class: independent study
summary: hateful anti-religious blather about ronnie's funeral and homo love.
Really, these people are almost strangers to me now, but still, I’m obliged to hug them, give them a sympathetic smile and softly ask, “How are you doing?”
Those close to Ronnie offer me a weary nod in return and an answer meant to keep me from worrying while those who show up to the funeral to pay respect have an unspoken enthusiasm the others lack. It’s obvious that their life isn’t all too affected by the loss as they update me on their personal family matters — children, career changes, marriages. After all, I’m in the same figurative boat as them. By mid-afternoon, my mother, grandmother and I will be traveling the four hour drive back to Michigan and continue on as usual.
Still, I’m on edge. This side of the family consists of highly devoted Christians. The fact that I’m agnostic-leaning-towards-atheist is enough to earn me long stares of either contempt or incredulousness, but that can be shrugged off easily. Religion isn’t important to me, so any negative reactions would attack my beliefs (or lack thereof) but wouldn’t hurt me personally.
Love, however, is.
Since last visiting this bundle of blood ties a few years ago, I’ve discovered my sexuality. I consider myself to be about a 4 on the Kinsey scale — “predominately homosexual but more than incidentally heterosexual.” In other words, a bisexual who leans more towards other girls. I‘ve only reached this conclusion after about two years of casual discovery. Last year, before I had even truly understood my sexuality, one of my best friends and I became an exclusive long-distance couple. She’s in California, I’m in Michigan. Only within the past six months have I realized that, while guys can be moderately attractive, their general personalities — young and old — are not my cup of tea.
Thus, I’m practically the enemy of these people. And for what reason? Because I fell in love with a girl who treats me well and makes me happy? How, in any world, is that a valid reason to damn me?
Is it because I’m one of the factors corrupting this nation? I’m not. I’m living, I’m loving, I’m comfortable in my own skin for the first time.
What am I doing wrong?
I half-expect something to happen, but after one day of showing, the only thing remotely different was an aunt I can’t remember coming up to my mother and I to tell us about her life. The topic turned to offspring and she looked at us hesitantly for a second, like she was wondering whether or not to trust us.
Her son had finally decided to go through with transitioning. This greatly interested me as my girlfriend had been transgendered herself. She, unlike my cousin, had decided to stay female. I would love her either way, but the way my aunt dropped her voice at the “T-word” makes me wonder if she still loved her child the same way she did before and my heart sank.
My aunt admitted she was wary at first, but eventually gave in, committing herself to the concept of “if she’s happy, I’m happy.” My grin spread across my face in an instant and I broke my traditional role of a quiet daughter to interrupt and tell her that I was so glad she accepted her because too many people don’t.
Of course, she was trying to inform us before rumors of “Did you know that Little Maryann's son is a tranny?” spread and grew horribly distorted, but I still felt better knowing that someone, someone in this family was willing to put aside their beliefs for love.
I left the showing that night feeling less cynical than when I arrived.
The funeral, however, destroys optimism that within minutes.
Although I try to respect other’s religions, I can’t help feeling my anger rise as the clergyman speaks. He says nothing about Ronnie other than the fact that he was a good Christian. It was as if following God was the only thing he succeeded at, like it was the only thing he should be remembered for.
In fact, I didn’t even know Ronnie was that devoted of a Christian. I knew he and his extremely large family focused on something that I didn’t, but he never seemed to be very outward about it.
I can only remember swimming with him, drinking iced tea, and finding his buttermints in the basement. He spoiled me like my own grandfather did because he saw me so rarely but still wanted to let me know I was loved as family. Ronnie always smiled in a crinkled, happy cat kind of fashion and that upturn of the lips was never anything less than genuine.
Ronnie was a good man before he was a good Christian.
Now the clergyman is off on a tangent, telling us how we too can go to Heaven and feel a completeness that only the Lord can provide. It isn’t even about Ronnie anymore. He keeps putting emphasis on the word “right” — Ronnie was the right kind of Christian, the right kind of person, the Christian way is the right way to live, so and so forth.
I can’t stand it. I tug on my heart-shaped necklace roughly and play with the two rings on my right ring finger, twisting them until the area just above my knuckle turns red.
The first ring is a simple silver band. A promise ring. Ashley has a similar one. We bought the originals while we were together for a few days in summer. Mediocre merchandise from Six Flags shouldn’t have meant so much to me, but when I accidentally lost it after mowing the grass, I was devastated. My mom ordered me another and although it looks exactly the same, it’s from a different company. It lacks the little bow and arrow detail that was etched inside of the band. Sometimes I forget that it isn’t the first one and sometimes I remember. When I do, I can feel a twang of irresponsibility at a stupid mistake and the fact that I couldn‘t find it in my yard despite hours of searching.
The second ring is my senior class ring. It’s a sign I’m growing up fast, faster than I can handle. I’m becoming a young woman at an alarming pace while still trying to grasp the threads of childhood being forcibly pulled out of my hands. Those same stupid mistakes, those innocent accidents are no longer excused because I supposedly, without a doubt know better. As if my blunders are done on purpose.
Eventually I start to tap my foot in annoyance and my entire body jolts in time.
The last time I reacted to a situation like this was in Sociology, junior year. The class had just finished talking about prejudice and discrimination and one of the senior girls who I knew to be religious had chimed in proudly, “I’m non-prejudice and non-discriminatory!”
Not long after, we jumped on the topic of homosexuality and she declared loudly, “Being gay is just a fad! I mean…you don’t see gay old people, do you?”
A discussion followed without a positive word. I yanked at my “Ashton necklace,” a simple curved row of fake diamonds that I used to remind me of her, and sat there in silence, listening to the ignorance and intolerance that these people shouted and wondered if someone could be any less hypocritical.
I couldn’t say a word then. I was too shy, too preoccupied on what these people thought of me to point out their gross contradiction.
Now, having matured, I’ve gone from viewing my sexuality as a secret best kept to landing in a happy medium, seeing it as something I needn’t shout from the rooftops or keep under lock and key. People don’t have to know, but if they want to with valid reason, I’ll tell with a minimum amount of embarrassment. (Then again, I also blush when I ask to borrow a pencil.)
However, if the people in this room knew about me, I don’t think any of them would speak to me again. They brag, “I don’t know any gay people.”
You’re sitting with one. You had dinner with her last night. You fed her. You teased her and she let it all roll off her back in good humor. You’ve hugged her countless times in the past two days and you love her as long as she’s straight.
Apathetic towards negative emotions , I’m the only person who isn’t sniffling or dabbing at tears. Instead, I’m actually angry for one of the first few times in my life.
If this lifestyle is so right, why does it create so much hate? They preach about love. Why are they so willing to abandon me over an aspect that does not influence how I treat people? [blah blah adding things here tomorrow]
I won’t have these people tell me I’m wrong — not for believing in something other than them and especially not for loving someone as a person, not a gender.