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    And the love profusion / You make me feel, you make me know

    I guess I hadn’t been reading Ace long enough to know much about her coming out. She’s posted about it at Gay Orbit and at her place. (It’s the same post, but she may get different comments for each.)

    I was way luckier than I expected to be. I was brought up in an extremely conservative Sabbatarian Christian sect–you know, people who weren’t members of the church were collectively known as “the World,” and we had two-hour services every week. You took notes when you were considered old enough, which in most families was around twelve or so. Just about every week there was at least one mention of how vigilant everyone needed to be against Satanic influences on their children in which homosexual activism figured prominently.

    So when I settled in my mind that I was definitely, permanently gay, my options were very clear and very polarized. I figured my parents would tell me that they still loved me but that we weren’t going to be able to have any correspondence anymore. For about a month–not very long, I guess, though it seemed like an eternity–I flip-flopped over whether to tell them, but I come from a pretty out-with-it-already kind of family, so I decided to come out and just deal.

    I told them just after New Year’s in 1996. The next three days were notable for their lack of relaxed family fun, but when I went back to New York, it was with the understanding that they weren’t going to disown me and I wasn’t about to go all druggy and bathhousey. After that there were a few awkward moments–I’ve never in my life eaten very much at one sitting, but after I was out, there was a sudden danger that my not wanting a third slice of shoo-fly pie meant I had an eating disorder because, you know, Cherie Bank on Channel 10 did this report that said a lot of Men Like Me do. Over the next few years, I figured out the rules: I can mention a guy I’m dating or talk about my boyfriend, but gay issues in general are a no-go. I mention the word gay–nay, use the letters g, a, and y within any five consecutive words–and the subject is changed. Not pointedly, but resolutely.

    When I wanted to bring Atsushi home two years ago, everything was fine. I mean, it was so fine it was kind of spooky. They put us in separate rooms, of course, but they spent the whole time doing their mischievous/playful/intimately ribald thing, which they don’t do around people they want to distance themselves from.

    My mother even tried to challenge Atsushi to a drinking game, but he doesn’t drink. This was at the “Japanese” steakhouse in one of the malls near where I grew up, BTW. You know, run by a Korean family, with Chinese calligraphy all over the place and Polynesian drinks on the menu. The chefs joke and juggle knives. You can get chow mein noodles instead of rice. Atsushi found the whole thing a lot of fun but utterly bewildering, and the ‘rents never let him forget it. “This isn’t the Japanese you get in Japan, huh, Atsu?” Mom guffawed at one point. “Yeah, I bet you’re wishing you’d gone ahead and gotten a beer now!” Dad chimed in. Right about then I took a long drink of vodka and started to hope that maybe they could find it in their hearts to like him a little less. They let him go without too many more incidents, though. Since then, they always tell me to give their love to him when we talk or write back and forth, and they send him Christmas presents.

    Normally, I try to leave my parents off the blog because they aren’t here to give their version of events when it differs from my own. (Well, that and it’s not my place to tell their stories.) I’m only giving them walk-on parts now because I wonder whether things would have worked this way three or four years after I came out. It was never my intention to use my Japanese major to move to Japan; I came here and liked it and then fortuitously discovered that my grad school mentor and I were incompatible, but I would have been in New York for another five or six years if I’d stayed on track. It’s hard to say what would have happened in a reality that never came to pass. I’d been out for six years when I brought up the idea of bringing Atsushi home, so the fact that the gay thing wasn’t going anywhere was pretty apparent. Time was probably the biggest factor, along with a willingness to be persistent without being pushy.

    2 Responses to “And the love profusion / You make me feel, you make me know”

    1. Zak says:

      Not to sound patronizing, but it sounds like you should be proud of your parents.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Well, you try to bring them up properly, but you never know how they’ll turn out, do you? I think my little brother and I did a fair job.

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