20 November 2008

On Coming Out to Your Grandmother

My friend Julia and I were talking the other day, and she shared peices of the following story with me. I was genuinely moved by her words - they illicited memories of my life with my Dad's mom. My grandmother knew I was gay from the get-go, and she supported me fully. I lost her when I was 21. I was so inspired by Julia's story that I asked her to write it down. Here it is, with her permission - enjoy:

"To say that I just came out to my grandmother would be a misnomer since I actually came out to her last week. However, with the onset of dementia and recent change of blood pressure medication, I was certain during our initial conversation that given 20 minutes she would forget that I was gay. And she did. Within 15 minutes she had forgotten that she had already eaten dinner, taken her medicine, and been a very supportive, albeit incoherent, Nana of a lesbian granddaughter. So one can imagine my surprise when watching CNN with her tonight, and having a rather lucid evening, that she mentioned she felt “just plain awful” about that Proposition 8 business. It was clear she didn’t recall our previous dialogue but was certainly ready to discuss the civil rights implications of the bill. In her articulate but soft-spoken manner that I miss incredibly, my Nana sat beside me on the couch and rattled off arguments about civics and equal rights that would make any member of the lgbt community proud. Her main concern was about how a government by the people and for the people could discriminate against so many of the people. God bless you Nana. The truth is, I have never been prouder to be a lesbian, or to be the much loved curly-headed-mater-picker granddaughter of such an intelligent and well-expressed Nana. Consequently, although I could write pages on how amazing this second conversation was and how my grandmother allayed my every fear, I have books to read, papers to write, and literally, miles to go before I sleep, so……….how about a top ten list of things Nana said instead?
Top 10 Comments from Nana when I told her I was a Lesbian

1. You will always be my granddaughter.

2. You can bring any woman you want home with you and don’t worry I will still fix you cornbread, turnip greens, and boiled cabbage.

3. I never could pretend to be anything I wasn’t….so you shouldn’t pretend any longer.

4. Julia, do you think Obama’s wife is pregnant? (Proof positive that sometimes there are more important discussions than whether or not you’re gay!)

5. Everyone deserves the opportunity to spend their lives with the person that makes them happy and treats them kindly. (Why didn’t I come out to her sooner?)

6. But now wait a minute…..how will I get my curly-headed grandbabies?

7. (In answer to #6) Well, I guess you could get invitro fertilized like our cows!

8. Good Lord, he’s got on a black suit, a blue stripped shirt, and a red paisley tie. He looks worse than I do and I didn’t even curl my hair today. (Comment about Bill Clinton’s campaign manager and further proof that somewhere in my DNA is a fashion goddess just trying to get out.)

9. This isn’t about politics. This is about you. (In answer to my question about whether this meant she was a liberal.)

10. Well, you’ve certainly been beat over the head with the Bible enough to know what it says, and honey, it’s up to you because there are a lot more important things to worry about than what other people think.

Nana came out with several other one-liners…it’s nobody’s business, you deserve to be loved, did we get everything for Thanksgiving, just lie if you have to, she might be a preacher but she’s not perfect,…but my favorite three comments were…

a. Now, does this explain why you’ve been in college for seven years and you still can’t sew on a button? (Four quilts Nana, four!)

b. Well your mama never really did care much about you anyhow. (Really, I hadn’t noticed!)
c. What kind of government have we got anyway? That George Bush has just about ruined this country.

Amen Nana…Amen."


techfun said...

Thats just wonderful.

I lost my maternal grandmother almost two years ago now. She also suffered dementia at the end but through that she always remembered me as her baby boy. She raised me from birth until the age of three as my mother went through a messy divorce, new pregnancy, and new marriage.

Despite living several hundred miles apart, for several years in my teens she was the only family member that I was out to. When my mom finally found out, she - in her deeply self righteous and religious manner - went a bit crazy.

My mom could have seethed and felt victimized (because somehow my being gay was all about her) for years if she had been smart enough to not turn to my grandmother (her mother) for sympathy.

My grandmother stood up for me and told my mom exactly what she could do with her attitude and went on to point out that I was the only one of her sons who wasn't into drugs, hadn't accidentally impregnated a girl, and was polite enough to open doors for people and say yes sir ad yes ma'am.

Once she got off the phone with my mom she got on the line with all my aunts and uncles and made it clear to them that regardless of what my mother had to say abut the matter, that they had best treat me right if they knew what was good for them.

Judy said...

my mom is a 91 year old southerner. I love that old school populist way of seeing the world. I love that golden thread value of family that cuts through every thing else.
sweet post, thanks!