My sister came out when she was eighteen.
With one foot already out the door to the real world, my parents expedited the process by helping her other foot along. They gave her twenty four hours to collect her things and get out. They kicked her out of the house for no other reason than she did not jibe with their expectations.
Never mind that she was old enough to vote, drive, work . . never mind that it was her life. They treated her ‘decision’ to choose a gay lifestyle as if it were an indictment on their parental resumes. The way they saw it, my sister’s announcement was their loss, an unforgivable blight, a forever after failing grade on their report cards.
My sister had created a conflagration out of the promised future they had worked so hard to attain for themselves. Their cold denouncement of her lifestyle and the resultant consequences were vicious proof of their self absorbed mythology. Being gay meant they had to lie to their friends. Gone were the staples they accorded under the purview of heterosexuality- such as weddings, first homes and baby showers.
I remember getting the frantic early morning phone call from my mother, pleading with me to talk some sense into my wild child sister. Never mind that her unforgivable crime was not a crime at all. And never mind my response, and what happened from there and for a while after.
The greatest shame of the phone call I placed to my sister that morning, comes from the fact that truthfully? I knew I was wrong and I went ahead and condemned her anyway.
My regrettable decision had everything to do with the tenuous relationship I had with my father. Siding with him meant a closeness we otherwise did not possess. To this day, the incongruity of my reasoning astounds me. I wasn’t choosing love, just the opposite.
I wasn’t gaining my parents, I was losing a sister.
I’m sure Jason Collins has stories like this one. Times when he felt like an island in the middle of no place good. Times when a family member or loved one turned against him out of some misguided familial obligation or because the Bible told them so.
Collins was mostly welcomed by the fraternal order of professional athletes last week, and that’s awesome. But really, when did pro sports become the moral arbiter? Pro sports is a world where drug use, assault, adultery, rape and even murder are equal partners with wins and losses, and they’re giving Jason Collins their blessings?
I’m sure Collins is thankful for the welcoming committee, but the irony of all those flowery speeches brought to mind another time. My sister’s story. Because only in a world where parents and siblings can divorce themselves from blood for selfish reason, can professional athletes pretend to be authorities on positive life choices.
So, life moved on from that forgettable morning when I highjacked my sister’s life and took it for a spin. We got back, and strong, and better. We became best friends and opened a business together for a while. She’s the first person I call on holidays, she’s the last person I talk to on many a night.
My parents came back too, and man, what a whirlwind of change time has added to this bargain. My mother loves having the girls over for dinner now. Sis, her partner and the seven year old beauty they’re raising together. This little girl is a brilliant storm of curls who happens to be blessed with amazing parents.
My little sister, once shunned, has become the intermediary to my less than perfect relationship with my father. She rights me when I’m wrong, because she knows what that looks like first hand. She navigates my moods without flinching and forgives my rants despite the fact they are unceasing and, at times, witless.
I’m grateful for the fact she tolerates me.