This past weekend was gay pride here in CMH and for the first time, Dan and I went to the festivities together. I normally don’t feel the need to attend a parade to show that I’m proud of who I am, I do that naturally through life and I usually don’t put focus on a singular aspect of it. But we decided this year it would be fun, so we met some friends and had a gay ol’ time (pun intended).
Coinciding with the festivities, my nephew Lukas was having a birthday party, to which I was going to attend after the parade. We had some time to spare between the parade and the festivities at the park, so I decided I would drive to my Brother’s house, drop off my nephew’s gift and then head back downtown.
On the way there, we discussed the t-shirt that Dan was wearing, a Case Western Reserve University, Gay and Lesbian Alliance one that read, “Gay? Fine by me”. We talked about if it was proper or not and if it would be okay to wear, I assured him that there was absolutely nothing wrong with his shirt and that it would be fine. We arrived at the party and stayed long enough for cake and to see my nephew open his gifts. The entire time we were there, we engaged in conversation and were completely polite to everyone there. After about an hour, we decided to head back downtown and go to the celebration in the park, grab food and wrap up the day at some friends’ house.
Once we left our friends’ house, we headed back to my house and that’s when the day went from being an awesome and fun day, to a pretty crappy one. (Side note: For the people who don’t know my story, I live with my folks right now, they both lost their jobs and fell on hard times and I’ve helped them out the last few years). We got back to my house and Dan went to my bathroom, while I went to a separate one near my parent’s bedroom. Once I got out, I heard my mom ask me to come to her door. Once near the door, she proceeded to tell me how she and my sister-in-law felt that Dan’s t-shirt was inappropriate for a three-year old’s birthday party and that she didn’t want to make me mad, but it was highly inappropriate. I told her I didn’t see her point and told her goodnight and went back downstairs.
I told Dan what she said, because we share everything with each other and I reassured him he did nothing wrong and that this was their issue, not his. Although I was reassuring him, I was feeling hurt, confused and somewhat baffled by it all. Here’s a t-shirt with a pretty positive message on it, being misconstrued and seen as offensive. The flip side is at the same time, my father had a Popeye t-shirt on that said, “#curls4thegirls”, which is technically more suggestive and ribald, than a t-shirt that says Dan’s okay with people being gay. But even by those bewildered standards my mom and sister-in-law put forth, his shirt doesn’t even come close to being offensive either.
The next day, we just bailed from the house and stayed out all day. I didn’t want to talk about it when I was hurt and unsure of what I wanted to say. Plus, I didn’t want to put Dan through that either, it’s difficult when we don’t have our own space to decompress. So, instead of dwelling on it all at the house, we went to our usual hangouts, Half Price Books and Microcenter to get our minds off of it. Shortly after getting back to the house, Dan left and headed back to Cleveland, never really conversing with my mom on his way out, thankfully.
I came to realize more and more throughout the day, that the entire issue isn’t about the shirt, it’s still about me being gay. If you would’ve asked me five years ago, if my boyfriend would ever meet my parents and be integrated into my family, I would’ve told you no. My mom and family have come a long way through the years and in the last three years, they’ve gone from not talking about it, to meeting Dan and accepting him into our family. I’ve felt pretty positive about the whole thing and the negativity that used to surround the issue has been devoid of conversation — It’s been nothing but positive for years now.
But that positivity has shifted now, and I can’t help but think this instance is a step back for the entire progression of my family. For the first time in years, I feel like they’re ashamed of me, of Dan and even of the word “gay”. This kind of reaction to a simple t-shirt shouldn’t be this dramatic and it’s absolutely ridiculous. No kid at the party had their fun interrupted by the t-shirt, they didn’t even know what it meant. Hell, most of them can’t even read, and even if they could, the word “gay” isn’t a bad word and can easily be explained away by saying, “gay means happy”. Any kid who has watched The Flintstones has heard the word in the theme song, so it’s really not a big deal. If the shirt had two cocks sword fighting in front of rainbows or something like that, sure that’s an issue, but the word “gay”, not-so-much.
I’ve went over several scenarios in my head of dealing with the situation, which all involve a conversation, that I know I’ll eventually have with my mom and family about it all. When I do, I’ll probably ask them why they felt it was inappropriate and try to educate them on why it wasn’t. But for now, I still need some time to process everything. I’ve not had this kind of emotion hit me for a while in regards to me being gay and honestly, it’s a little rough.
I don’t know what else to say, I think I’ve covered the gamut of emotions and reactions in this post, so I’ll leave you with a final thought.
If there’s a few positive things that can be taken away from this entire experience, it’s that a conversation got started and that we didn’t choose to change a t-shirt because it had the word “gay” on it.
Happy gay pride, world.