How to get to Rochester from Toronto

How to get to Rochester from Toronto

[May 14,  2017]

My mom has a huge family—a huge church-going Roman Catholic family. My maternal grandmother had 7 daughters and 4 sons. After I came out to my immediate family I let my mother handle the arduous task of passing on my news to her brothers and sisters. To this day I don’t know how she broke it to them, or what exactly she said, but I imagine that news was difficult for her to share, and I will be forever grateful that she shared it on my behalf.

In those early years of my coming out journey I was living in Toronto and visited home only a couple times a year. One long weekend, shortly after outing myself to my family, I went home for a visit. My mother, eager to have me home, picked me up at the train station and let me know that we were going to my Aunt Gail and Uncle Gary’s house for dinner. My Aunt Ruthie and Uncle Gerry were visiting from Rochester and they, and my grandmother, were all at my Aunt Gail’s house awaiting our arrival.

Now let me just say that I love my extended family. Whenever I get together with them I have a lot of fun. They are noisy, outrageous, and my encounters with them are always filled with love. That said, however, I was still quite nervous to interact with them after spilling the news about my sexuality. Driving to my Aunt’s Gail’s house I wondered if mom had shared my news with my visiting Rochester relatives, and what exactly their reaction had been.

When we arrived at my Aunt Gail’s house the family greeted us at the end of the driveway with hugs and warm feelings. I was relieved that no one seemed uncomfortable with my new “status”. In fact, everything seemed normal and I soon took my ease as my Uncle Gary placed a cold beer into my hands.

After hours of old stories, even older jokes, and much laughter, the ladies excused themselves to the kitchen to prepare dinner. The men, with beers in hand, remained in the backyard to continue the conversation. I vaguely remember what we talked about, perhaps sports, perhaps politics; all that I know for sure was the mood was light and the beer was cold and going down easy.

Easy that is until the conversation shifted, and my Uncle Gerry asked me a question that I will never forget. Staring me right in the eyes with a serious expression on his face, I heard the following words escape from his lips. “What is this I hear about all of this fairy nonsense?”

His words hit me like a punch to the stomach. I looked around hoping to find an ally in my Uncle Gary but he too starred at me as intently as Uncle Gerry did. He was not going to be the one to defuse this situation. For what seemed like an eternity, I sat in silence and tried to collect my thoughts. What could I say to this assault?

Inside, I began to piece together a response. I would tell my Uncle Gerry that my being gay was not nonsense; that it had taken me years to accept myself, and if he wanted to be part of my life he would have to accept it as well. I would tell him that for the first time in my life I was in a committed relationship with someone special and because of that I was finally happy. I would then end the conversation - I decided - and leave the backyard by telling him that I didn’t need his approval and would rather not hear what he had to say about the matter.

Just as I was about to unleash this righteous tirade upon my Uncle Gerry, he thankfully broke the silence before I could. “You know, the ferry from Toronto to Rochester. What do you think about that?”

(“Ferry” not “fairy”! Oh the dangerous subtleties of the English language.)

Uncle Gerry had no idea how close he came to getting an earful that night and I am so grateful that my response had taken me so long to compose. The evening would have turned out far differently had I been quicker on my feet. As it were, however, we had a nice meal and I left feeling loved and accepted despite the fact that no one dared to actually bring up the elephant in the room.

Sadly, my Uncle Gerry and Aunt Ruthie are no longer with us but I will always remember what they taught me that day. I was so scared that my extended family was going to judge me that I automatically assumed the worst of them. Sometimes, family can surprise you and teach you something. Perhaps it was me that was the judgmental one that afternoon and not my aunts and uncles.

Coming out of the closet is such a huge event that one often thinks it is just about you, but my family has shown me that the ones you tell have just as much right to their reactions as you do. After all, they are just hearing and processing the news in a few minutes while the one coming out has had years to come to terms with who they are. Thankfully, that day no one reacted badly to my news but I have learned to be patient with people and hold my tirades in check until they have had some time to process my news and accept the person that I have become.

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