“why do you have to be gay?”

I’ve been having a hard time with my mother ever since coming out to her several months ago. At that time she eventually said that she needed time to come to terms with it, which makes perfect sense, but she also asked me to “try” for six months to be “normal,” to not talk or think about “it.” I refused that, of course, but did promise that I wouldn’t come out to anybody else in my family or in her social group — not hard since I wasn’t planning to anyway. I tend to operate on a need to know basis, because, contrary to what this blog might indicate, I’m pretty reserved and private in person. I don’t hide things — if anyone gets to know me beyond a superficial level, I won’t have secrets from them, and I’m out completely to almost all my friends, (which is partly why it’s really important to me to be out to my mother also) — but at the same time, I don’t talk about significant others, past present or future, or plans for after work, and generally manage to wriggle out of questions that try to figure me out too intrusively. That means that since I look like an average woman on the street, I’m effectively closeted at work, and it’s correspondingly more important to me to be openly out at home.

Except that home doesn’t feel like a safe space at all when my mother is around. For one thing, every time it’s inconveniently brought to her notice that I’m gay, I can *feel* the waves of anger coming from her. I really don’t want to talk to her about love or romance and certainly not about sex, but if she will persist in bringing up marriage or grandchildren, I’m not going to pretend that I will someday have the traditional Hindu wedding and socially approved son-and-daughter combo. And if she wants to have worried conversations about what I am going to do with my life, ideas like “return to the same country as my girlfriend as soon as possible” will come up. Also, since she is terminally anxious and overprotective — she says, as a mother, she feels that she needs to know who her daughter is meeting, — I am not going to lie about hanging out with other gay people. Maybe I am unfeeling and selfish — her two favourite words to throw at me these days — but I feel like it’s her problem to deal with whatever discomfort these things cause her, not mine. I am going out for a civilised cup of coffee and a chat with a platonic friend who happens to be gay; I am thinking about a future with a partner in which love for each other and for our community will be a driving force; I am making choices about what will be best for my body and soul; and there is no reason why I should have to be furtive and dishonest and generally be treated like a hardened reprobate about it.

This has all been brewing inside for a while, but it came to a head this evening. I went out for a walk with the aforementioned gay friend — who is a lifeline at times, because there is no one else in the whole city who who is just out and dykey and god, there are times when I miss it, the whole stupid lesbian scene. I went out with her, and we passed a concert that my mother had wanted me to go to with her, but the plans had somehow fizzled out; and we stayed an extra half an hour, taking in the amazing music. The first thing of course from my mother was “You wouldn’t go to that concert with me” and then after my response that I didn’t realise she could come after all, and should have this evening, “but then I would have to meet those horrible people.” I completely lost it. I don’t think I’ve ever cursed in front of my mother before, let alone cursed her, but I was so furious and upset, so sickened by the hatred with which she talks about the “horrible people” — my gay friends, my lovers, my favourite writers and singers and poets, the women I love and admire and respect and want to some day become. I don’t think I can continue like this. I can’t compartmentalize it all, like she’s asking me to; I can’t turn it off for six months or six days or the six hours I have to spend in her company every day, any more than I can turn off breathing or blinking or living, and I can’t pretend that we are a family who loves and looks out for each other, when I can hear the venom with which she talks about the people who, at the end of the day, are also me.

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~ by mortarandpestle on April 13, 2008.

6 Responses to ““why do you have to be gay?””

  1. That hurt to read. It really did.
    I’m not out to my mother and I don’t intend to be any time soon, but I’ve never been the traditionally correct daughter she’s wanted either and she’s always had her suspicions. Those have led her to nurture this incredible hatred towards precisely those people who mean the most to me because they, like me, don’t ‘fit’. This post reminded me of our constant battles about how much contact I could have with them and, worse, the constant tension in our house because, regardless of who won the battle at the time, the fact that I wanted to be with these ‘freaks’ still persisted.
    I may not live at home any more, but I do have to go back briefly towards the end of this year and I’m already having panic attacks.

    The relationship with parents and the children’s role in the family and society and such – even in SA families that are otherwise non-traditional – makes for incredible pressure if you’re even slightly ‘different’. I find it a cruel system – this is a bit of an overstatement but it makes me think of Wyndham’s the Chrysalids in a lot of ways. You’re ok only so long as you fit this narrow definition of ‘normal’. Anything else and you’re not quite human.

    I’m sorry, I’m just rambling. Your posts make me think. And this one makes me sad, too. Because, while one can understand that our parents have a hard time letting go of their dreams for us, the sheer hatred that seems to be directed at everything we love and – ultimately – at us, is hard to process. Surely, they’ll love us enough to come around? Eventually?

  2. My mother is much the same – always denegrating gays, other religions, races …it’s exhausting. The last time my mother and I had a conversation about homosexuality she said “don’t tell me you are gay” – so I obliged her. Now my relationship consists of being separated from her and I feel little desire for a relationship which is sad. It is something I need to address but instead for now am avoiding.

    peace, take care of yourself-
    janet

  3. i have so many friends and acquaintances with similar stories, and it just makes me so…sad, sick, angry. mostly it just confuses me; i honestly don’t understand it, and i’m so lucky that my family is so wonderful. but i guess that’s what upsets me so much: having a family that doesn’t care you’re gay shouldn’t be lucky, it should be typical.

  4. You know, I was just talking to some of my college friends about how so many of them don’t know what feeling a lack of acceptance or intolerance is like for being gay. Most of them grew up in very liberal towns, had super accepting parents, and then came to this bubble of gayness. Most don’t know that fear, harassment, lack of love, terrified thought of losing everything… of being willing to die for who you are.

    But this entry reminded me that I, despite having faced harsh harassments in high school, still have it better than so many. I could not imagine my life without my mother’s constant and unconditional love. I’m so sorry you are struggling with your relationship with her… I hope you find the solace you need and deserve.

  5. i read this post a few days ago and it’s been on my mind since. i have so much sympathy for what you’re going through. my mom took a loooong time to come round. i remember those waves of anger pouring off of her and the visceral pain of her rejection and disapproval. you know this, i’m sure, but it was really helpful for me to realize: this is her problem. these are her fears. this is not mine. and she’s really changed, too, and become not only supportive but slightly activist in her own way. i still carry the pain her reaction caused me, but i’ve also come to admire her ability to get over herself and really transform her own views. i hoping hard that your mom can also find a place of peace and acceptance about this, for her sake as well as yours. wishing you all the best.

  6. My mother and I have had similar arguments — she has accused me of not having any “real” people as friends because, in her mind, most of my social circle is made up of gays and lesbians (it sort of is, but not to the extent she thinks). And I got all the hackneyed homophobic arguments when it came to my friends — it’s “unnatural”, they are perverts, they are unfaithful, deceitful. It’s so frustrating — these are my closest friends, and in effect me, that she is talking about.
    She has asked me point-blank whether I am gay, to which I have not yet had the courage to reply to in the affirmative (though a major reason for that is that I am still not sure myself).
    I have tried explaining how I don’t see myself settling down in marriage, having two kids, and then looking after my husband, every, no matter what, and gotten screamed at for saying that. Oh well. Then I tried “I am not getting married until i earn at least $150000 a year.” That went down better. Money talks more than blood or love, huh?

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