“We don’t condone your lifestyle choice.”
It was on Christmas Eve 2007 when I heard those words for the first time, and they sting my heart just the same this many years later.
The lifestyle choice they refer to is not one of crime or malice, bad choices or wrongdoing. Nor is it really a lifestyle. Or choice. My lifestyle has been one of work and travel, getting plenty of rest, learning, being a dog mom and geeking out on things like making my own laundry detergent. My lifestyle choices are ones of eating organic foods, rescuing bugs, going to concerts, reading, cooking and writing.
My Mormon Grandma knew when I was two years old. I also knew I was different and held this secret I couldn’t and shouldn’t talk about when I was around four years old. In kindergarten, in the flow of my five-year-old logic, I wanted to be a boy so I could have a girlfriend because that was the only way it seemed possible. This was nearly a decade before Ellen came out, and too far long after the Native American populations and cultures had been Europeanized, so being outside of the norm was in a strange and far too elongated stage of unacceptance.
In order to move forward, process the emotions, get over and work towards accepting my unacceptability and blacklisted status as assigned by my very own, once close sister and brother-in-law, I have:
Gone to years of therapy, both practical and spiritual.
Mailed a handwritten letter three years ago.
Been polite and cheery.
Pretended it wasn’t hurtful I wasn’t included in family pictures at a wedding.
Spent hours upon hours reading the Bible, trying to understand their points of view.
Re-sent a Facebook friend request to my own sister.
Spent years defending my BIL within our family, whom I’ve known since I was in first grade, and always looked up to.
Journaled pages and pages of questions and possible answers.
Lost sleep, trying to figure out what about me could be so wrong, to justify their blacklisting me from their family.
Not only does their decision to purposefully and widely exclude me from festivities, it impacts our whole family as well. It’s an either/or when it comes to us being at the same functions, not an inclusion of both, simply because I am a lesbian and not heterosexual. The recent Christmas holidays showed that to be true, again. I have friends, both personally and professionally, all over the world from every walk of life, political view, religious belief, socio-economic status and tax bracket. From Pastafarian to Mormon, from broke to extremely wealthy, from my small hometown to Dubai, and this is what never ever comes up in what people care about in others: sexuality. People care about each other, being good humans, being likable and respectable, loved and happy, seen and heard.
So, with that being said, the solution is often found within the problem. If you or someone you know and love has been kicked out of, removed from, blacklisted from, or otherwise separated from your or their family unit of safety, please seek the very same comfort, safety, love and compassion in others. You can create your own family. Heck, you’re welcome in ours. There are open and welcome and loving arms everywhere.
As I am learning I need to mourn the loss of my sister and brother-in-law, though they are very much alive and well, this leads me to look outward as well as inward, to seek to fill the same for others. It may not be exactly as you expect to turn out, but it will be exactly as it should be.
Even with all the amazing people in my life, the heartbreaking fact remains: I miss my sister.
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