Some Days You Can’t Pretend

I’m having one of those days where I just can’t. I’m exhausted with holding back the grief and getting on with life. I’m exhausted with keeping a stiff upper lip. I’m exhausted with going to therapy and taking my meds and meditating. I’m exhausted with the fear and anger and isolation of being a queer woman from a conservative Christian community.

My girlfriend and I went to a friend’s house last night to watch The Normal Heart, a movie adaptation of the semi-autobiographical play by the same name written by famous gay rights advocate Larry Kramer. I knew it was going to be sad. It’s about the beginning of the AIDS epidemic and the crisis it caused among gay men in NYC. I didn’t expect it to hit quite so close to home. I didn’t expect it to poke quite so perfectly at all the sore spots I’ve been guarding these last few months. I didn’t expect to go home with my girlfriend last night, turn off the lights, and start sobbing.

A couple of months ago, after yet another friend from back home felt the need to tell me that I’m heading down a bad path because I’ve finally come to terms with my sexuality, one of my friends from school told me, “I’m sorry you’re having such a 1980’s after-school-special coming out. It’s not supposed to be like this anymore.”

My parents did not come to my graduation. Instead, about a week after, I received several cards in the mail. One from “them” (obviously written and signed by my mother) assuring me that they watched the livestream of the graduation and were very proud of my accomplishments. One from their church, a group of people that I have never met, and one from a couple from their church (also whom I have never met). The couple also sent me a $50 check and included a note about how they are looking forward to meeting me eventually, but assuring me that they understand how young people want to see their friends when they come home for the holidays.

Since I am terrible at remembering to check my mail, I just received these yesterday. As we sat in the living room staring at them, my girlfriend tentatively suggested that it was nice that my parents finally sent a card. “I guess,” I replied.

But really, it’s not. Really, I don’t want their card. I don’t want them to act like the good guys, waiting for me to repent of my sins and come back to them like the prodigal son. I don’t want them to act like I’m part of their church family, when I know that an openly gay couple would never be accepted there. I don’t want them to be able to reduce our feud and the five months of silence since to a selfish, impulsive visit to my friends.

There’s a scene in The Normal Heart where Ned, the main character, confronts his brother about his homophobic behavior. The character demands that the brother say out loud that they are equals. The brother refuses, and Ned storms out, vowing not to speak to his brother again until he changes.

I am not refusing to speak to my parents because of a petty spat we had about visiting my friends. I am refusing to speak to my parents because they are refusing to acknowledge me as equally beloved, equally forgiven, and equally welcome in the community of faith. I am refusing to speak to my parents because they consider my relationship something wrong and dirty. I am refusing to speak to my parents or welcome them into my life because they are only willing to accept bits and pieces of me, and I am tired of trying to trim myself down to fit their perfect, paper-doll image.

And as angry as I am, I am also heartbroken. It feels like I’ve been bleeding to death from a thousand paper cuts for months. There are days when my chest hurts so much I can’t breathe. The grief and sense of loss that comes with this kind of separation is constantly being reawakened. Just when I think the wound is scabbed over and healing, there’s a holiday or a birthday or some milestone or the other that reminds me that my parents aren’t willing to share fully in my life or to allow me fully into theirs. Just when I think I’ve got a good handle on things, I’ll see my brother posting about a visit home or one of my parents saying something encouraging on his Facebook wall, and I feel abandoned and lost all over again.

I feel incredibly blessed in so many ways. I have wonderful friends, a loving church, and an amazing girlfriend. But I still want my family.