Some people are estranged from their families.
A letter to … my siblings now that I’m out
(Published in The Guardian 23 June 2012)
It must have been hard to accept me once I told you I was gay. I say this knowing our shared history as a fundamentalist Christian family of Caribbean heritage. It still seems like it is hard for you to accept me, even now. However, I feel I should thank you for still talking to me sometimes – in the best way you can. Others like me have no family at all any more.
I have always been me, it’s just that you know more about me now.
The best body-language readers are people who need to know how others feel about them when there is a verbal communication barrier. Did you know that? I learned to see what you were thinking even when your mouths were silent. I had to become sensitive to unspoken language: it never lied to me.
With the evident discomfort I see you in sometimes, I often wonder if being totally separated from your family for good is better; or is this facade easier to deal with?
I’m trying to think about it from your point of view because I know it’s not easy to deal with from where I am. Mostly I feel like an uninvited guest in my own family. It seems that you want me to leave, but you know it’s not polite to say so.
But when did etiquette ever stop you before? I have heard so many tirades and rants that I wonder what’s holding you back now. Not politeness I’m sure.
Then again, I could have all this wrong and you feel no different about me than you did before. It’s just that the strained silences in the few conversations we have now, and the increasing lack of contact, seem to indicate otherwise. I only say this because I noticed that when I stopped travelling to see you I never got to see you at all. We used to talk so often. I miss those times but am tired of always initiating contact. Then again, maybe your lives are just so busy that you don’t have time to get in touch.
Am I making excuses again?
All I know is that after a while the uninvited guest gets the message and leaves. Is it my time to leave?
When our parents were alive we used them as an excuse not to talk about … well, anything important. They had made that an unspoken rule. We were not allowed to rock the boat and draw attention to ourselves. The only thing we could celebrate was school and church. The Caribbean way of life was transposed to Wiltshire: it was not a perfect fit but we gain success in our own ways with their constant pushing.
Still, when I decided to share with you the fact that I am gay, you embraced our parents’ standards of silence and distance, those same standards you’ve all delighted in rebelling against for years. While some of your exploits made the newspapers – for good and bad reasons – I kept my life quiet and reserved. I even tried to hide from myself in the shadows of our family, and it worked for a long time. You were always so vocal that my voice wasn’t missed.
But since I’ve spoken about the real me you’ve all gone strangely silent. I feel I should hate you, but I don’t.
Wherever I am, or you are, I want you to know that I’ll still love you and I do understand. Remember, I was there. I shared that upbringing as well. The rest, since we’ve all grown up, is up to us. We can’t blame the past for every decision we make today.
I just wanted you to know that I’ve been thinking about you and I miss you. Marjorie