There are times when I wish that someone in my family was gay. I had a great aunt who was a lesbian, but I only found out about her sexuality until after she had died. And when she was alive I was nowhere near being out to myself let alone anyone else.
She is the only person in my family that I know for certain was/is gay. And no one really knows anything about that side of her. All I know that she and her ‘friend’ used to go to Atlantic City for the weekend to gamble. That’s it. That’s all I know about that part of her. It feels like a giant part of my history is missing. What was it like for her growing up? How long did she know she was a lesbian? Who was her ‘friend’? Was she at the funeral? Had she died beforehand? And why does no one in my family know?
Now, I would settle for a gay cousin to side eye when someone refers to my girlfriend as my ‘friend’. (I’m also tired of my aunt calling my girlfriend ‘my friend’). Don’t get me wrong, most of my family is very forward thinking and progressive. But even the most open minded of them walk on eggs shells around me when they talk about anything LGBT related. Especially marriage. I know every family can be annoying when it comes to asking intrusive questions about when their children or nieces or nephews are getting married. They’re straight. Just very straight. If I had a dollar for every time one of my family members asked me who would propose I would probably have a lot of cash for a strip club. You can almost see the wheels turning in their heads- “There’s no guy in the relationship, so who’s going to get the ring?”
I’m not surprised- all of my family grew up in the same heternormative environment that I did. They never had to question how to do the marriage thing because it has been laid out for them by generations and generations of people. Sure, it has evolved, but there is still a basic formula for when a man and a woman get married. Everyone knows the equation and to solve for x.
I don’t begrudge any of my family for being straight, even if I did it wouldn’t change anything. But it would be nice to have someone on ‘my team’ that I could relate to and commiserate with. Having a male cousin who wanted to go out to a bar to find girls is great (and also hilarious), but it’s not the same. I want to relate to someone in my family on a queer level.
There are times when I feel like my queer identity and family identity are completely separate parts of me. I wish there was a gay Ancestry.com that could help me link together previous generations with my queerness. Even if I feel like an anomaly, I know my gayness didn’t come from a vacuum. But the clues about my gay family history died with my great aunt. Maybe some day I’ll be lucky to find a piece of the puzzle, but for now I have to start from scratch.
I’m queering my family’s story just by living my life openly and happily. And hopefully in the future someone can look back and see their gay roots in their family tree.