Right, so, my folks are pretty cool with the whole “our daughter’s a big ol’ bulldagger” thing, for all they’re midwestern Catholics. They’ve handled the fact that I have a Friend impressively–even offering to help out financially with visits. Mom is oddly enthusiastic at the speculation of me running off to Canada (“Ooh! You should go to Vancouver! I love Vancouver! And you can see Niagra Falls!”) Things are better than ever. It’s all good, I feel very comfortable being out around them.
Except when we watch TV.
I was sitting with them tonight, a little last-minute family bonding before I head back to school tomorrow morning, and with parental sentimentality it was declared that I had control of the remote and could watch whatever I wanted. This is an awesome power to have, since there’s only one TV in the house and there was a football game on tonight. Unfortunately having 900 channels doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a Tuesday night and there’s nothing to watch, so we settled on MASH reruns.
Now I don’t even like MASH the show–I prefer the Altman movie, the series was way too preachy and Alan Altman’s acting makes Kenneth Branagh’s trademark scenery-chewing look positively subtle–but whatever, my folks like it, and it’ll pass the time till something better comes on. Tonight’s episode dealt with Klinger’s cross-dressing antics to get a discharge for mental illness. So of course I sat there squirming while the canned studio audience laughed at the spectacle of a man! in a dress! Whatta FREAK! He must be insane! At the same time I realized that the gay news program was playing on the public access channel. Shit. Whatever. Fine, I’ll just switch it to PBS. Ooh, dolphins. Whew. Nice and safe.
Now we’re watching the program about mummies, and I’m flipping through the program guide, and oh wow, there’s a show about women who come out in middle age. “Late-in-Life Lesbians.” Theoretically, I can watch whatever I want. I don’t have a TV back in the Southwest, I really want to see this program while I’ve got the chance. Just…not with my parents around. Not with all of us sitting there and me feeling horribly self-conscious. I don’t know why either. I’m comfortable talking about my girlfriend with them, but not watching television with gay content. Maybe because although I’m androgynous (to my mother’s unending consternation), I’m not visibly gay around them. They’ve never been to Pride with me, they don’t know any of my queer friends, they don’t (won’t) go to PFLAG, they’ve never met any of the women I’ve dated. I tend to suppress my butch side when I’m with my family. On some level I’m so relieved that they’ve not rejected me that I’m willing to bend over backwards to make sure they aren’t uncomfortable around me. I’m not sure why I’m so paranoid, because thus far they’ve been very accepting and adjusted well to my coming out. But basically I sat there and anxiously waited for them to go to bed so I could catch the tail-end of the show…when the Marine risked losing her job and her veteran’s benefits by voluntarily outing herself, standing in uniform. And I kinda wished my dad the ‘Nam vet had seen that, to see his reaction, if any.
Does anybody else have this problem? Is this common among queers and their heteronormative families? Do we all make a compromise of some kind? I came home with the intention of having a sit-down with my homophobic brother as well, but that didn’t happen either, for various Very Justifiable Reasons. I’m really frustrated at the moment. And I’m not all that excited about going back to yet another Red State small town. I’m really tempted to run off to San Francisco. Or a lesbian commune. I’m sick of having to snatch at whatever comes my way and always being aware, on some level, of what I’m saying and who I’m with and where I’m at and what I’m wearing and how all this is being recieved by the folks around me, here I am with my numerous liberal straight friends, feeling very dykey all of a sudden, dealing with all these Token issues, am I talking too much about gay stuff? Should I lend my perspective to this conversation or wait for them to ask for it (which they never do)? Don’t want to be too gay!
You know what I need? I need a dyke bar. Not to pick up girls, not even to get drunk, just to have some place where I can go, have a quiet beer, and RELAX, and not have to think about whether I’m too invisible or too conspicuous. To just be.