I had to come back to my hometown to bury my mother. I’ve spent a week in the middle of conservative America, surrounded by some family members who insist on making my sexuality the basis of their desire to keep the family divided and keep the hate alive and living among us.
I had hoped that my mother’s funeral would have been an opportunity to put small-minded, petty ideas aside and come together to honor my mother. I discovered I was wrong to have even hoped for such things.
I was informed early in the week that the family didn’t hate me – in fact – they loved me and wanted some sort of closure on all things negative that existed among us. Of course, they didn’t understand my being gay, and the Bible continues to tell them how wrong it is – but – they love me none-the-less, and they are more than willing to keep me in the fold. OK …
We had a little gathering at the church after my mother’s internment, and I figured this was the perfect time to speak to these certain family members whose religion keeps them from embracing me, and get some closure.
Well, it’s hard to speak with said relatives who choose not to come to the gathering – and it’s hard to speak with said relatives who come and then choose to ignore you even when you’re sitting right beside them trying to speak with them.
I was under the assumption that we all were moving on – I must not have been copied on the family memo that encouraged folks to act like idiots. When they walked past Susan and refused to acknowledge that she even existed – that’s when I knew any sort of family reconciliation was never going to happen. When love and compassion can’t even be shown to me at my mother’s funeral by my own relatives because I’m gay – well – I’m done.
This is what I know.
Sometimes – it doesn’t get better – and family can literally suck the life right out of you. On this my 60th birthday – I finally get that I owe these family members nothing. I’m no longer falling into the “blood is thicker than water” trap – those are just spoken words which mean nothing when not followed up with love, kindness, compassion, acceptance and tolerance.
This past week, I had family who surrounded me with love and kindness and hugged on Susan like she was the chosen one – I had friends who went out of their way to make sure I didn’t feel alone or afraid. And everywhere Susan and I turned – there was love and kindness – compassion and acceptance. These people – these friends – these are my family.
You owe your blood family nothing – you especially owe them nothing when they choose to classify you as “the other.” Surround yourself with people who love you and accept you for who you are, and stay away from those who insist that you be what they want or expect you to be. Family isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – it’s sometimes better to just walk away for that is the only way it will ever get better.
(Barb Hamp Weicksel was born in 1952 in Pennsylvania and moved to California in the early 1980s, where she met her partner Susan. They've been together some 30 years and share the love of Susan's four children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Her blog, Barb's Gift of Gab," can be found HERE.)