This week, New York passed a law legalizing gay marriage.
Like most people I know and love, I am overjoyed. But I also have a personal reason to celebrate.
When I was growing up, gay was weird, scary, a name the meaner kids hurled at you to indicate there was something wrong with you.
My father is gay.
He never came out to me. Instead, I found out by accident, when reading a book – one of those teenage coming-of-age novels where the parents are divorced and the protagonist is trying desperately to figure out where she fits in. The father in the book had a best friend who was always coming over – just like my Dad – and, much like my father’s buddy, the best friend was an excellent cook. At the end of the story, the girl’s dad admits that Greg is more than just a friend…
I couldn’t just come out and ask him though. My father wasn’t that kind of person.
Two years passed. I studied every reaction, made note of anything that could hint at some kind of clear-cut answer. Was that hug they shared a little too close? Why was the best friend using his spoon to give my Dad a taste of his dinner? As a child, I loved the Harriet the Spy series, and now I had a chance to use those skills for my own research. Sadly, Harriet ends up losing all her friends and as he felt me watching him, my father became increasingly uncomfortable. Our relationship became fraught, difficult. He blamed my adolescence but I know now that it was to do with the secret I was making it more and more difficult for him to keep.
(even today, as I write these words, I still feel a chill running up my spine)
Secrets were popular when I was growing up. Around me everyone had secrets: secret lovers in other cities, secret children with former flames or personal assistants. Somehow, though, sexuality was different.
“I wouldn’t talk like that,” a kid in my seventh grade class retorted when I told him to shut up, “if MY father was like yours.”
The rumour mill in my hometown is a Monster. Created by bored housewives and perpetuated by their husbands and best friends, it has a life of its own. Constantly starving for new prey, this Beast feeds off the weak, the deceived, the deceptions.
My father, forbade me from telling anyone. I was completely alone bar the one person I confided in. When someone else hinted at it, I attacked my confidante thinking she had betrayed my trust.
Then there was the day I read a story in Time magazine, written by a girl my age who had sewn a square on the AIDS quilt in memory of her father. It was a tiny sidebar, a barely noticeable post scriptum, but it changed my life. There were two of us!
Growing up in a small community was hard for someone like me. From day 1, I was an outsider – having moved at age six, there was only my mother, my father, my brother and I, when almost everyone else seemed to be related. I didn’t fit in. And then there was our family secret. It took me a long time to find out that everyone knew because nobody talked about it.
The problem with secrets is that the people keeping them are always the last to know when it’s not longer a secret. You are afraid of every word that comes out of your mouth, of even accidentally alluding to what you know you shouldn’t. You become obsessed with the one thing that’s off-limits. Everything sounds like it could be a tip-off.
It’s so clear now how deeply this secret affected me and the course of life.
Secrets are the opposite of healthy. They sit like a knot in your stomach, clamping down on your digestive system and your ability to openly love.
My first period, which I got while on vacation with my dad. The time(s) when my boyfriends were older than his. The tasteless meals, the charred BBQs, the people I met, the Thanksgiving when he wore a blue shirt with white stars and red and white striped suspenders. The words he uses when referring to my mother or women in general. His obsession with cars and expressions like "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink." All of these things are about him, what kind of person he is, what kind of father he is. If you know my father, you know what I'm talking about. But none of this has to do with his sexual preference. And it's about time people realized it.
So I rejoiced this week for New York City. Because allowing people to get married – regardless of gender, age, class, sexual preference -- is the right thing to do. But also because I hope and pray that no one ever again needs to grow up with the burden of keeping the kinds of secrets I did, not for their parents, not for themselves.
I leave you with this celebratory green smoothie.
Pride Green Smoothie
- 1 cup frozen raspberries
- 3/4 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 frozen banana
- 1 handful spicy rocket (arugula)
- ¼ cup water or more (you need enough so the blender can do its job but this mixture needs to remain thick like ice cream so add 1 T at a time)
- 1 t cacao nibs and coconut flakes (to sprinkle on top, optional)
Blend greens and the water until completely broken down. Then add the frozen fruit and blend until a thick ice cream like texture forms – you want to do this as fast as possible to ensure it will remain as cold as possible.
Sprinkle cacao nibs and coconut flakes if using.
Go outside, put your feet up, sit in the sun and enjoy with a small spoon, sloooooowly.