So…I’m writing a book. I’ve been trying to find the perfect way to announce writing a book. I don’t know of any other perfect way than to share some of my writings recently.
My story is one of figuring out where I belong, what family means, and where I fit into this crazy, vast world. This story is not a linear one. I am not even sure I want to start at the beginning of this story because my past has haunted me for most of my life. But every story has to start somewhere.
This story is for anyone who has ever felt left out, orphaned, rejected, misunderstood. This story is for the queer kid still in the closet who is afraid to be themselves. Because blood is thicker than water and sometimes, we make our own family when the conventional, biological family rejects us simply for being who we are. This is a story for you. And I want to share mine with you in hopes that perhaps my voice and my story has something to offer this world. We learn through stories. And sometimes those stories save us. Someone else’s story saved me. So many stories have saved me.
Maybe now it’s my chance to give back.
Chosen Family – Only the Good Die Young
The first thing I did when my parents approached me and said, “We need to talk to you about something later today,” I immediately messaged my handful of queer friends I had at the time–most of whom I knew from Twitter. My newfound queer community was predominantly online because I was still closeted and living in a small town. And because my only friends otherwise were from the fundamentalist cult or the fundamentalist college I went to.
“Ah Fuck,” one of them responded and said to keep them updated in case I needed anything even though they were several states away. After the conversation where my parents told me someone at church saw that I posted on Facebook that I was gay. I went over to the only friends’ house nearby where I could be myself. I think we watched Doctor Who and made breakfast food for dinner. I almost left my parents’ house that night with nowhere else to go. But I knew that I at least had a few people in my corner.
Later, I would end up living in the same city as many of those same queer friends and invited several of them to my wedding despite having only met them online beforehand. And you know what, they still show up when it counts. Instead of Thanksgiving with my conservative right wing family this year where I knew my wife wouldn’t be invited, we had Friendsgiving with some of those same queer friends from 2016. It was the most relaxing Thanksgiving I’d ever had and it felt more like home than all those years growing up around biological family members who never really knew me as me.
Family means spending a wild Saturday night curled up next to my wife and dog on the couch watching The Fast and the Furious, or being with my inclusive church community with my fellow queers as we sing hymns and hear sermons on social justice. Family means being part of a Dnd group where Carly Rae Jepsen is a goddess of the queers and you know you are safe and loved. Family means going to seminary with other supportive ministry queers who are wanting to spread healing and love right alongside you in churches that used to tell them they didn’t belong.
Family means being able to show up as yourself on your wedding day in a suit and a bowtie as you pledge your love to your wife in your backyard because you can’t get married in the church you’re attending at the time. Because they don’t endorse “same sex marriage” yet.
Family means a lot of things I didn’t used to know it could mean. And I am so grateful for my chosen queer family who holds me close in the best and worst of times.
There’s something so holy about queer people loving one another well. I’ve never felt more at home than with queer folks who take care of each other (and we’re really good at it.). I have one friend who loves to cook and always has food ready when a group of us hang out. I have another who checks in every so often just to make sure I am emotionally doing ok. I usually get a “No really, how are you?” if I don’t answer honestly the first time. One friend is always recommending good books to help others in need, and the other constantly reminds us online to “stay hydrated, bitches.”
God as my witness, there’s no family truer than the family you choose for yourself. My queer siblings and I may not share DNA but we look more like the early Church in the book of Acts than most Evangelical churches I’ve been in. We have all things common–mostly shared trauma–but we share all the good stuff too.
~~~ Water ~~~
2/9/2020 – Poetry, Learning to Swim, Drowning anyway
Wrabel “Poetry” “I see poetry in your eyes. You’re the only reason we rhyme. Oh my my my, it’s a big big big world out there. And looking for something; I finally found it right here. Love makes the loudest sound the first time it comes around. Love makes the loudest sound the first time it comes around”
I know I’ve neglected this space for the past week but I’m back and going to try to get on a better schedule.
My mom had me go to swim lessons when I was four years old. Because she didn’t learn to swim until she was an adult as her mom was afraid of water even in a bathtub. She wanted to make sure my sisters and I could swim and not be afraid like she was growing up.
My first lesson I was happily splashing in the water and got yelled at by the teacher because I guess I wasn’t taking it too seriously. Also, I accidentally splashed water in another kid’s eyes. Story of my life. The important thing is I eventually learned to swim.
If only knowing how to swim was enough to feel comfortable in the water. When men start to sexualize your developing body at swimming pools and you feel disconnected from your body anyway, knowing how to swim isn’t enough. It felt like learning to swim and drowning anyway. In the words of Wrabel’s song “The Village,” There’s something wrong with the village, with the village.” It was never my fault that I could swim but would drown anyway. My cousin once held me under the water just to prove a point and I came up gasping for breath. That’s how it always felt when I was around water. And yet, I was home there.
One time when I was also around 4 or 5 our neighbors came over to have dinner with us and we had a really big kiddie pool in our backyard. Our neighbors had two boys, the oldest of which I looked up to very much and was in upper elementary school. He ran outside and threw off his shirt and jumped in the pool. I threw off my shirt too and tried to jump in the pool. My mother and his mother looked at me horrified and tried to explain why it was ok for him to take off his shirt and just have swim trunks but not for me, as a preschooler who was AFAB. I never forgot that moment and it was one of those reminders that something about my gender had to be presented differently than those categorized as “boys.”
So I’m going to add this note from watching my wife train for a triathlon:
Having some thoughts about queer folx and black women teaching each other to swim. It’s kinda beautiful. The kingdom of god looks like this. I’ll have to develop this thought later but I just have this vision of a community of people who treat each other with equality and inclusion. And take care of one another well. That is the kingdom of God. And that is God’s kingdom come to earth right now. We don’t have to wait for it. The kingdom of God can be and is happening right now.
Watching folx finally feel safe in the water and learning how to swim without judgment drowning them out is beautiful. Almost too beautiful for words, but I’ll keep trying. Feeling safe enough to swim is a skill I haven’t learned yet. I long for that moment. I long to feel safe in my own skin and safe in the water again. The water has always drawn me towards it as something that’s a part of me. I could stare at the ocean for hours. Maybe it’s because my sign is Cancer. Or because there’s something about a vast body of water that makes me feel connected to everything alive around me. Either way, I can’t wait to feel safe enough to swim and not drown.
~~~ Blood ~~~
Today my parents have been married thirty four years. They actually got married on a Monday February 10, 1986. This was purely spur of the moment. They way they tell it, they were engaged but hadn’t decided when they wanted to get married. My dad called my mom that Monday morning and asked if she wanted to get married that day, she responded, much to his surprise, by answering yes! Let’s do it.
They were married later that afternoon at a private ceremony at the church I grew up attending. Only family were present.
It is not an accomplishment to be married thirty four years when it is your only option because divorce is considered sinful in 99.9 % of situations. It is not an accomplishment to be married thirty four years when the woman in the marriage has virtually no autonomy or agency. It is not an accomplishment to be married thirty four years if you believe you have no other choice.
It is not an accomplishment to be married thirty four years.
It is an accomplishment however negative to manage to acknowledge your other two children’s marriages to heterosexual norms and not acknowledge your oldest child’s marriage because they happen to be queer. So this year, I choose not to send my parents an anniversary card or gift. I don’t even remember if I sent one last year. Not that it matters.
I share these two stories to say that the phrase “blood is thicker than water” is bullshit if it only refers to biological family. The family I was born into may be “blood” but they are certainly not the family I claim now. They certainly think they claim me by blood but do not treat me with full acceptance.
“Blood is thicker than water” for me means that those who are meant to be my family regardless of what happens. My chosen family bonds are much stronger and have always been stronger than my biological ones. For this I am grateful beyond words. It is to this family that I write these stories. And it is to this family that I am accountable.
This will be a story of queerness and love. It is a story of belonging to each other when we have been kicked out elsewhere. This is my story. But it is also yours.