Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Talk about your same-sex partner over the turkey.

This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.

So, GLAAD has a new campaign in favour of awkward thanksgiving. In not censoring oneself and speaking up about your life at the family dinner table.

Oh and didn’t that strike a chord with me!

Obviously, being British, I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving (I also understand that this means we’re subjected to the Christmas music, decorations and adverts a good month before you guys over the pond. Damn it, I have envy. I’m already developing a swearing reflex every time I hear Slade and Wizzard. Gods above I hate those songs) but I can most certatainly relate to this campaign.

Sadly, I have a very large and closeknit family. And I say sadly because that brings me little comfort and I’m slowly dissolving the ties I have. But we’ve certainly had no small number of family gatherings – be they hatches, matches and dispatches, important birthdays, anniversaries, reunions or “Gimme an Excuse We Want a Party”. They’re major events in our family, we’re always looking to get the whole riotous clan together (so they can then Argue with each other and Hold Grudges because what their Ethel said about our Eileen 26 years ago is Important).

And most of the time it hasn’t been me who has attended. Oh I’ve gone, but so much of my life has been off the table. I often get lists of instructions. Don’t talk about being gay – it’ll upset your grandparents/aunts/uncles/great aunts/uncles, the churchgoing branch, cousin Matthew’s new girlfriend/Cousin Rachel’s new mother-in-law. Don’t mention your relationship, don’t say you’re married, try not to talk about that. Or, even more fun, “can’t you say you’re with {Female friend]” (thanks for that, dad).

Half of the events I’m invited to don’t include an invite for Beloved (I bring him anyway much to their consternation). Some have actively tried to prevent me bringing him. I’ve faced an in-law expressing horror that I was allowed to babysit kids, shock that I dared to bring Beloved, (I have long since ceased to be surprised by the number of relatives who know I’m gay but think it’s ok so long as I’m alone and celibate) amazement that I talked about him and innumerable failures to call Beloved my husband. Naturally the very idea that I may presume to be open in front of the precious little kiddies is regarded as a threat on par with planting a nuclear weapon in the cake. Sometimes I have a little keeper follow me around whose job it is to poke me or rapidly change the subject when they think I’m going to tear strips off someone.

It’s enough to give me grey hairs, it really is. But, of course, you have to guard your tongue or you ruin the whole event – and that would be Awkward, right.

Screw it, it’s awkward because they make it awkward. Their prejudice makes it awkward, their refusal to accept their own blood makes it awkward.

So, ye gods, yes, make this Thanksgiving awkward. Talk about your same-sex partner over the turkey. Chat to your cousins about the best gay bars in town over pumpkin pie (which, btw, is a horrible horrible thing to do to a pumpkin), sculpt your mash into an elegant construct of linked mars symbols with a side of rainbow vegetables! We are fit for dinner time conversation, we shouldn’t have to be relegated to the skeletons at the back of the closet (hah!), we’re not the black sheep, the embarrassment, the Thing We Do Not Talk About. It is not right for our kin to protect the delicate sensibilities of our related homophobes, while firmly stamping you down into the gravy.

Here’s for more awkward conversations at family gatherings – if not for politics, if not for activism, if not for your own peace of mind and right to be yourselves, if not for your own self-respect – then certainly for your younger kin who may be already learning to censor – and closet - themselves.