Whose life is it anyway?

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.



18 thoughts on “Whose life is it anyway?

  1. I have one daughter Cayman and she is gay. There are two things I want to share with you. First, I wish she would have told me earlier instead of skirting the issue and getting defensive whenever the conversation would invariably be started by me sheepishly saying, “So, are you seeing anyone?” I remember she seemed unhappy and argumentative most of the time. As my only child, I can now understand why…
    The second thing is that upon hearing from her that she had a partner, and then her seeing my positive and supportive reaction, she has been more warmer, happy and closer to me than she ever was. Instead of giving me an obligatory hug when she goes back to her apt., sometimes they’ll last 15-20 seconds followed by many “I love you, Dads” Although our stories are different, I would imagine after reading yours that your sister is as happy now as she’s ever been. I know my daughter is and I couldn’t be more proud of her!
    Thanks for sharing Cayman..

  2. I wanted to post something on Jason Collins when I logged on this morning, and that’s how I worked my way into talking about it. Glad I did so, and glad you were able to take something from it. And I’m glad you shared your story with me.

  3. This is excellent Cayman. You wove your story seamlessly and reminded all of us how far society has come. Growing up in liberal Madison made it easier for many to live with respect. It is still an attractive place for the gay and lesbian community.

  4. Dude I am so glad things have come around for you and everybody. It sounds like you guys have a real cool relationship. The fact that you speak to her almost every night sounds like you’re not just family. You’re friends. Very cool.

  5. So what kind of conversations do you have with your sister about that call from way back when?
    As far as Collins, go him for breaking a stereotype and being himself. Hopefully it will get to the point where no one cares one way or the other.

    • We haven’t talked on that in quite some time. It’s not that we’re ignoring it, but really, when you tell your sister not to call you again (which I did), well…it’s a damn good thing I had a mea culpa to follow that up with. The thing is? She would be there for me no matter what. If I had a time machine, I would go back to that phone conversation, grab the phone from my younger and much dumber self and tell my sister I loved her. Then I would lay out the stupid ass that I used to be.

  6. I’m so glad your story has a happy turn (I won’t say end, because it isn’t the end). I think as time goes on we will grow more tolerant of ‘differences’ and we won’t condemn people for their lifestyles. I have to believe that, because the opposite scenario is too depressing.

    When we add challenges to families such as homosexuality, we are really putting human beings to the test. I don’t freaking give two shits what the government says about gay rights. Issues like this start with families. That’s where we have the power to do the right thing and pass it on.

    • The reconciliation is hard to figure into words without a lot of my writer’s prosper throwing it a lending hand. But I’ll do that some time. I appreciate the request.

  7. I read this post a couple of days ago and “liked” it (in truth I LOVED it), but I had to come back and read it again before I could comment on it. Powerful stuff, Cayman, evocatively written. Family has the power to make us or break us. I take this story as evidence of how succeeding generations can make huge changes to the dynamic that came before them.

    Your sister is a remarkable woman. Sounds like you are blessed.

    And for the record, I once made a choice in order to appease my father, when I should have to told him to pound sand. It’s water under a bridge that I never cross anymore, so it’s all good.

    • Mary, I’m not gonna lie. I consider you a trusty fine pen to lean on for a great read. So, when you show up here with words like evocative and powerful, it leaves me bleeding Christmas inside of May. I’m not shitting you, that’s just the truth. Okay, see? I ain’t nearly as poetic as my blog would have you think.
      And yes, my sister is the person I would choose to be if I ever would have chosen to grow up. I love her beyond things I know.
      And for the record, you, my dear reader, are on my ‘Hot’ list now. Don’t worry, it’s not a creepy thing, it’s simply a term of endearment. When you turn 40, I’ll explain…;)

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