When Families Attack: How Gays Survive the Ignorance and Rejection of Their Families

By | June 3, 2014

When I announced my pending marriage more than four months ago , my family was very vocal with their disapproval.

Some of the bullshit I heard was just mesmerizing.

“You don’t know him that well”. “Nobody in our family has met him and You are making a big mistake are a few of the brilliant insights that were shared.

Heterosexist norms seek to define us all and restrict our life options.

Straight privilege allows you to be complicit with a system that denies those you love some pretty basic rights while giving those in the mainstream the freedom to speak on and comment about things they know nothing about.

While I was cajoled(unsuccessfully) into seeing a couples therapist(just to make sure that everything was alright), I know of no straight couple who is cautioned against partnering with a lunatic.

When I have tried to point out the hypocrisy behind the sudden and mad dash to ensure mental health, subjects were changed and attitudes were formed.

Apparently, I have no right to question or challenge the great straight world. Some of my immediate family has shut me out wanting to pretend ignorance and cling to the cross.

I have watched countless family members make horrific life choices that I wound not consider if I lived ten lifetimes.

Marrying the wrong people and having babies with them.

Dropping out of school to sit on their asses because their fear is imminently more powerful than their quest to improve their lives.

Divorces, feuds over bullshit that happened so long ago that folks can’t even remember why they stopped speaking and all manner of truth evasion and dream crushing. I left home early (about 18) and determined that I would find my tribe a group of folks steeped in being bold and living fully.

I was not interested in people whose sole concern was how to keep the misery going/afoot.

Perhaps this is the reason that queens strike out on their own early and often.

Nobody wants to be “tolerated”.

Families are notorious for striking bargains with all their members in an effort to control and manipulate. As a kid who was obviously different, there were few place in my family that were emotionally safe or welcoming.

My family did and does strike deals. Families are where we learn to love and trust another.

If these lessons are fraught with inconsistencies, anxiety or flat out lies, we get confused and seek out the same. Is it any wonder that it takes so many of us years to find and understand the essence of love and its power ?

As children, we are taught to disown ourselves , to disregard our instincts and in many ways “play dead” (Branden) In many of our families of origin, we are schooled in ways of survival. As Nathaniel Branden states : We are taught very early to respect external signals above internal signals, to respect the voice of others above the voice of self. A “good” child is one who “behaves” and “minds ” his elders. We are taught to identify virtue with compliance with the wants and expectations of others. We are taught obedience as the price of love and acceptance. (Branden p.130)

At some point when we have done our agreed upon duty and played our parts, we expect “them” to come around and see us and love us without reservation. When this fails and our understanding of things is mired in childlike wishes and hopes, we seek out substitutes.

Gays are well known for our ability to create what we need despite meager resources.

As a group so heavily defined by physicality, it takes years to deliberately create families that are not disgusted by our bodies and what we allow them to do.

When families attack, there still remains a yearning for a beloved and devoted community that will welcome us. When my family lost their minds around be me marrying a white guy, it was my latest incarnation of family that supported me and threatened to throw some bones should anyone get out of line at my ceremony.

It was my new family that constantly congratulated me and warned me to stay true to what we wanted and fuck anybody who didn’t agree, had opinions or hurt feelings.

It is imperative that we fashion what I refer to as love armies.

We can no longer what for folks to “get it”.

Do you have a great fabricated or birth family ? What are your tools for blending the two? Do you blend them ?

Being rejected early and often hurts like hell and any gay in their 30’s or beyond can tell you many tales of how they survived then thrived despite what folks said, thought or did.

Seek out their counsel. Those of us raising children keep in mind the incredible opportunity we have to demolish the pathologies and usher in the new.

How will you construct a powerful, all inclusive family ?

We can change this.

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