Tag Archives: Coming Out

Stairs. Babies. And Dust Shaking.

When your 67-year-old mother falls down all eleven steps in your stairwell at 5AM while she’s visiting your new house for the first time and because she is trying to be nice and not disturb anyone by keeping the lights off, let me tell you it gives you a whole new perspective on your relationship with her, her mortality, and your strange premonitions. Well, it gives you all those things if you are me, which you aren’t, but you get the point.

I was startled and horrified when I heard the soft bumping that was more than a cat descending the eleven steps that lead down to the first floor and right into our double front doors, which are entirely made of glass, but I knew exactly what was happening, because I’d been seeing it from inside whoever was falling down the stairs since I moved into this house in July. I’d say at least twice a week I’d have what I’ll call a vision or a premonition where I seemed to be inside someone falling down the long flight of stairs. The person would miss the top step and then slide, tumble, bump to the bottom, so when at 5AM, I heard a noise that resembled someone falling down the stairs, I realized my premonition had some true, and somehow instantly I knew it was my mom.

When I heard the ruckus, I jumped out of bed, got dressed, and ran out into the hallway to find my mom at the bottom of the stairs in her nightgown. She was just sitting there. Silent. But sitting. We picked her up and dusted her off. Luckily she only hurt her shoulder, her hip, and one hand, and they were just bruised. Every possible scenario ran through my mind that morning, the things that could have happened but didn’t. And I learned a few things from it, things similar to what I learned about my dad and posted here (seven years ago, wow, I’ve been writing here for seven years).

1) She is my mom, and while I see her as sort of a force that will always be in my life, she is mortal. The fall could’ve been much worse, but it wasn’t this time. However, it did make me think about how she’s 67, which is still young, but how we are all aging and it only seems as if we are getting older faster these days. I know time is relative, but, man, how I wish we could go back to when the summer lasted forever and I couldn’t wait for school to start again. Some of my best memories were playing softball while my parents watched, or helping my mom set up her classroom for a new school year, then dropping into Hardee’s to see my dad for lunch after we’d been outside all morning swimming in the pond. Yeah, so we’re all aging and time is going faster, and one day my parents will be gone, and one day I’ll be on my own in this world. All of those things went through my head as I celebrated my banged up and bruised mother that day.

2) I’ve always been a strange duck when it comes to intuition. I’ve been reading more about it lately and I’ve been more open about this facet of my life lately, and I find that I am not alone, that there are lots of us who sense things deeply, who can feel others feelings, who carry heavy burdens for things that don’t belong to us, and who can see things. Anyway, since July when I moved into this house, I’ve had what I like to call a vision or premonition of someone falling down the stairs. As I mentioned above, this one was weird, though, because it was like I was inside the person as they were slowly tumbling down the steps. I couldn’t tell if this was something that I was being allowed to see from the past, or something that might happen in the future. (I’m not really very good at deciphering these things yet, even at 40, and they’ve happened all my life.) For some of you who’ve known me for a while, this may come as a surprise, but I’ve had visions/premonitions/dreams since I was about 2 or 3 or as far back as I can remember, and I can see things (you might call them ghosts) pretty consistently. I may write more about this later, but my point is that when I heard my mom start to fall, I almost instantly knew it was her, and I could almost feel her path inside me, because I am pretty sure it was the one I’d been seeing since we moved in. The visions of falling down the stairs have ended now, so I know I was intuiting her fall. And I’m not surprised by all of this, but I wish I could become better at really understanding what all of it means before it happens.

3) Finally, I think this helped me understand that for far too long, I’ve been carrying a grudge against my mom for how she handled my coming out to her. I wrote a whole nonfiction/memoirish piece about it when I was in graduate school (writing class is excellent therapy, just an fyi), and I won’t rehash all of that here, but I wanted my family to be one those families that just embraced who I was and then we would move forward. While my parents tried to do that, I just happened to come out in the midst of the AIDS crisis to parents who were just a bit more conservative than I thought. While they were always very kind to any girlfriend I may have had, my mom also spent time copying scriptures about homosexuality from her bible and passing them to me during church, my dad didn’t say much one way or another, and it was apparent to me that all their hopes and dreams for me, for a normal life with a big white wedding and 2.4 children were dashed on the rocks below them. There were choice things said about my sexuality in times of great stress that I won’t repeat here, because we finally are past all that. But I realized when I saw my mom at the bottom of the stairs, I’d been just angry at her for so long, I wasn’t sure how to recover from it. One of my friends said over the summer, “You give everyone else grace, but not your mom. That’s my observation about your grace.” She was right. I had been holding an almost 20-year-old response to my coming out against my parents. Dumb. Unkind. The opposite of grace. So with me at the age of 40, after my mom fell down a flight of stairs, I forgave her, finally and completely, like I should have years ago. I do love my family a great deal. I’ve been wrong. And callous. And I’m done with it.

Shortly after my parents left, like a couple of hours after they walked out the door, two of our grandchildren came to spend the week with us. I love all four of them to the moon and back (I’m that grandma, the one with the pictures and the stories), but for some reason I feel a very special bond with Simon, the youngest one. I would assume it’s because I’ve been around more while he’s been younger, or maybe it’s because whenever we watch them while their parents are out, I put him to bed and I get to rock him to sleep while he drinks his bottle. Whatever the reason, I feel a kinship with this almost 9-month-old kid. I can say the experience of caring for the two boys for the weekend taught me a bit more about life. Since I have no children of my own (three amazing grown men and their beautiful significant others don’t really count in this example), I’d never experienced waking up when a 3-year-old has night terrors and is screaming outside our bedroom door. Though I was so tired, I was also moved to compassion, since I, too, have suffered from nightmares from a very young age. When Bec got up to be with him, I told her I’d handle the next crisis in the night, so at 4AM when I heard little cries coming from the room next door, I got up with Simon. He’d been sick for a few days with some stomach issues, diarrhea mostly. Aside from a summer of having baby foster siblings, I have relatively little experience with babies, so I mostly just guessed why he might be crying. Diaper? Changed (and gross! colossal blow out) and pajamas changed, too. Too hot? Too cold? Found another little blanket. Hungry? Read the back of the formula canister at 4:23AM and fumbled my way through that. Snuggles? Oh, yes.

What I learned from this is much akin to what I learned when my mom fell: outside of each other, humans have nothing tangible that really matters. At many different points in our lives, we solely rely on each other for love. We need each other in ways that I hadn’t even considered before. We must rely on each other. And because I have faith in God, I’d say that we were created to see the image of God in each other. We were created to complete each other.

Basically, October 14-18 was a huge learning curve for me. I’m 40. I’m tired of learning lessons like these.

Here’s the last bit of this post, which I think is related to the rest, though maybe only tangentially. I’m not really sure what I want to say about this poem, and I may have posted it before, but having recently moved and knowing the usual connotation of the phrase “shake the dust” from your feet, I love Anis Mojgani’s reappropriation of the phrase in this poem. Shaking the dust is not about leaving something behind because it didn’t please you or you didn’t please it; shaking the dust is about repositioning yourself in relation to your surroundings, so that others may somehow see you the way you see yourself and not inside the little, tiny, constricting box they’ve put you in. This poem really is beautiful.

New ‘Do, Decent Breakfast, and Some Thoughts About Sexuality Which Really Have Nothing to Do With Lent

I want so badly to let my hair grow out, so I can give myself dreadlocks. I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. When my hair reaches a certain length, I find myself just wanting to rip it out by the roots or to shave my head down soft like a baby’s bottom and slick, too. Today was the day when I couldn’t take it anymore, so I got out the clippers and gave myself a wide Mohawk with a DA in the back. It’s weird and different from my usual self-inflicted trim. Before I went crazy about my hair, I made myself a delicious Spring Break breakfast, which I intend to do every day before I go to school to work on grading.

Two Soft-Fried Eggs, Bacon, Strawberries, and Chai Tea with Raw Honey

Hair From Two Ways

And a Cat Who Judges Me

Note: Now for a bit more of a serious subject. This is not complete, but is just a seed for a longer, more well-developed essay.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about spirituality and sexuality, as I usually do. These two areas are important to me and intrinsically part and parcel of one another for me. In my life, they cannot be separated, nor can the soul and the body. I’m not going to get all theoretical in this post, but I do want to mention a couple of things I’ve been thinking about. I’ve heard many GLBT folks say that they knew who they were from a very young, but they just couldn’t tell anyone, they didn’t have words for it, or they were shamed into not talking about it. I’m not sure I fall into any of these categories, at least not until much later in my adolescence.

I’m not saying I couldn’t tell something wasn’t the same in me as it was in everyone else. I knew that pretty much from the get-go. But then again, I didn’t know it, too. I knew how I felt, but I didn’t know it was gay. I knew who I loved, but I didn’t have a framework for recognizing same-sex desire then, I don’t think. Looking back, I can name it for what it is. I can see how much in love I was with some of my friends. I can name my fifth and sixth grade English teacher as one of my first teacher-crushes. (Since then I’ve fallen in and out of love with too many teachers/professors to think about! Ha!) I can call my love, my desire what it is. Now. Could I then? I don’t think so, but I could feel it.

My Brother and I Digging in the Front Yard of Our New House

When I was in grade school, I knew I loved some of my friends. I knew I loved them much more or much differently than they loved me. I would share my toys, and I am pretty selfish. I would color pictures for them. I would take cookies for lunch with the sole intention of sharing them. I got jealous when they would spend time with other friends. I was heartbroken when I wasn’t invited to their slumber parties. I was devastated when one particular friend got a boyfriend and stopped playing with me on recess. I was crushed when I got in trouble for kissing another friend in kindergarten Sunday School. (Of course, the very next year, I got in trouble for kissing a boy at school. Maybe my problem wasn’t lesbianism, it was showing the kissing kind of affection!) Every adult message was telling me that the way I felt about my girl friends was wrong. Did I understand then? No. I knew my parents encouraged me to choose my own clothes, toys, books, and activities when I was at home, and I didn’t quite understand why I had to wear dresses to school sometimes when I preferred my jeans and t-shirts and tromping around in the woods. I suppose it was to make me seem more normal in the grand scheme of things, but then what’s up with this school picture? I was a butch little kid.

Somewhere Around Third or Fourth Grade

By the time I got to middle school, I was determined to be “normal,” even though I had a crew cut and relied on my FARTS University t-shirt, which I wore under most everything, to get me through the days. I think maybe why I like teaching middle school so much is because I felt so lost through most of it. I had one particular friend who was, for all intents and purposes, my “girlfriend.” I loved her, and I would keep on loving her through high school when we both had boyfriends, even becoming quite jealous when she got married and moved halfway around the world.

I had to wear this shirt under my other shirts, because it was "inappropriate."

I “went with” one boy all through middle school and into my freshman year. He was incredibly abusive and manipulative, leaving huge physical and emotional scars on my body. But I stayed with him because I had the intrinsic desire to be like what I thought everyone else was like, to be like what I thought I should. Everyone else had opposite sex significant others. Everyone else was making out in their family friends’ basement. Right, right? Eventually, during one of these “let’s play hide-n-seek so we can go lock our naked selves in your basement bedroom and make out” make out session, he forced me into having sex with him when I was just 13-years old, and I became one of many girls he date raped, or just straight up raped. The killing part of this was that he was two-years younger than I was. So much for being normal.

Looking back, I know now that my classmates weren’t all dating people of the opposite sex. I know that many of them were doing the same thing I was, putting on airs to make it through Blackford County Schools. Many of them didn’t date at all! There wasn’t room for people like us in that place at that time, so we played the game. It wasn’t that there wasn’t language for who we are. There was: fags, faggots, sissies, butches, dykes, unnatural, sinners, queers, homos, queerbates, gaywads, ACDC, swing both ways, and all sorts of other language that served to normalize us. Apparently, The Crying Game and Boy George made no impact on the small minds of Blackford residents. It wasn’t that we couldn’t talk about it, but we certainly couldn’t fathom our sexualities as positive, healthy expressions of love. And, of course, why would anyone bring on that ridicule by naming who they are?

I won’t say that growing up was particularly difficult for me, like I am sure it was with many of my friends and like it is for many kids now. I felt a sense of security in myself and my identity as a jock, artist, and nerd. I just threw myself into one of my acceptable identities, and I always have been confident in who I am. Perhaps, too, some of the security I felt in playing a part in the “Blackford County Play” was because I couldn’t feel free to say who I was, and by not naming it, I could pretend that wasn’t who I was. Besides I had a really for real romantic relationship with a boy, a young man, a beautiful soul of a man. He was a really for real high school sweetheart, who is a subject for a way different essay than this one. So I had a thick, thick closet door to keep me safe. In the same way the closet door kept me safe, it also stifled me until I finally came out. Slowly. Inch by inch.

Softball. I played catcher, and if you don't laugh at that, it's because you don't get it.

And as I came out, I quickly learned that the most spiritual people in my life would have the strongest opinion about who I was becoming I was revealing to them. And, it even more quickly became evident that who I was revealing did not jive with who they thought I was, or should be. Never in my life have I had more Scripture thrust at me like a serrated and rusty knife than from the years of 21 to 23. I look back, and I think that Jesus must have been embarrassed. I know I was ashamed for the people who were beating me with a book I had previously loved, pouring so many teenaged years into studying it and getting to know my God. The God who had been my God through all of it and who still remains my first love.