A lot of people on Facebook yesterday were marveling at, and laughing about, this leftie idiot‘s ideological derangement and her absolutely appalling Mount-Everest-sized shrill sense of self-entitlement. Her much-enduring and despite-all-her-bullshit loving family has evidently, for years and years, through what must have been a truly dreadful adolescence well into what-ought-to-be adulthood tolerated her vicious politics and humored her sexually perverse nonsense, but those terrible people failed to climb on board the radical LGBTQ&c.&c. train with her and she, they, zir, or ze is finally fed up.
Every Sunday for the last 12 years, I have called my conservative Republican mom and talked to her for upwards of an hour. I tell her about my work, and try to keep her entertained with cheery, funny anecdotes. I share good news and paper over bad. I keep the conversation flowing and effervescent. In each call, I work hard to come across as someone happy, with lots of friends and lots to do, and nothing to complain or cry about.
I have upheld this ritual through breakups, bereavements, depressive episodes, periods of trauma, and years of acute political turmoil. Iâ€™ve only wavered and broken kayfabe a few timesâ€Šâ€”â€Šwhen my dad died, for example, or when Trump was elected. That time, I curled up on a bench and sobbed, begging my conservative mom to understand what her vote had done to me. I shook and sputtered borderline incomprehensible things about how much it hurt for her to vote the way she did, how betrayed I felt as a sexual assault survivor, a trans person, a scientist, or a person who needs birth control.
She believed we could agree to disagree, so long as we never discussed or even thought about our disagreements.
She reacted with the same equanimity she always projects when unwanted emotions rear their needy heads. She wasnâ€™t concerned that her actions had hurt or betrayed me, no, she was worried I was stressing myself out by thinking about it too much. She believed we could agree to disagree, so long as we never discussed or even thought about our disagreements. By refusing to stop glaring at our differences, I was the one hurting myself.
Thatâ€™s how itâ€™s always been in my family. I am the renegade, the unstable queer one, with big emotions and strange desires that alienate me from my familyâ€™s politics. I am responsible for minimizing the conflict that my existence creates. Iâ€™m not supposed to express emotion, start fights, or remind anyone of the chasm that separates my life from their traditional, â€œfamily-orientedâ€ values.
Iâ€™m done carrying that responsibility. Itâ€™s been slowly poisoning me for years. …
My mom wouldnâ€™t say sheâ€™s socially conservative. Neither would most of my Republican relatives. They like to think of themselves as family-oriented, patriotic, no-nonsense lovers of fiscal restraint, and it doesnâ€™t matter if the reality of the political choices lines up with those ideals. They donâ€™t like to talk about the basis for their ideology, or evidence in support of their viewsâ€Šâ€”â€Šand they absolutely will not acknowledge the social consequences of their actions. They have always voted Republican, and it seems they always will, no matter the candidate they are given or the abhorrent policies that candidate advances. And for the most part, they donâ€™t want to talk about their beliefs or the reasons for their choicesâ€Šâ€”â€Šaside, perhaps, from a few idle rants about the evils of the Clintons. In such a vacuum of reflection and vulnerability, itâ€™s paralyzingly difficult for me to even start a conversation about the harm theyâ€™ve done.
In my family, control and invalidation are wielded subtly, and perhaps without conscious intent. Norms are enforced through a gentle blend of selective praise, light mockery, quiet dismissal, and mild admonition. If I take a step toward prescribed, traditional roles, I am celebrated and recognized. If I take a different path, or express a competing desire, I am ignored or ridiculed in a way I canâ€™t quite point to. If I complain about that ridicule, I am dismissed as overly sensitive or told Iâ€™m making things up, misremembering them.
I have dozens of memories of family members chiding a teenage me for expressing disinterest in giving birth or having a family. Whenever I expressed a passion for the sciences or a desire to go to grad school, I was treated as though my interests were cute, but fleeting. When I began throwing my adolescent, closeted self into politicsâ€Šâ€”â€Šmostly activism for LGBT rightsâ€Šâ€”â€Šmy mother would tell me, in hushed tones, that it was â€œokayâ€ that I was doing so, but that we wouldnâ€™t be letting my grandparents know about what Iâ€™d been up to.
I wasnâ€™t beaten for being who I was. Usually, I wasnâ€™t even directly berated. The problem wasnâ€™t a specific act of mistreatment or abuse, but rather the emotional and political climate that surrounded me. My family consistently listened to conservative voices that branded me, and people like me, as perverse, immature, deluded, and mockable. My family voted, without relent, for politicians who wanted to curtail abortion rights, LGBT rights, educational access, and intellectual freedom. They unilaterally advanced and rewarded a life path that was traditional, deeply gendered, and rooted in devotion to the family unit, often to the detriment of connections with the outside world. They couldnâ€™t see how these actions wore me down and slowly, quietly, left me feeling broken, incapable of appropriate adulthood, and totally alone.
Her family sounds very nice. It’s a shame that parents like that had one child that obviously long ago landed the wrong way on its head.