I seem to be running out of material, though. This Thanksgiving my most exciting announcement was that I’ve decided to apply to grad school, but that was boring. Nobody cried.
So instead of that I’ll share a story from Thanksgiving six years ago, when, like a good little rebellious daughter, I returned home from college to tell my parents that I was queer.
Click "Read more" for the whole post.
“Mom, I’m queer” sounds too…certain. I wasn’t too certain of what I was trying to say, and I definitely hadn’t yet discovered how much I identified with the term “queer.” I was careful not to imply that I was a lesbian who was interested exclusively in women, because who would I be to dash my mother’s hopes of my marrying a man without leaving her a little to hold on to? Still, I don’t feel like I used to word “bisexual.” And I wasn’t seeing anyone, so it wasn’t that type of conversation, even though I always thought it would be. For some reason I’d always thought that would be the only reason I’d come out to my parents, if I was with a female partner who was so important to me that I’d risk my relationship with my parents for her.
But that wasn’t the case. And yet here I was, risking our relationship for nobody but myself. My mom was about to learn something about me, and later my dad would too, but in the meantime I was learning something about myself. About how much my queer identity is a part of me, and not simply wrapped up in whoever I happen to be dating. I was on my own, not dating, not in a relationship…but still very much queer.
I wasn’t saying “I’ve met someone.” I was trying to say I am someone. And I’ve always been this someone, you just never recognized her in me before.
We were setting the table for Thanksgiving. My mother liked it set a certain way. As Nat King Cole crooned Christmas carols from the radio, I followed her around the long dark table biting my own lip and carrying a bucket of ice. The bucket, unfortunately, was for cider, always cider on my mother’s table, and not the wine that could have made this moment a little lighter. It was late November and still so hot the ice melted as I carried the bucket around the table. I watched the cylinder pieces slide in effortless circles, wishing my words would slip out as easily, before I began.
Since I was a kid my family’s called me Squeaky, but I thought I’d left behind the mousey voice that earned me that nickname until I squeaked out, “Mom, I want to tell you something.”
One of the cats was wailing and my mom told one of us to speak up and the other to shut up. I wasn’t sure which was which, and my lips felt frozen now, as I tried to figure out how to come out to her when it was possible that she’d just told me to shut up.
My lips were more frozen, certainly, than the ice melting in my hands. When I looked up now I found myself looking at the black belly of the dining room table. I was sitting underneath it, unsure of how I got there, but sure I’d have to come out soon. What was I thinking? That I could just hide under the table, stay there watching ice melt instead of coming out to my mother? I took a deep breath. The ice would have to sit on the table soon. And I would have to stand up, too. My mother liked her Thanksgiving table set a certain way. She didn’t like a queer daughter beneath it.
I didn’t know what the next moment would mean for me and my family, or if Thanksgiving would ever be the same again. The holidays weren’t the same for everyone, I knew. Some of us are lucky enough to spend them with those who are our family by blood. For others, we must find family who share our blood only when it spills from shared wounds, in shared stories, from within lives shared with chosen family.
In a way, the woman who’d given birth to me, who’d raised me and loved me my entire life, was about to meet me for the first time. And I was going to ask, not in words but in a gaze so deep and so breathless I felt I was drowning in melting ice, “Though you’ve always loved me, do you still, now, love me?”