“God,” I thought, “I really wish I could share my acceptance into the Writer’s Cohort with my family.” I had already told everyone else important to me. As with all the happenings in my life, I told my lovely partner first, who I owe both my morning laughter and my bedtime stories to. He was delighted to hear the news and will probably be just as delighted to read of his mention in my first, but certainly not last piece for MyUmbrella. Next, I told my therapist and friends, whose resounding praise still rings in my ears as I sit and write. Two important people are somehow always missing when I try to tell the story of my queer experience: my parents.
My parents were born in 65’ in the former Soviet Union and have lived in the United States for over 25 years, providing me the gift of becoming the first first-generation American in my entire family tree. My father and I are best friends. Logical and pragmatic, yet free-spirited and eccentric. My mother is made of heavenly cloth. Emotional and artistic, but determined and resilient. When the way your family treats your sexuality is so abstract and indefinite, it becomes hard to describe to others. I’ve found that other queer folk often experience one of two extremes: acceptance or the much more terrifying denial.
The way I’ve learned to tell my story to everyone else is with the phrase, “In one ear and out the other.” My dad doesn’t really care, which is slightly heartbreaking in its own regard, and my mother simply doesn’t understand, which is far more detrimental to our relationship and my own queer identity. I’ve “come out,” so to speak, but we don’t talk about it as if it exists or as if it is even a part of me at all.
Over the years, my older brother has explained that he has come out over and over again to them. It is as if they have not heard him. I’ve learned that the queer experience tends to involve constantly coming out in different ways. Some people come out every day for the rest of their lives, some people come out once, some people, maybe never. Nevertheless, it is frustrating to live in a world, or in a house, where your sexuality is swept under the rug when it is free to roam everywhere else.
Outside of my home, I am out and proud. From virtual strangers on social media to real-life strangers, and truly anywhere that one could think of, I am comfortable discussing my queer identity. But every year when I come back home after Chicago’s beautiful Pride Parade, I shrivel up. A melancholy feeling hits when I wipe off the glitter and sweat soup trickling down my forehead and I realize that the celebration is no longer about me and the community I belong to. For my parents, the celebration is reserved for the community that they comfortably accept my allyship towards. Their non-malicious identity erasure reminds me that it’s an ‘us versus them’ world, and thus, my connection to my community becomes severed as I get ready for my bath alone, filling up with far more shame than pride.
Despite their misinformed nature, I think my parents are the coolest, most exuberant, flamboyant, and well-rounded people that have ever graced this earth. In the ideal world, everyone is accepted by their parents and everyone’s parents serve a hero role by default. Although my mother is, in fact, my hero, her reactions to my coming out in the past have exhibited cowardice and have mainly consisted of doubt regarding my own self-awareness. To my current knowledge, she believes that I “have no idea what I’m talking about.” It is so shocking to me that my avante-garde, mold-breaking, artist mother cannot fathom a world where her daughter doesn’t conform to the constricting sexual binary.
I think part of my queer experience has been recognizing that the heroism I see in my parents is not synonymous with their fundamental misunderstanding of how sexuality exists on a spectrum. I wish that I could celebrate my identity and the community that I belong to with them, instead of with everybody else. For now, I think I have to be grateful for having the privilege of celebrating my queerness with anyone at all.
I don’t know if I will ever be able to find the right time, or even the right words, to share my feelings with them. Until then, I think that I have accepted not being fully accepted. I have recognized that while I’ve taken a step, even just by opening the door, I still have one foot in the closet.
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