by: Carly Maria Hubbard
Growing up, there was a running joke in my family that my sister, Alex, was a lesbian.
It started sometime around middle school because, unlike me, her often stricken-in-love older sister, she never came home and gushed about some cutie-patootie she’d met. We would be sitting down at dinner and I’d go off on some tangent about how beautiful this guy was, and my mom would ask Alex if there was someone she liked. Of course she said there wasn’t, ‘cause Alex just did not (and still does not) like talking about “that emotional stuff” with our parents. But as soon as she’d say no, my parents would laugh and one of them would throw out, what has become the old stand by, “Whatever, ya lesbo!”
Eventually, my cousins bestowed the mantle of lesbian on me as well, for commenting on just how “drop dead HOTT” Beyonce was in Obsessed. ( I mean come on, attractive as Ali Larter may be, there is just no comparison.) I was only just starting to really, truly deal with the fact that I was bi on a private, personal level when that movie came out, so needless to say, I was fairly touchy on the subject.
My dad was pretty much always touchy on the subject of homosexuality in television. Any time there was a gay character, he couldn’t not comment- it was like he had a very specific strain of Tourettes. Some guy would be brash enough to kiss another guy, and that was Dad’s cue to spurt out something like, “Oh jeez, do they have to show the fags kissing?” (To which I often wondered, Dad, why on Earth are you watching Will and Grace?)
My mother wasn’t perfect either. When her best friend’s son came out as gay, it didn’t change the way she related to him or treated him. It did, however, result in another running Carly joke. When the two of us were kids, this guy (let’s call him Jack, for shits and giggles) and I were at our parents’ annual Christmas work party. Mom had some mistletoe hanging in her office, and I wanted to take it home, so she brought it down for me. Jack wanted to take a look-see. I, being the incredibly naive creature we all were at five, let him have it, and he then proceeded to chase me around the room, trying to kiss me. So when he eventually came out, my mother just had to point out how hilarious it was that the only guy who had ever wanted to kiss me was gay. Haha, Mom….ha-freaking-ha.
This is the family I would eventually have to come out to.
I had reason to be hopeful. It’s not like my family was a bunch of hateful homophobic monsters; homosexuality was just something we didn’t talk about seriously. At its core, my family has always functioned as a safe haven, a force of unconditional love that was expressed and felt daily. And my sister and I constantly tested that love, whether consciously or otherwise. Our parents had their hands full with us during our teen years, and we’ve all had to forgive each other for a lot, but I think it’s only served to make us stronger as a unit (if somewhat of a living cliche).
So, when I started being open with my parents regarding my sexuality over the past few years, I was surprised at their hesitance to fully support or even believe me. Somehow I thought accepting my bisexuality would be no big deal to them, mainly because I felt they’d had to deal with far more dramatic shit from me in the past. When I officially came out this past October, I was gleefully surprised at how many people went out of their way to tell me how happy they were for me. Still, my parents’ opinion on the matter seemed fuzzy to me. Any time I tried to talk to them about it, I was met with (what I perceived at the time to be) discomfort and a lack of desire to communicate.
This unusual situation with my parents really weighed on me all winter, and was causing some major stress in my life. I had resolved to forcefully bring up the subject the next time I saw them, which was over Mother’s Day weekend. (Great timing on my part, huh?) Any-who, to make a long story short, I erupted at the two of them at 1 o’clock in the morning after we’d come home from dinner at my Uncle’s house. It was not my finest moment. I was absolutely irrational, and unfair, and truly just exhausted from keeping all this poison inside me for months. To their credit, my folks heard me out. They let me spew and then try to calmly explain why I was so upset. There was yelling and accusations on both sides. There were tears and major bouts of stubbornness on mine and my Dad’s part (I definitely get my quick temper from him).
In the end, it all ended up boiling down to a whole mess of misunderstandings. I won’t go into the details (‘cause some stuff really should stay in the family, y’all) but by 3 in the morning I felt that protective force of unconditional love permeating my whole body and wiping away the stress of the past season. The night ended with hugs all around, and I can honestly say that it was the happiest I’d been since October.
But my family is my family, and my Dad’s parting words for the night, as he leaned in to hug me were, “So, can I call you my little dyke now?” I didn’t want to pop the pretty pink bubble of contentment I was floating in, so I let it slide.
The next time we were all together was at our family reunion in Vienna. The four of us had sat down at an empty table to have breakfast. We were making chit-chat, and I honestly don’t know what was said to lead up to this point, but Alex said something and my mom went with the old stand-by, “Whatever, ya lesbo!”
Alex immediately came back with, “How am I still the lesbian? Carly’s out, and I’m the gay one.” And we all erupted into laughter. I’m not talking polite giggles at someone’s feeble attempt at meal-time humor, I’m talking huge, belly-shaking guffaws that had us bent over and getting looks from the tables of relatives surrounding us. And I had a perfect transcendental moment.
I realized something pretty basic, yet still amazingly powerful. My family is not perfect. No one’s is. My family is outrageously politically incorrect and probably offensive to most people. I’m fairly certain my mom still thinks bisexuality is a phase and that when I get married the gender of my spouse will decide my sexuality once and for all. Dad is probably never going to stop calling his bros “fag” when they talk on the phone, and yes, to my family Alex is still the lesbian. My family will probably never go to a Pride Parade with me, and my mother will probably not make a sign that says “I’m Proud of My Queer Daughter” and carry it into a protest. But more important than any of this is what my family will do for me. They will continue to love me unconditionally as they have for my entire life. They will welcome people of all faiths, races, and sexualities into their home for a good home cooked meal.
And eventually, they will throw me the most bitchin’ wedding and give me away to the person of my dreams, whether that person be in a tux or in a ball gown.
Carly Maria Hubbard is a third year college student studying God-knows-what at DePaul University. An out and proud bisexual, Carly is a deeply spiritual pluralist and raging feminist trying to reconcile herself with the secular and patriarchal world we all live in. She loves performing and writing and has had two of her poems featured in Token Art Magazine, an student-run online publication. You can stalk Carly on Twitter at @Carly_Maria and follow her faith-based blog at http://altarations.wordpress.com/.