Wednesday, May 17, 2006

BBQ Chicken and the roasting of traditionalism

Growing up in a household where the preferred method for dealing with family issues, was to ignore them and remain in silence, taught me at an early age that personal issues were a dirty topic. There is a saying in Chinese that “We do not wash our dirty laundry in public” and it says a lot about the traditional ways of the Chinese culture.

When I came out to my parents and brother almost 18 years go, I had imagined at the time that they would accept and love me unconditionally, despite these traditions. I was naive, and didn't understand that the culture and traditions of my people were instilled so deeply in my parents.. I didn't realise that my parents had invested in me their dreams of a future. Dreams quite different from mine own, and my telling them that I was gay, would smash those dreams on the rocks of reality.

In all of this, I discovered that these cultural ideas of respect and honour were also instilled in me. I knew that I would bring shame on my family if I spoke about being gay, so I kept my mouth shut and went back into the closet for 4 more years, all the while becoming more curious about experimenting and living my life truly as the person I was.

I was young and confused. Tortured and lost. In addition to the Cultural responsibility, I was also raised in a Catholic home, went to an all-boys Catholic school, and my grandfather was an evangelical reverend. I had more than my share of baggage and realised very quickly that my being gay was not going to be easy. The 80’s had just passed, and being gay was still looked upon with derision. The AIDs epidemic fueled the stigma of gays as a disease on society and I was only too aware of it. My parents and family though liberal in many ways, were traditionalists when it came to family and their children. Yet, I still held out, believing that love was unconditional and that it would rise above all things.

However, as the years passed the hope that I would be embraced with family approval and love began to fade and I psychologically acceded that my parents and family would never want anything to do with my "gay' lifestyle. The idea that your family is not supportive of you in any endeavour is hard enough. Believing that they want nothing to do with your partner and future family is even harder. It was particularly hard attending family events and holiday get togethers, watching everyone interact with each others husband, wife, daughter or son, all the while unable to talk about yours. I always wondered if they knew how I felt, or how lonely and isolated I was from my family. Though we saw each other fairly regularly, I was always mindful that there was a wedge in our relationship, because I was unable to share my life, joys and happiness with them.

However, everything comes full circle. This past Saturday, my brother Woozy celebrated his 35th Birthday and he and his wife J sent out an email earlier in the week to me, inviting me and RB to the bbq. This invite meant more to me than they could possibly imagine. For 17 years, my identity as a gay man and any relationship I ever had was never discussed with my family, and never acknowledged.

All anybody in this world wants is to be Acknowledged.

So, I arrived at my brothers place mid-afternoon and prepared the BBQ withmy sister-in-law. RB was still working so he didn’t arrive till 8ish after all my brothers friends, and in-laws had arrived. Upon RB’s arrival, my brother and sister-in-law greeted him warmly and introduced him to the family and friends. It was an amazing experience for me, because for the first time I felt a bond and connection to my family that I hadn’t experienced before. My brother, wife and all her siblings and their partners welcomed us and treated us equally. I didn’t feel like a cast-off, nor did I feel any trepidation, fear or embarrassment about my life and partner. We were welcomed as part of the family and I was so full of happiness and pride that I was beaming and glowing. To feel equal in the eyes of those you love and to know they mean it, is something I know I will never take advantage of again.

So, I am very thankful. I am thankful that people do change for the better and that I was proven wrong. I am thankful that a new stage in my life has opened up, and that I no longer need to feel ashamed of anything. And I am most thankful for my brother and his wife for looking at me straight in the eyes, and acknowledging RB and I for who we are. Partners and Lovers, No different than they.

What’s more, I left knowing that I no longer had any dirty laundry.

24 comments:

Alan said...

Hooray for your brother and his wife for making you feel welcome!

angel, jr. said...

I don't think you forgot, but you mentioned that you and RB were partnenrs and lovers, but to me the word family came to mind.
I grew up in a Catholic Filipino family and I know about the traditions.
My parents came to the U.S. in the sixties for a better life and for a better future for their children. They instilled in us great values/morals and also a sense of being.
There are some "traditions", Catholic or Filipino--I can't differentiate because I feel the Filipino culture is based a lot on Catholic values, that they have clung to. One of them being, keep the family idiocy/secrets hidden. It's not to be washed or even brought into the sunlight. I've found that when things aren't brought into the sunlight, it grows like fungus in the dark.
Sunlight can bring such joy into a person's heart. I'm so glad that your heart has new windows.

tornwordo said...

That sounds like a wonderful change in the dynamics. One of life's gifts, perhaps.

Polt said...

What a wonderful story! What a wonderful brother and sister-in-law you have! I like happy endings. Or I guess this is a happy beginning. :)

Plus....Epicurist and an all boys Catholic school.....oooh, how my perverted little mind is on overdrive... :)

St. Dickeybird said...

And that is the equality that so many have fought so hard for.

It's great that they're finally coming around. I'm very happy for you!

R.J. said...

I actually got goosebumps when I read your post (and that takes a lot cause I'm a jaded bitch!). Very, very touching. It must feel great to feel acceptance from some of your family. I'm sure there are more good times to come for you guys.

No one asked us said...

That is beautiful. I wish that the same thing would happen with my family, but alas I can not see my parents or extended family ever becoming that accepting. My sisters and some family members have no issues, but the majority treat me like a second class citizen.

Tay Hota said...

well told... this is the case with my cousin... he's been out for years and years, but until i saw him this past year and talked for hours (he just found out about me and my boy last year) he didn't know that my family was aware he is gay! can you beleive that! his own family, apparently, has not said anything to him about being gay until they were grilling ME about being gay!!! he said that was the first time anything had been said ("You can bring anyone to our house for dinner oyu'd like, we just want you to be happy.") in over 15 years!!!!! jesus, i am so fortunate with my family...

ink said...

You have to stop making me cry at work, Epi! ;)

Truly, though, I am impressed by a number of things in this post: the integrity and strength it must have taken for you to not to accede to cultural and family pressure; your compassion for the cultural and religious challenges faced by your family; your faith that your family would ultimately come to terms with who you really are; and the acceptance that you and RB have finally found.

Thanks for another inspiring post. I'm so glad you chose to share this moment with us.

Naked Boy said...

Wow. That is sweet. Glad your family loves you unconditionally.

Thom said...

This is really a (forgive the triteness of the expression, please!) heartwarming story. What a great experience for you!

Snooze said...

I was thinking the same thing as Naked boy - that you were right after all, your family does love you unconditionally. I also wonder if now they are more accepting because you are in a serious relationship (or perhaps you were before as well). I know it's that way for my family.

Brad said...

Wow what a totally awesome post Epi. I am so happy for you. Family is everything and to have the love you feel for them returned is priceless. It is wonderful this turned out as it did and bless your bro and sis-in-law for being a catalyst to reconciliation!

The Catshark said...

Wow what a awesome post! Yay!!! I am so happy for you! I love reading about families who truly care for one another!!!

Knottyboy said...

I can barely see the screen I've misted up so much. *sniff* I was really getting depress there for a minute. It does take some people a while to come around and yet standing your ground and living your life by example is all you can really do. If they miss out on your real life that's thier fault, not yours.
Mwah and congrats babydoll,
kb

Chef TinaMarie said...

Thanx for the visit to my site...Thought I'd come check your's out...I have tears in my eyes. I'm so glad things turned out the way they did for you after all these years with your family!!!...My partner's family is the same way...I wish they would come around as yours has.

Kat said...

THAT IS SO AWESOME!

As Tina mentioned above....my story is identical to yours, except my family never came around....I am sooooooo glad yours did!

I think more then people who have not experienced what you and I have (with very traditional, old country parents), I understand and feeeeel your joy.....I'm glad you shared this.

YAY!!! Wish you could see the HUGE smile on my face.

spoonycongee said...

Congrats! you're right, all you really wanted was to have your choice and relationship with RB to be acknowledged. it's so simple and I'm so glad you got it, YAY!!!

epicurist said...

Alan - My brother and sister-on-law have always been very generous people. One of the most giving people I know, but this topped them all.

angel - Thanks, I'm feeling pretty awesome about it all.

tornwordo - definitely!

Polt - Trust me, your not the only perverted mind out there. Not to quash your fantasies, but nothing ever happened ::sigh::

Dickeybird - equality and recognition. It makes the world of difference.

R.J. I certainly hope so. :)

NOAU - I felt the same way, and still do with other family members, but I figure it's going to take time for them to come around, and if they don't it will be sad, but their loss.

ink - Awww, sorry. ::tissue:: and thank you for the sweet words. :)

Nakedboy - They are certainly getting there. Just gotta work on the parents again, though I must admit my mother and sister-in-law did go to watch the Pride parade last year.

Thom - Thanks Thom, it was a special moment for me.

Snooze - that could very well be true. Maybe they know they have no choice but to try now.

Brad - As I get older, family means a lot more to me.

Catshark - Thanks babes.

Knottyboy - ::muah back:: It is their loss, isn't it??! How could they miss out on all the fabulousness that comes with epicurist? LOL

Chef TinaMarie - Thanks Tina. Maybe oneday Kats family will. By the way, I dreamt about the baked (not-fried) chicken last night. I woke up drooling.

Kat - I may not see it, but I can feel it. :)

spoonycongee - so am I! :)Thanks!

Dantallion said...

Bastard - you made me get all misty. I feel so genuinely happy for you that what seemed impossible for so long has now become reality, and at the same time, I feel that terrible tinge of regret and envy that I'll never have that experience with my own family. Great post, Epi.

EarthMother said...

What a great post. It made me want to cry. I'm so happy for you. It must have been the best BBQ you've ever been to. What a truly amazing and wonderful brother and sister-in-law you have!

CoffeeDog said...

So nice to be accepted as part of the family!

jadedmonkey said...

What a wonderful post! Thanks for that.
I hope I can have a similar experience.

Wanton Wonton said...

that was beautiful...