Coming out to my family was a great hurdle to get past, though I am incredibly lucky to have welcoming family and friends. Still, when I came out I was selective with my words. I didn’t say, “hey everyone, surprise I’m a lesbian!” No I would never say that, not even now. I don’t like the way labels make me feel restricted. Instead I decided to just tell everyone that I “date girls.” It was easier for me to say the words that way instead of making it sound more confined. So when my girlfriend and I started talking about getting married, I knew a more serious conversation with my family was on the horizon.
I had only technically been “out” for just over a year when I met my now fiancée. Though my family was open and accepting, it was still a new concept for them. My fiancée and I decided to talk to our families about our plans to get married when we visited them for the holidays. With this in mind, I nervously made my way over to my parent’s house for Christmas Eve celebrations. I had already told my sister, who was extremely happy and excited because she loves my fiancée, which is amazing because my sister rarely likes anyone and won’t ever pretend she likes someone, it must be a sign. She warned me that she got me a gift I could use to make the announcement on Christmas Eve, but of course she wouldn’t tell me what it was. I began having second thoughts about telling everyone. There had not yet been an official proposal; we hadn’t even looked at rings yet. It was just us talking about it at this point, no planning yet. Did I really need to say something? What if it turns everything into an unbelievably awkward holiday? Going from “hey I’m dating women” to “you know how you’ve been wondering for the last ten years when I would finally get married? SURPRISE! And oh yeah there is no man in this equation.” is quite a transition. My dad had asked more than once when someone I date will be good enough for me to marry. Not because he thought they weren’t good enough, but because I kept braking things off with marry-able men. Hmm maybe that should have been a hint.
So when the time came to open presents I was nervous when my sister handed me my gift. I discretely opened it as she looked on with her huge smile waiting to see my reaction. Maybe if I just look at it and not react no one will see it and I can quickly stash it away. I opened it up and pulled out a t-shirt. Uh oh I had to completely unfold it to even see the surprise. My stepmom was sitting next to me, and my dad was across from me. I thought maybe the kids opening gifts would keep them distracted. I unfolded the shirt and it said, “I’m Getting Married Bitches!” I couldn’t help but smile and laugh. My stepmom peered over my shoulder and read it. My stomach dropped and I quickly balled the shirt up. She leaned over and hugged me and said, “congratulations!” That caught my dad’s attention and he looked over in confusion as to why I would be getting congratulated. I quickly give him a glance at the shirt and put it back in the bag and changed the subject. I wasn’t ready to find out what their complete reaction would be. I didn’t bring it up again the rest of the visit, and neither did anyone else.
I could only imagine what my dad was thinking. He’s not one to really have a long drawn out talk about the situation. When I came out it took him a few weeks to talk to me about it and let me know that he is okay with it, though the conversation also included his theory about why I am dating women. You know, because I witnessed my mom’s abusive relationship as a child and it surely gave me “the gay!” So I was nervously thinking about how to bring it up to him again so he would know that my relationship is serious, and we really are getting married. That chance came sooner than I had expected.
I went out to visit again to meet my dad and sisters for dinner. By this time my fiancée and I had looked at rings, she had told her family, and the ball had begun rolling. I needed to say something now so there wasn’t complete shock when the official engagement happened. What better way than to do it over pizza? So with my typical indirect way of handling things that make me nervous, I managed to slip out in between bites that we had gone ring shopping, and I picked out my ring. Pause, reaction?, nothing, at least not from my dad, though my sisters and I proceeded to talk about wedding plans and flowers and all of the fun wedding details. We even went back to the house and talked about dresses for another hour. In the back of my mind I was wondering what thoughts were going through my dad’s head. Was he disappointed that I was finally getting married and it didn’t fit the vision he had for my wedding? Was he trying to not ask me all of the questions he may have been thinking: Why? Are you sure? You’re never dating a man again? None of these questions were ever said. But when I finally left their house that night my dad walked me to the door and hugged me extra tight, then he walked me to my car and hugged me again. That is all I needed. There didn’t need to be words. My family is not a physical huggy affectionate family. And, as cliché as it sounds, actions will always speak louder than words. My dad’s actions let me know that he is happy that I found the love I had been waiting for, and in those unexpected but much needed hugs I felt his genuine love and happiness for me. I am truly grateful to have a family that loves that I have found my love of a lifetime!
Dawn is a Chicago area native and loves the city she calls home. With a strong passion for both the field of psychology and LGBT issues, she strives to combine the two through gender and sexuality research. As the Women’s Outreach Chair for the Illinois chapter of the Human Rights Campaign she reaches out to the lesbian community to further their involvement in the fight for equality. Whether putting on fundraisers or spreading the word about equality at local festivals, she is always thinking of new ways to serve the LGBT community. When not doing research or fighting for equal rights, she loves to take long walks around the city, enjoy the street festivals, go camping, and hunt for the best Persian food in Chicago!