Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Making Up for Lost Time

I wrote this originally for a Quaker LGBT listserve, but felt it needed to be shared here as well. As is often the case with many religious groups, the membership is top heavy with baby boomers, who hold a very different perspective to the one espoused by my own generation. I admit I get frustrated at how they sometimes dominate the discussion with trivialities and specious commentary. A dose of reality was past due and I was glad to provide it.

I usually don't self-disclose my sexual orientation, for many reasons. First among them is that I am bisexual, an identity which can be rendered invisible quite easily, even if that is never the intent. When partnered with a man, I am seen as gay. When partnered with a woman, I am seen as straight. Queer folks have a better understanding of the concept and how it boxes a person in whether one would like it to or not. I've also known friends and acquaintances who've adopted a label of gay for convenience's sake when bisexual would probably have been a more accurate rendering of the truth.

For years, one of my sisters and I had an acrimonious, poisoned relationship. We were estranged for over ten years and during that time we never exchanged a single word. During Christmas dinner and the traditional Thanksgiving orgy of food we sat silently across the table from each other, engaging with everyone else but ourselves. I fully anticipated having no relationship with her to speak of for the rest of my life. We'd probably only come together later in life to bury our mother and father, or for something significant like the marriage of our younger sister.

As it turns out, my sister also identifies as bisexual. I'd always known this, but only recently we've actually talked about it. She tried to keep her relationships with women secret, but my homophobic father had a background as a private investigator. He always knew about my sister's girlfriend, regardless how she sought to cover her tracks. She hid her sexual orientation to a degree, but was more or less open with her college classmates and friends.

I was more private about my relationships with men, who usually lived in a much more queer-friendly city that was two hour's drive away from home. I did not want my parents to know and evaded my father's meddling on a regular basis. My sister's attraction to women was more offensive to him than my own same-sex desire. With me, my father would rather not know. With my sister, he wanted to know everything. 

In addition, the out-gay circles in Birmingham were incestuous and tiny. I did not want to be gossip fodder and I didn't want to have less than two degrees of separation from any partner I might take. This is why I swam in a much larger pond, preserving most of my anonymity in the process.

It might not seem like it, but next comes the good news. She's just turned 30 and I will turn 33 in a month. She lived on the West Coast for years and there she managed to heal herself. She put most of the past behind her. Now we are speaking to each other, but the going is a little awkward because we never learned how to have a relationship. 

Recently we've spoken to each other about our shared history, which is considerable. Nothing has been held back and I myself have finally learned to fully love her. I wish we hadn't quarreled back then and worry about lost time. The similarities we held between us might have made each of us feel more acceptable to the other. Both of us hold scars, but unlike before, we do not hold them back or deny their existence.

I could lament the past, but I'm thankful for the future. Though we are two very different people with very different interests, we are also blood relatives. Genetically, we have more in common with each other than we do both of our parents, because we share the genes of the same mother and the same father. We are a biological melding of two people, creating combinations that only God and chance could manage. I'm thankful for what we have, even if we're stepping into uncomfortable territory and may always be forever.

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