I’m sitting on a bus to DC, on my way to my cousin’s wedding. It promises to be an interesting and exciting experience on the coming out front. I’ve written here before about my attempts to come out to my extended family. Basically, I feel pretty strongly about not sitting everybody down and making a big Announcement About My Sexual Orientation. That’s just not how I live my life. As someone I recently dated observed, my matter-of-factness about being queer is a political stance. The casual mention tells people both that I’m queer, and that I don’t consider it a big deal and don’t expect them to, either. (Obviously, in some ways I do consider it a big deal. I spend hours writing and talking about it, and have a whole politic evolved from it. But I also expect it to be one more fact about me that people will learn by interacting with me, not some big drama-causing deal-breaker; so I treat it that way and expect them to as well.) So about six months ago I started mentioning my girlfriend around them any time the conversation gave me the slightest pretext. I also started talking much more openly about my passion and convictions around and activism for LGBT political issues. My aunts and grandmother are the kind of women who hear “girlfriend” to mean “friend who is a girl,” but very few people talk about one of their platonic friends that much or in that way. Last month at my sister’s graduation, my mother helped me out by following up a comment about Girlfriend, Esq, with “And you two have been seeing each other seriously for a couple of years now.” My grandmother is really good at denial, and tends to just not hear things she doesn’t want to, but come on. A couple of weeks ago I asked my aunt whose daughter is getting married to let me know if she ended up having a brunch or anything on Sunday, since I’d be staying in town anyway to celebrate my second anniversary with my girlfriend [which, um, !!!!!] on Monday. I was being far too subtle to achieve my actual goal, which was finagling Girlfriend, Esq. an invitation to any family gathering that might be happening on Sunday — but I was definitely not being the slightest bit subtle about being in a long-term romantic relationship with another girl. You’d have to be really trying to miss it at this point.
So imagine my surprise when my sister called me a few weeks ago to tell me that there was all kinds of drama going down because I’d been outed to that side of the family.
Yeah. I am not making this up.
It seems one of my aunts noticed on my Facebook page that I’m seeking both men and women (I’ve since started using SGO, which lets me be more specific about both my own gender and who I’m seeking, but that’s what it said at the time. Also, I’d like to point out here that the thing about Facebook is that by friending someone, you’re pretty much saying that you want to know about their life. I’d even go farther and say that you’re agreeing, within reason, to be okay with anything you might learn about their life through an internet portal that you, after all, asked to look through. Just sayin’.) This is, mind you, an aunt to and in front of whom I’ve mentioned my girlfriend multiplle times. But apparently Facebook conveyed to her what I had failed to, and she decided that the only possible thing to do about it was tell my grandmother. (Maybe next she’ll tell her I’m an atheist? That’s also on my profile, and I bet my grandmother would find it just as upsetting.) The same grandmother who recently heard my mother describe me as seriously seeing a girl. And she is terribly, terribly hurt that I never told her.
Yeah. Imagine how she’d feel if I’d actually never told her…
I called her just after this happened for unrelated reasons — my mother and sister had to cancel their plans to come to the wedding at the last minute, so I needed to make sure I’d have a place to stay. (My grandmother had asked a cousin where I was staying, and my cousin had said “I don’t know, with H_____?” Wrong, but a reasonable guess. To which my grandmother responded with deep suspicion and demanded to know who H_____ is. Never mind that I have used the phrase “My girlfriend H_____” to her on multiple occasions. I am such a sneaky beasty, I should be ashamed of myself.) I was on tenterhooks when I spoke to her, since all the grapevine had told me for days was how awfully hurt she feels about this, but she said nothing. So I said nothing. And this is why she feels no one ever tells her anything…I’m not sure how I was supposed to win this one.
So it should be an exciting weekend with the family. I’ll be there alone, without my mother and sister to back me up (though I’m somewhat glad now that I didn’t try as hard as I meant to to get Girlfriend, Esq. invited, since now is probably not the best time for her to have to deal with my family.) God alone knows how anyone actually feels or what they’ll think it appropriate to say. I always enjoy the intense heteronomativity of weddings even without all the drama — and this one promises to really deliver on that.
Of course, since no one ever talks about what they really mean, probably instead someone will observe that I’ve gained back a bit of the weight I’d lost the last time they saw me. Maybe I can throw them by agreeing — after all, it’s true, and I don’t think it has the negative load that they do, and refused to take it as a compliment last time when they observed that I was thinner. And perhaps I’ll be asked again when we’re going to be getting together for my wedding, and everyone will pretend there’s no particular reason they’re starting to ask now, other than my arrival at the “wrong” side of 25. But I have every intention of continuing to mention Girlfriend, Esq. both as my girlfriend and by name, and that could make things exciting now that they “know.” Or I suppose they could continue to hear it as me gushing about my BFF. It’ll take more effort, but so far they’ve been willing to expend it, why stop now?
Wish me luck! At least once I get through it I have an anniversary to celebrate — best reward ever.