Inclusion and Exclusion in Our Daily Lives
PART V: FAMILY & HISTORY
I NEVER KNOW WHOSE SISTER IS A LESBIAN
Until I put on the perky face And babble about how my new Grandbaby has two mommies And isn’t it wonderful.
I hear the muttered “lesbians should have cats,” Don’t miss the tight lips, the averted look Indicating that the miracle of a child’s birth Is only wondrous when the sperm is delivered Direct By an identifiable male, Even one who has made but a cameo appearance in the backseat of a Ford Escort.
More often than you’d think, though, Someone murmurs “My sister’s a lesbian, you know.” And then, released, we revel in Life entrusted to our hands, A donor’s gift, Bravery, Hope, The spring that keeps its promise every time, Despite tight lips.
What is the role of the fellow traveler in expanding acceptance for people who have been stigmatized?
Have you ever helped reframe a social issue in this way—by openly delighting in their presence in your life?
For the greater part of my life neither I nor those I loved were ever ostracized or made to feel societal scorn. I was brought up in a nice town, in a comfortable home with loving parents. Well into my mature years my family and I were, in all observable ways, mainstream. It was when my daughter Lauren revealed that she was homosexual that bigotry and prejudice became unexpected intruders in our lives.
Status Report: Lauren has been legally married in Canada for some six years now and she and her spouse have two amazing children. She is an internationally recognized neuroscientist. She’s funny. She phones her mother regularly. She’s a lesbian. She’s my beautiful child. I could not love her more.
Once I was the acknowledged mother of a lesbian, I felt it important to use my newfound authority to advance the cause of equality under the law for gay people, and this has led to my speaking at numerous legislative hearings. Those hearings are always packed, and the wait for my name to be called is often long, so I get to hear a lot of testimony from those who are opposed to the equality I seek. I take their comments quite personally. They are, after all, talking about my daughter. Here’s what they say.
Homosexuals must not be allowed to marry because they are by nature unable to be monogamous. Monogamy is unknown in the gay community. They are inherently promiscuous. They are immoral people who have chosen to live a lifestyle of perversion. They are Intrinsically Disordered. Tolerance for these people will be taught in the schools and our children will be corrupted..
Immoral? Perverted? Intrinsically Disordered? My child? How dare they!
Unless you have had a similar experience, you may not be able to imagine what it is like for me to sit in the midst of people engaged in verbally spitting on my daughter and her lovely little family. Frustrating and anguishing as all the public rhetoric is, it is not the worst thing. I can view the public viciousness as impersonal academic exercise. What cuts me most deeply, what no amount of reasoning with myself has eased, is the non-acceptance of Lauren, the hostility to her marriage and her beautiful children by people I had thought to be friends; and, a source of true, non-healing grief and bewilderment to me is that some of these people are family members.
Like many (if not most) people who write, I feel compelled to explore the themes that have informed my most deeply felt experiences, the business with which I have not finished, the persistent scraps of thought, the words that keep whispering in me. All of these elements figure in I Never Know Whose Sister Is A Lesbian. The poem has been a way of communicating my collision with bigotry, the sense of alienation it has engendered, and the wondrous release when understanding and acceptance have been offered. I hope that the poem can stand on its own; but aside from that, I share it in an attempt to raise the consciousness of those who would be cavalier in their exclusion of others, to encourage those who might hesitate to stand with the marginalized to see such support for the life-affirming kindness that it is. As I worked on the poem, I did come to consider that the exclusion I have experienced has not been a deliberately cruel attempt to devalue my family but rather is the result of a constriction of thought and spirit which has, unfortunately, trumped loving charity. Motivation notwithstanding, the hurt is the same. The scars remain.
I have expressed to gay friends my conviction that simply by living their lives with joy and dignity they can teach the world what it needs to know. I do believe that they cannot do it alone, however. The warm-hearted acceptance by allies who, like the grandmother in the poem, openly embrace the lives of those shunned by others presents affirmation powerful enough to dry a tear; affirmation powerful enough to eventually change the world.
I hope I change minds by telling my stories. I assume that those to whom I speak have a hard time resisting tales of a loving family of two mommies and their enchanting, incredible children. I hope I’ve been able, through my poetry as well as through personal witness and public activism, to give a bit of encouragement to those who have been told they are unworthy of a place at the table. I hope I’ve been able at least to dry a tear.
ALEXANDRINA SERGIO’s poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Long River Run, Caduceus, Connecticut River Review, Encore and anthologies Wisdom of Our Mothers (Familia Books) , Love After 70 (Wising Up Press) and Double Lives, Reinvention, and Those We Leave Behind (Wising Up Press). Her work has been performed by a professional stage company, was awarded first place in a 2007 Connecticut Senior Poetry Contest, and took second place in the 2008 NFSPS Dorman John Grace Memorial Contest. A collection of her work, My Daughter Is Drummer in the Rock 'N Roll Band (Antrim House) was published in 2009.