Relating to Dad Is Complicated

It's hard to relate to Dad. It's complicated. I've known for a while that both my parents wish I wasn't queer. Or to be honest, they wished I wasn't. My mom and I have a lovely if frought-with-boundaries relationship today, like most adult children and parents. We talk around holidays or occasionally on the phone, mostly about a narrow band of nice subjects. It's not that I ever lie to her, but it's not like talking to a close friend either. I have zero regret or remorse or longing going on about this, it seems like the best way to spend our time. Dad is a bit more difficult.

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When I was 18, I came out for the 3rd time and it stuck. After telling everyone I'm here I'm queer, I felt drunk on the power of the wide swing of my closet door. I came way out. I was way open. I felt proud for the first time in my life and I knew I had to do something I had been waiting to do since puberty: shave my legs. I wanted to go to the only gay club in York, Pennsylvania and I wanted to dance. The one thing I didn't anticipate was how long it would take...to shave. Waiting until I was 18 meant that it was literally a hairy situation, and if you've seen my vines you know that my long luscious legs mean there is plenty of ground to cover. I was determined though, and I eventually succeeded, bounding down the stairs after the longest shower of my life. Dad was waiting for me. "What are those?" He pointed at my legs. I didn't quite understand the question -- "They're legs, Dad" I wanted to say.

"What did you do?"
Remember I had courage. I had new-found bravado.
"I shaved my legs." I said. "This is who I am and you've got to deal with it."
"You can't do that. What will the neighbors think?"
By this time we were shouting. And we kept shouting. We argued. We got angry. And the whole thing exploded into violence. My bravado was deflated. My courage was beat out of me, for the time being.

Growing up in rural Pennsylvania (I was 18 in 1995) there were few queer folks on TV. There were seemingly no queer folks in life. It wasn't really a matter of my Mom or Dad hating queer people, although I took it that way. Looking back I think they (especially Dad) were simply afraid of the unknown and couldn't bear "what the neighbors would think" about them as parents if I was so different... and I was... so different... so very different.

We discuss this and other Dad-related topics on this week's podcast: Coming Out With Jeffrey Marsh.
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