I have three siblings. Two of them are gay.
I think I subconsciously knew it all along, but I never said anything to either of them about it because I didn’t want to call them out before they were ready or, heaven forbid, be entirely wrong. But I wasn’t wrong--I knew. I could just...tell. And not for stereotypical reasons, either (though my brother did play the flute and take dance, and my sister did softball and rugby). There was just something about their souls that whispered to me, “This is who I really am.” I knew them so well that I just knew.
So when they each came out in their own ways, a big part of me was not surprised. What did surprise me was their courage to step out from behind the fake lives they had created for themselves and be what they are. I was surprised by their willingness to accept themselves and say, “This is me--take it or leave it.”
Others’ opinions have never bothered me, but I know the “What will they think of our family now??” question weighed heavily upon our family. There was worry and fear and denial and anger and shame as people slowly found out about my homosexual siblings. But people’s reactions were not at all what we’d expected. Very few people have harassed us or them. My late Grandma Fern, upon hearing the news about my brother, laughed and said, “Well, duh. I could have told you that.” (She knew all along, too.) Then she said, “That doesn’t change anything. I love him. He’s the same person.”
We are coming to a beautiful place of acceptance in our family, and an expanded notion of what it means to love and be loved. We have so many unexpected members: girlfriends and boyfriends and foster children and even house pets (which were forbidden to us as children but are now adored).
We are all learning to love bigger and love better.
It’s Pride Month, and I am proud of my brother and my sister for being brave enough to be themselves, and I’m proud of my family for opening their arms to accept more people (and pets) within that embrace.
We are trains.
We are each a series of boxcars filled with experiences and memories, moving ever onward until our tracks run out.
I was on a track, laid out before me, predictable and sure, and then someone flipped the switch, and the tracks changed, and I ended up...here.
I did not buy this ticket. This is not where I’d planned to be. I thought I’d purchased a ticket to teach: I’d certainly paid for it. I got the degree. I did the student teaching. I subbed for awhile. I found a job at a school (my school) and achieved tenure.
But the tracks changed on me, and now I’m...here. Or nowhere. Or wherever this is.
After this year, I won’t have any more students at that school. The kids who go there next year will just be students.
They won’t be my students.
They are trains themselves, my students, and right now they are each at a juncture where their own tracks are changing before them, leading them into futures they cannot yet fathom, as I could have never fathomed my own.
When the tracks changed, I tried to hold on. But my train moved forward. I’ve been holding on for two years, desperate to maintain contact with the school I loved so well. But things never stay the same: Teachers retire. Administration changes. Buildings consolidate. Ground is broken for new construction. And, of course, students graduate.
My students graduate.
My arms have grown tired, reaching out to grip a memory as though I could somehow resuscitate it. But the memory is just that--memory. It’s smoke. It is no longer reality. In reality, I feel like a stranger when I visit that school. I have to wear a VISITOR badge now. My old classroom is now the fifth grade room. (There’s an awesome couch in it--I wish I’d thought of that when I was there.) The first floor now houses the elementary grades, which weren’t even in the same building when I worked there. And now I only know a handful of staff members.
My memories from that time are beautiful and strong, but they are only memories. That’s not my life right now, no matter how much I wish it were. It does me no good to face backwards and strain to hold on when I’m moving slowly away. I’ll admit, it’s more than nostalgia that keeps my hands reaching. Fear is keeping me there. It’s easier to stare longingly at what was than to face whatever might be.
So it’s time to admit that life is moving me forward and away from this, because it is now only memory.
It’s time to turn towards my new track and see what awaits me.