I'm currently on a Megabus, on my way back to Maine. I spent the past weekend in Manhattan with my mother and little sister. Visiting with my family can be difficult - they don't really know (or ask) about the majority of what I do with my life. This makes conversation trying and tiring, and it's a lot of listening and asking questions on my part.
For the most part, this sort of conversational dance isn't new. Since I was very young, my rule has been, "less is more." My family didn't talk about sexuality. We didn't talk about complicated situations. We don't discuss politics, or religion. I developed, at a young age, the ability to give enough information to satisfy without going into explicit detail.
Example: for a while, I worked as the Communications Director of a nonprofit. Specifically, a nonprofit that did voting advocacy work with disenfranchised youth of color. At family gatherings, when asked, "So, what are you doing now?" I would say, "I'm the Communications Director of a nonprofit." If pressed further, I'd say, "Oh, we work with young people." If further, "We work on local issues." And, if it ever got that far, "Oh, on voting issues."
Inevitably, this would lead someone in my ridiculous bio-family to say something to the effect of, "OH MY, well, you know Obama won because of the BLACK VOTE, RIGHT?"
Case. In. Point. Less information is best.
Visiting this weekend with my mother and sister, I didn't do much talking. I don't tend to in family situations. And the conversations that did occur were exhausting. How do I explain to my family that, actually, I'm doing really relevant work? It's just not, you know, the work they imagine? I received a lot of misplaced but well-intentioned lectures about the "direction of my life."
By the time Saturday rolled around, I was beginning to feel a loss of self. I began to take their advice seriously; I began to believe I was directionless and unmotivated.
Then: I went to Submit Party in Brooklyn with my sash-wife, Sara Vibes, and her girlfriend, Indigo.
Thank goodness for my leatherfolk. I mean, seriously. It helped to be with friends and chosen family. And the darkness of the basement dungeon, lit only by red florescents, helped!
Yes, it totally soothed my ego to be announced at the party. I spent the three days before that evening being questioned about my own authority in my own life. But it wasn't about being celebrated for a title. I spent almost four hours talking to amazing, incredible people. My peers. My real community, and in essence, my real family. I immediately felt at ease. I was with my people. We don't always agree on everything, but we come from a place of mutual respect, integrity, and honesty. I could breathe.
So, thank you. Thank you for looking me in the eyes when I speak. Thank you for truly listening, and being available. Thank you for asking the right questions, but also challenging me on my own stuff in a way that is supportive and from a place of love. Leatherpeople, you rock my socks.