It Is About Being Gay

It Is About Being Gay

[April 16, 2017]

Earlier this year I attended a workshop for artists about using social media and analytics to promote their work. At that workshop I shared with my classmates the reason I wrote Justin Case and the Closet Monster  was because I had lost my father to Alzheimer’s disease before I was ready to tell him that I was gay. My book in essence is the conversation that I wish I had the courage to have had with my dad.

During the lunch break, a woman from the group came over to introduce herself. She was in her late 50s, nicely dressed, with a very kind face. I greeted her with a smile while she –without a moment’s hesitation-proceeded to tell me that she would never visit my website or even think of purchasing my book. Without even giving me a moment to react, she then suggested that when promoting my book I should refrain from revealing that it had anything to do with being gay.

Intrigued by this position, I let her continue. She was all for me telling people that my book was about something I was never able to share with my dad. That resonated with her. She told me that she had many things that she regretted not being able to share with her own dad. What she couldn’t wrap her head around was why anyone would feel it necessary to share their sexuality with their father. In fact, she went on to tell me that she would never even think of discussing her sexuality with her dad. She believed that what she did with her husband was between them and was clearly disgusted that I would be willing to share those details with my own father.

At this point, I wish I would have clarified that I too would not even dream of discussing the details of my sex life with my dad. I agree with her that the intimate moments that I share with my husband are private and I would be equally mortified discussing them with any member of my family. Telling my dad that I am gay, though, doesn’t reveal those intimate moments. It just tells him that they are different from the ones he experiences, or the ones that society tells him are normal.

In other words, she would never need to share her sexuality with her dad because she belongs to society's dominant orientation. She never has to have a conversation with her dad about her sexuality because he just assumes that she is straight. I suppose it is easy to turn your nose up at my need to share my sexuality with my dad if its something you never have to entertain doing yourself. I, on the other hand, do not conform to society’s dominant orientation, and for me to have my dad truly understand who I am I have to share it with him.

In hindsight, it would have been wonderful to say all of that but, as you know, things happen quite differently in the moment. In this moment, I put on my most non-confrontational voice and tried my very best to explain to her why I wish I would have had the courage to tell my dad that I was gay. “You see”, I told her, “my dad died without ever knowing I had someone in my life. He died thinking I was alone and keeping my sexuality from him kept him from knowing I was in a loving committed relationship. I will always regret not telling him and sharing with him that part of my life, and I hope beyond hope that, wherever he is now, he can see that I am not alone”.

For a moment I thought that I reached her, that I had somehow changed her mind, that my heartfelt speech had connected with something inside her. But I was wrong. She continued to try to convince that while promoting my book I should refrain from revealing that it had anything to do with my being gay. But were I to do that, I would be pulling a bait-and-switch move just so that I could sell more books, to people not interested in gay stories. Since my book is all about being honest and truthful, I could not possibly promote it in that way.

She just didn’t get it. There are far too few stories out there for gay people, their family and supporters. I do want my story to be read by everyone, but my book is about me being gay, not just about regretting missed opportunities with a deceased loved one.

Of course, my first reaction was to dismiss her and admit to myself that there are some people that will never change. But experiences with members of my own family have shown me that anyone can change given the right motivation. When you grow up gay you remember all the gay slurs you have heard growing up, and the ones that your family has spoken you remember most of all. But exposure to my husband, Stacy, and me has changed my family for the better and I know now that they deeply regret any misspoken words from the past. Each of them is a very important people in our lives, and I cannot imagine my life without their love and support. Maybe someday someone close to this woman will reveal to her that they are gay and, remembering me, my book, and our conversation, will help her empathize with that person.
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