Settle in for this one. I’m unsure what content warnings to put on a post for having a complicated, painful relationship with your dad.
“Honor your father and mother” or as I came to understand it: Don’t question what I do, say, or believe because I’m your dad. The fact that I feel the need to preface where this post is going with, yes, I do love my parents, says a lot. I don’t even want to write this post. But Sunday is Father’s Day, so I’m gonna have to reckon with that somehow.
How do you honor your father when he would see you as less than human if you start dating women? How do you honor someone who is more concerned with you being “right” than you being loved.
I am the oldest of three daughters in my family, which means…I’m the one who made my parents parents. I look like my dad. Growing up, folks would say I looked so much like my dad and would even call me “Little Wesley,” or “Wesley Jr.” Which…you can think is cute if you want, but I’d reply to most people with “NO…I look like Holly,” as if to assert my personhood and independence early on. My parents also thought I was going to be a boy and were originally going to name me Daniel.
Then, as it turned out, I was a very gender non-conforming kid who got called “a tomboy” often for hating to wear dresses, playing with action figures, etc. Yet, I had the sensitivity and gentleness of a little girl, so I managed to blend in just enough which being completely unaware of my queerness.
My dad is a sensitive man who feels the need to assert his manliness. He can cry at the drop of a hat and he can spew hateful rhetoric in the same breath. I remember being both terrified and in awe of him as a kid. He taught me about Jesus, how to hunt and fish, and how to hate myself.
There’s not an easy way to talk about my dad. He’s a complex character in my life–especially right now. I love him. I used to worship him. But now I’m afraid to be in the same room as him sometimes. This Father’s Day…I’m both thankful for him and resentful of him.
Note: I have tried writing this post three different times, and I feel like I’m reigning in a lot of my anger because I’m supposed to be “respectful” of my dad. So…in case you need the reminder, you DO NOT have to attempt to reason with parents who are making you feel unsafe. You do not have to stay on close contact with them or contact them at all if that’s what keeps you safe.
I’m currently not in a safe environment and am in process of getting out. Especially since the last time my dad tried to have a heart to heart with me, he tried to insult me at every level and “would rather be dead” than see me “with a woman.” That is neither acceptable nor do I have to try living with that. You don’t either.
Also…a part I’ve been holding onto for a while is that I’m pretty sure he was aware of our neighbor sexually abusing me when I was a kid and he didn’t do anything and ignored the signs that it was happening. Not to mention, he knew shit was going down with my abusive boyfriend, and did. nothing. His words have been violent and his silence has also been destructive. I know…I grew up in a church culture where this was acceptable; where he was taught this was acceptable. But I’m not going to excuse it regardless of his good traits. Silence is complicity in abuse. Words can be violent.