Dedicated to All My Loves
My life has been nothing short of interesting. Really, from the beginning. Of course, I didn’t know that from the beginning, especially when I was solely focused on surviving what I thought was a tormented youth (I had it so good). My mom’s family, in particular, provided so many of the interesting stories. The oldest of five, my mom was more like a second mom to all of her brothers and sisters. She was 10 years older than her youngest siblings, sisters – (fraternal) twins. In between there were two brothers (I’ve talked about Jon here in a previous post; Bruce was second in line to my mom). Growing up, I didn’t really think anything was out of the ordinary. My aunts were younger. In some ways, they were so playful it was like having older sisters. My uncle Jon was a complete character – he sang, he danced, he was a comedian by birth. He could also break dance. Clearly, I thought he was awesome.
My aunts did different things – one was a manager for a restaurant chain. The other worked at the West Miami Rec Center for years until establishing herself within the ranks of the Post Office. Though twins, they couldn’t be more different. Something was, however, the same early on: they both had roommates who were women. “Roommates” was the word my parents insisted on using for years. At some point, even as a kid, you just accept that your family is with whoever they’re with (at least for me, that’s how it went). I knew that both of my aunts were “with” women. It didn’t faze me. For me, this was another normal part of life. Their roommates (their partners) were also my aunts.
I saw hints of confirmation in other ways and shapes, but I wouldn’t know what those things meant for years: pink triangles, rainbows, other symbols. I can’t say I remember where I saw all of these things, though I do remember them being artifacts normal to the décor of my aunts’ various homes (they would live in several different places over times, both in and outside of Miami). Perhaps they lived more so in my one aunt’s house than the other… wherever they were, I remember small glimpses them.
And my uncle Jon, the person who took complete delight in beating me at every board game as a child (I would run off, crying, most of the time in response to his cruelty; still, I wanted to be with him as much as possible), couldn’t even try to conceal his flamboyance. They – and he – just were. I knew he dressed as a woman from time to time (told to me by my aunts), knew he had been on Broadway, remember visiting him when his show Sugar Babies came to South Florida and seeing him in full make up. Again, I can’t remember any of that having an effect on me – ever. Jon as himself was just a part of what I knew growing up. I loved him for being all of the colorful things that he always was; to this day, I can’t say I know many people who fully embrace themselves with quite the same level of confidence. I loved my aunts and uncle to the point of having total meltdowns whenever they had to leave.
As I got older, I would start to put some of the pieces together. I thought it was fascinating, really, that my mom would have five siblings of which three would be gay or lesbian (or bi). My friends marveled at my family too. Perhaps part of it was growing up in Miami. Again, nothing seemed out of the ordinary to us (my friends and me) other than having a different life story which was construed as something “cool” in my circle (inclusive of many stories, not just the one I’m telling here). My aunts and uncle may not have always viewed their lives this way (in fact, I am sure they didn’t), but I would grow up to consider myself lucky.
It doesn’t surprise me that I would end up in a profession where so many of my close friends identify along the spectrum of LGBTQA2S… it is another part of my life that has never known or been any different. Higher Ed has been an extension of what I grew up thinking was already normal: that people loved and could love differently. When you grow up or develop as a part of something and it’s all you know, there is no deviance. The deviant pieces of society to me, really, are when and where people may not accept someone based on their gender expression, identity or sexual orientation. Humanity’s mosaic has a million pieces.
It’s all the same: LOVE.
Footnote: and today, 6/26/15, #lovewins. This is a profound victory for civil rights and our country, in general. http://time.com/3937244/supreme-court-gay-marriage-decision/