My parents are very ‘right on’. I would go as far as to say politically correct if I believed that it merely stemmed from a desire to be politically correct, but I actually think it’s just who they are. They made some really good parenting decisions with us that happened to reflect their views and I am glad of being raised with a political consciousness.
It was in things like when I asked my dad whether Patti Smith was a racist because of the song Rock N Roll Nigger. We sat in the car and had a conversation about words and meaning until my 8 year old self happily concluded that she probably wasn’t.
It was in the photos of my mum with Ban The Bomb symbols painted on her eyelids at Greenham Common.
It was in the frank conversations about sex, and the putting of a condom on a banana, and the answering of any questions we ever had no matter how young we were. (They went a little overboard with this one and I had the sex talk a total of three times).
It was the serious talking to which my mum gave me when my best friend and I put on loads of make up and clothes and said we were dressing up as ‘tarts’ or the other serious talking to I got given when I said I wouldn’t vote when I was older because politics was boring. I still remember her telling me how “women died for my right to vote”.
It was things like when I came home one day talking about a poet we had been discussing at school- John Agard- and upon seeing their blank faces I said the title of one of his most well known poems Half-Caste – to be kindly corrected by my mum who thought I was describing his ethnicity (until I explained, laughing). I still like to mock her about that to this day.
It was in the present I got given when I had my first period. (Miss Congeniality on DVD if you’re interested) Making a girl feel like becoming a woman is something to be celebrated, rather than a monthly ‘curse’ – that I like.
So bearing in mind all of that left wing, liberal sentiment that was a staple in my childhood - you’d think I’d have come out to them by now, yes? Nope.
(Stroppy, posing, and clearly a little gay, even at this age)
Oh I’m pretty sure they know (if not from all the less than subtle hints like declarations of love to Zawe Ashton or close female friendships that ended in tearful dramatic arguments, then probably from my very first xoJane article). But they aren’t perfect fairytale parents when it comes to all issues. They have gay and trans friends, sure (and not in a David Cameron, ‘I met a black man in Plymouth once’, kind of way). But my mum has said on more than one occasion that she doesn’t think bisexuality exists (incidentally I adopted this opinion too, oh the irony!).
We’d watch lezzie drama series like Fingersmith or Tipping the Velvet but then my mum would take offence if me and my little brother jokingly accused her of swinging that way - her protests about how the thought of lesbian sex grossed her out were enough for me to know (before I knew myself) that my mum just isn’t comfortable with some things.
I think we just naturally accept the world we’re presented with, based on our previous experience of the facts. Short hair? Butch outfit? Lesbian! Loves pretty dresses and in a relationship with a dude? Straight!
I’m going to make a big stinking generalisation here that most of us imagine the world is as hetero-normative as mainstream culture presents it to be. PROVE ME WRONG, WORLD. Some people (parents) when faced with undeniable stereotypical evidence of their child’s sexual orientation still choose to ignore it. It’s like gay can’t possibly exist in this context or in their world.
And this is why I refuse to officially come out. I hate that if you are anything other than straight-straight you have to ‘out’ yourself as different. I think by sitting people down and seriously telling them this ‘thing’ makes it into a bigger deal than it is, and it bugs me that no-one ever has to come out as straight à la Phoebe’s gay husband in Friends.
I think despite my general air of difference people will assume I’m straight. Hell, I even assumed I was straight until a couple of years ago.
So I guess I’m worried that when faced with something that contradicts previous assumptions, people (my parents) will either be unable to accept an alteration to their world-view. A broadening of their horizons. And a less blinkered way of thinking about sexuality.
Or they will accept this change and in doing so it will change the way they see me. How could it not?
It’s your business who you are and people can make all the uninformed opinions about you they want, based on skin colour, hair style, dress style, accent, but that doesn’t mean they’re right. And when corrected it’s a shock to people’s brains - they have to either deny its existence completely or go “Oh, that person is different to what I expected.”
(Still posing, slightly less stroppy, still clearly a bit gay- *insert lesbian and checked shirt joke here*)
I don’t want people to see me as different. Especially my parents or friends I’ve had for years. Because I don’t feel any different. I am still me, you just have slightly more information about me than you did before. This is why a lot of gay women I know go on the offensive and almost immediately tell people of their sexual orientation, then all the cards are on the table at the start. But you can’t do that with parents because babies aren’t born with tiny rainbow flags clutched in their sticky hands.
Well the lesbian and her three cats are out of the bag now anyway, we’ll all just have to deal with the consequences of me being different in their eyes. For better, for worse.