Happy 2013! Let's start the year with a late-blooming coming out story that proves once again that sometimes, silence equals distance; truth deepens love.
Until last year, my 50th, I had never come out to my father's big Irish Catholic family. My father's been dead for 12 years. Sadly I came out--to myself and the world--after he died. I think he would have been very happy for me; his life was always about journey, not judgement.
His family is a big, warm, loving group of folks who believe in service--they are teachers, nurses, EMTs and guidance counselors. They are also conservative, ranging from mostly moderate Republicans to one or two hard-core tea partiers and one case of mind-bending intolerance.
My kids and I see them once a year at the annual Christmas party so I gave myself all of the usual excuses--we only see them once a year, it will only cause conflict, etc. I showed up "single," year after year, and thought I was artfully deflecting any questions about my personal life.
Then Aunt Kay--one of my favorite people in the world--died. At her funeral my cousin came up to me and said she wanted to throw a big party for my daughter's high school graduation. "Tell Kate to bring her boyfriend....and you--isn't there someone special in your life?" "No..." I mumbled.
She took me by the shoulders and looked me straight in the eye:
"You know, don't you, that it doesn't matter whether they wear slacks or a skirt. We love you and we want you to be happy."
I hugged her, and choked out thanks. Since then, they all know I have found love. They have all (ok, except for the mind-bending intolerant one) expressed their great love, support and happiness for me.
At 51, I have come out to my extended family; they have embraced me with overwhelming love--not just for finding love, but for finding myself as well.
And I'm pretty sure, even if I chose to wear these slacks, they would still stand up and cheer.