using it as an opportunity to see who I might potentially be close to, if they did know a little more about me / if I knew more about them. (Work is a totally different category / would involve different reasons.)
It’s easy to stick with the status quo and let people drift away over time, if that’s what’s happening. And a lot of times, that is absolutely the best option. Especially if the distance is already pretty firmly established and/or there is good reason for that distance.
I guess I decided to say, “do I really want this increasing separation to be due to my unwillingness to try and connect?” I’ll at least try first and see what happens. Yeah, deep breaths!