Thursday, June 26, 2008

Gaynerations

Generational changes have been on my mind of late. Being a Utah (ex-)Mormon boy, of course, one cannot go too far back, on all sides of my family, before running into pioneers and polygamists. I see my last name comes from a Jacob, baptized into the LDS church in 1833. By his daughter's account he was married to 4 wives, the last 3 marriages performed by the president of his church. He was arrested for polygamy, "went through the persecution of the saints, and knew the pioneer life in its raw."

But it’s not more than a generation after those pioneering progenitors that hints of homosexuals start popping up—The man who never married and is photographed next to his mother looking much too dapper for his time and place, or the woman with no children but a number of sister wives. All that, of course, is speculation; gays were very well hidden back then. There were no gay people in the good old pioneer days, just as there are none currently residing in Iran.

The first gay man I can indirectly verify in my family has to be my great uncle Jack. Sad story, that. I’m sure I benefited for his tragedy in the way it softened my now departed grandfather, the man who baptized me; still, it’s very sad to think of the life of gay men back then. From Jack I can pick out a bunch. There are a handful of gay aunts, uncles, and cousins. Some are out and open and others are quietly gay. One still feels the need to call his partner his “business” partner in their small town. He still lives under some of the pressures that my great uncle faced, but has found a compromise that works for him. They are almost all, in that generation before me, still somewhat skittish about talking of their orientation, even though they’ve made it apparent.

And no worries, I’m not outing anyone. I’ve enough family that to say some are gay is next to saying there’s a gay man somewhere in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (not that I'm saying I know one of those too... [cue ominous minor organ chord]).

When I came out, I knew none of this, of course. I thought I was the homosexual in state of Utah. It was about a couple years after I came out to everyone when family began coming up to me to express our similarity. Some would come out somberly, with a hand on my arm, and a difficult paragraph about their experiences. Something like, “I know what you’re going through. I have cancer too.” Others just let it blurt out with a joke. One just laughed and said after dropping vague, confusing hints all day, “You didn’t think you were the only one in the family, did you?” as if I would have been egotistical enough to imagine that (Err… I did imagine that I was, though).

To the point, I'm glad they're their, as family, in my genealogy. But, as gay family, I was never given the opportunity to learn from them, until after I had my coming out trials settled and didn't need help, particularly from those still, sadly, much more closeted and scarred than I was.

Now, regarding the next generation, I am an uncle more than 30 times over and have many younger family members of other sorts. They all know I'm gay; they all know Rob and I are married, and that their cousins have two dads. And I know some of them are gay too, even if they don't, yet. Some of them are just now old enough to head off to missions, get married, and, it turns out, come to terms with their orientation.

I'll leave even gender out of this, just in case, but the first relative of that next generation has recently come out to our family. I think I imagined helping them through those tough times in a way I wasn't helped, but it didn't work out that way. They struggled on their own, and then came out to my parents, and eventually us. I was heartened to be told we were a big help, just by us being here and paving the way in the family, but still I was a bit sad they didn't think they could come to me sooner.

When I think on it more, though, I don't think I would have either, even if I knew of my gay relatives. Some fights really have to be your own, and in that state you don't really want influence as you don't really know where you should end up. At least I could be there at the finish line. They asked to join us for their first Pride festival a couple weeks ago, and they did with our whole group, which included other family, friends and some mohos. I hope it wasn't intimidating.

Anyway, where was this going? I'm not sure. Something about generations?...

Eh, I'm tired having been kept up most of last night with one of my kid's foot stubbornly pressing on my ribs... Anyway, it will be interesting how the rest of that next generation handle their orientation; the fact that they are now entering gay adulthood gives new urgency for me in my [gulp] activism. Also, I'd pay big bucks to read the genealogical accounts of my generation 200 years from now, from the perspective of our great great grandkids. I wonder if Jacob and his four wives ever imagined I, their progeny, would be thumbing through his life story... and posting about it on my blog, with my husband at home taking care of our two children?

Probably not...

4 comments:

Java said...

I feel sad for your Uncle Jack, and all the others like him who were (and are) not allowed to be who they really are. You are out and proud, which is wonderful, and indeed it seems your uncle helped pave the way for you to be able to be honest about who you are.
But there is still such a long way to go. I hope the journey isn't too harsh.

[kɹeɪ̯g̊] said...

I've often wondered who else in my rather large extended family is also gay. So far, I'm the only one who is out. I'm quite certain that I would have heard if someone else were out - my family, like most, being very gossipy.

I do know of one cousin who is somewhat bi, but besides me and a couple other people no one else in the family knows that, so I guess it is possible that others are secretly GLBT and/or Q as well.

I wonder how long it will be until the (inevitable) next person in the family comes out.

Scot said...

"But there is still such a long way to go."

Indeed, and thank you, Java.

Craig: "I wonder how long it will be until the (inevitable) next person in the family comes out."

Do you think they'd approach you while coming to terms with it, or was that just me?

[kɹeɪ̯g̊] said...

I think they may. I guess it just depends on who it turns out to be.