SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch Fall 2015 Personal Memory Ethnographies
Growing up I worshiped my 3 older brothers. They were the coolest people I knew and I wanted to do everything with them. When I moved to California from Pennsylvania my oldest brother, Alan, suddenly moved out. He was 20 at the time and I was 10, I did not quite understand exactly why he moved out but my parents told me that he was an adult and it was time for him to get his own place. Nothing made it seem weird that he moved out. In my head I thought it was awesome that Alan had his own place, his own room, and no parents. I was excited to see his new place.
Growing up I knew I was different, not different like talented but different in a way I felt I shouldn’t be. One day the television was on and Bush announced marriage is between a man and a woman and wanted to look at the best way to enforce that. My father overheard and clearly thought that’s the way it should always be. He mentioned once that we don’t need these people that are sick in the head getting married even if the American Psychological Association claimed that there is no cure for homosexuals. I grew up in a Catholic headstrong household. I felt I shouldn’t belong. At age 20 I knew I couldn’t go on any longer living the way I was, in secret. I knew at the age of 13 that I was gay.
When my family and I moved. I knew that it was the right time to come out. It was a new house, new environment, new me. When I told my mother, after an 8-hour discussion of crying, anger and disappointment my parents ordered me to move out and not to speak to my siblings about it. I knew this would not go down easy, but inside I felt free. I moved out without facing my siblings.
Once night, I was in my brother Joseph’s room lounging on his couch and something spilled out of my mouth: “why hasn’t Alan been around?” Having a sassy attitude I added, “well I mean he could visit us for once!” After I said that I was ready for a good response. My brother looked up from his computer that was playing a video on John Paul’s book enforcing that gay marriage is the new ideology of evil, and said, “Kayla, you don’t know?”
I thought it would be best for my mother to find right time to tell my siblings. Joseph my brother is an understanding person so I figured he would think nothing of it. My sister, Kayla, on the other hand could go either way. She was only 10; she hadn’t fully become herself yet. She had our parents to think for her. I was very close to Joseph and Kayla and I knew they looked up to me. By moving out I knew it gave them time to digest and understand.
I was thinking, did Alan get in a fight with my parents. Did he do something horrible? Then Joseph, trying not to make it a big deal, said, “Did you ever think that Alan was…different?” I was baffled. Joseph continued and said, “Don’t you think it’s weird that Alan likes to dress nice for any occasion?” What does this have to do with anything, I wondered Alan loved nice things; he would always buy the nicest clothes, shoes, and wallets. Sitting there I was puzzled, as Joseph was hesitant to say anything more. Suddenly he said, “Alan is gay.”
I then felt as if I had been struck by lighting. Everything in my adolescent head suddenly did a flash back to every moment with my oldest brother. Nothing felt different about Alan, he is my brother, my role model and he didn’t look or act gay. I didn’t know that this could happen in my family. I had heard about gay men but I thought they all lived together somewhere. How could my brother be one of them?
As years went on by not being connected with my family I felt empty and my life became unstable. I listen to the radio often and one day I heard news about the first judicial statement to permitting marriages of same sex couples in Vermont. I wanted to feel happy that my country was changing but I couldn’t function as well as I wanted because my family is most important. I missed small things in my siblings lives and only attended major events, still with awkward presence. I gained another sister a year later, giving another reason for me to stay outside of the house.
In my family gay meant sin, and my parents wanted nothing to do with homosexual people. It was the sensitive topic of don’t ask, don’t tell. Soon after Joseph told me about Alan, I felt the tension between my parents and Alan. I didn’t know what to think of my brother any more. I had had so many fun memories with him, how could this make him a bad person? As time went by of not talking to my oldest brother I was taught to ignore the situation and pretend that he wasn’t a part of my life. I didn’t quite understand why it had to be that way. I didn’t want to do anything wrong. What my parents told me I thought had to be the only way.
When Joseph turned 16 he started driving and we would hang out from time to time not saying a word about the awkwardness between our family and me. He would tell me about our other siblings and he said that Kayla missed me. It broke my heart. I then asked Joseph to take Kayla with him and made sure to not to tell our parents. When Kayla would come with us either to dinner or a movie I would make sure to never bring up uncomfortable conversations with her. She loved just being around her brothers and didn’t say anything of my sexuality. Our parents soon caught on but said nothing.
A Few years passed and then Kayla was old enough to drive. We would all go out together and she would then take my youngest sister, Katarina. Katarina was 12 years old when Kayla told her about my identity. It made me laugh because that same day I watched Obama announce gay marriage should be granted. He is the first U.S president to embrace rights for gays. As we would hang out I knew they knew about my identity but we wouldn’t talk about it. We would just hang out like old times, as if nothing ever changed.
To this day our routine of hanging out without telling our parents continues. Alan sees our parents around holidays and major events but they keep it to small talk conversations. He seems to be gradually accepting the fact that they might never accept him. But Alan told me that when Pope Francis stated, “Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord? You can’t marginalize these people,” it gave him hope. My siblings and I have come along way and I know Alan is grateful that he has his siblings in his life.
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