Soooooo… long time no see. It has been a crazy couple of months since I started up 10 Million Proud Mothers. Still I have not posted much and I apologize for that. I also would like to apologize for not putting my money where my mouth is (or at least my typing fingers.) I have asked you all to send your stories of how you raise your family, or were raised, to be loving and accepting and to be a good ally to the LGBTQ community, even if that wasn’t specifically how it was articulated. I have asked you this and yet I have not shared my story. Now I will.
My Uncle Gary is the older of my mom’s two younger brothers. Some time in the 70′s (I don’t remember precisely when) he came out of the closet. This was met with a lot of anger, fear, judgement and well, all the crap you’d expect coming out in the 70′s in Western New York would entail. For the longest time we were the only people who visited him. It helped that for a while he lived just a few blocks from us in the city (that would be Rochester) so we could go to Red Wings games, the museum, the zoo, or just his apartment with him.
We would have him, and sometimes his boyfriends (or just “friends” as much of my family still refers to them) over for dinner. We watched fireworks with them and generally enjoyed the city lifestyle as much as we could with them. My parents made no great point to tell us that these men were his boyfriends, but they didn’t deny it either. I don’t know how conscious it was on mom and dad’s part, but they made it possible for us to view this as perfectly normal, as it should be, despite the protests of some family members.
Things weren’t always rosie. Family always falls out occasionally, and he and my mom worked together for a time (always potential problems there.) Mom and Dad would chuckle, even if they didn’t join in, at the homophobic jokes that Mom and Uncle Gary’s co-workers made at his expense. It was the ’80s at this point, and AIDS, I think, somehow made it OK to demonize gay people again. Still, they made a point to let us know, at this point sometimes overtly, that it was not OK to hate someone because they were different. That being gay did not make you a bad person.
I hope that Mom knew, and Dad knows, how important that has been to me. I hope Uncle Gary remembers it. I hope they understand how it made it easier for me when the Army outed me (this was pre- Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, yes I am just that old.) I hope they know that no matter how much pain my gender and sexuality status, or more importantly society’s reaction to them, have caused me sometimes, that they mitigated that by quite a bit by their example. I hope they know how proud I am that they raised a straight son, my younger brother, who when a gay man flirts with him or makes an off hand comment doesn’t react with fear, but rather puffs up his chest, nods his head and says “yep, I’m hot.” Mom and Dad, I hope you know how your example shaped us into decent, caring people who never reject ourselves, our family, or our neighbors because of who and how we choose to love.
So there you have it: my story. I know there are a lot of you out there with your own. Please share them, so that the fear mongers might learn from our example, or at least see just how much of a minority they are in. You can send them to email@example.com with 10millionproudmothers in the subject. I hope I hear from you all soon, and please, tell your friends.
Pax et Amor;