Sometimes I mourn the family I would like to have been part of. Joe and I, when we got together at 16, didn't know what to do with our relationship. It certainly couldn't be public, so it became very, very private. We built a life with walls. We built a life in secret. We built a life of truth, together, and of lies in the world. There was no 'gay pride', there was no 'tolerance' or 'acceptance'. People used harsh words like 'gearbox' and 'pansy' and 'fruit' and ... well, the list is endless.
We both wanted to be part of our families but didn't know how to be. We anticipated rejection, maybe unfairly, maybe with reason. Everyone thought we were the best of friends, and we were. Everyone thought we were a couple of poor university students sharing apartments, and rides, and groceries - they just didn't know we were also sharing a bed. Our silence caused, within us, a deep resentment. I watched my brother marry publicly, I watched the celebration, I watched society sanction, I watched the church, that I attended and he did not, bless. And I felt so alone in my cone of silence, it was hard, really hard, not to hate.
Our lives were schizophrenic. A public face, a private life. Everyone lives like that, I know, but the degree of difference between those faces usually isn't so dramatic. We lived a life with friends, we dived into the gay lifestyle with abandon, we created a family around us. A family that loved us back, all the while calling home to 'mom' and talking about work, about a life that must have sounded dull and lonely. Never being asked about Joe, always being asked about Joan - a dear friend from University. My heart breaking when hearing the faint hope that one day I'd talk about love and marriage to one of the fairer sex slowly die in that voice on the other end of the phone.
Slowly silence took over, chat became empty sound, spending time but investing nothing. Difference never spoken about is difference not accepted. Pretend normalcy smothers natural diversity. In the end, nothing lives but shame. And, of course, silence.
"I never speak to my son about his Down Syndrome."
"To me my daughter is normal, I do not see or acknowledge a disability."
I am sorry but I think though 'pride' and 'acceptance' are the message, neither are the source of this kind of statement. Shame is. Shame leads to silence and pretense. Shame believes that difference, that disability is wrong, and needs to pretend it away. And slowly lives diverge. Slowly relationships become about maintaining pretence rather than building bonds. People live in the same house with wildly different lives. People share space but never meaning. People see each other as needing protection more than love. So, love, dies.
Having Down Syndrome means something. Having Cerebral Palsy means something. Rolling not walking means something. Learning slowly not quickly means something. It doesn't mean what all fear, and what it does mean is as often cool as it is frightening. Loving someone, as is, out loud, is powerful. Loving out loud is defiant. Loving out loud is, perhaps, the most potent political statement that can be made. A statement with historical precedence. "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." Even God needed to proclaim, out loud, love.
Every gay pride parade I am in or I watch, I cry. When I see 'I love my gay son.' 'I love my lesbian sister.' I cry. Love out loud. Love out of the closet. Love without reservation, without the need of pretense, without a longing for normalcy. Listen carefully and hear the death rattle in the throat of shame. Listen carefully and you can hear the distinct sounds of joy. These parents, these siblings, these families, NEED to proclaim their love. They were taught in different times to feel different things, but they are here now. And they will be seen, they will be heard, they will be identified. They say to the world, 'I claim my child,' they say to the child, 'I claim YOU.'
"I love my daughter with Down Syndrome."
Funny how many parents say that publicly on blogs.
"I love my son with Cerebral Palsy."
Funny how many parents say that to neighbours and friends.
"I love you, you my kid with disabilities, my kid with differences, my kid with extra chromosomes, my kid with his ass stuck in a wheelchair."
Funny how often that is not, quite, what is said.
There is a terrifying result of silence.