Category Archives: Family

Then and Now: Weddings

Occasionally, I read through all blog posts just to see what I wrote (and if applicable, what people had to say in reply). During my most recently perusal, I rediscovered a post where considered what I might want to do for my wedding. Seeing as I just recently (16 months ago this coming Wednesday!) got married, I thought it would be good to take another look at that post and compared it to what actually happened.

It turns out that after dating many (mostly non-devout) Christian or non-theistic men, I found Hubby, who is a Witch like me.  So we ended up getting a handfasting like I wanted. Also, while members of my family became much more open to my relationships and might have come to a wedding, we decided to keep the whole thing private.  We asked the members of our coven to perform the handfasting and be the sole attendees of it as well.  Out of the six coven members (including Hubby and myself) at the time, five of us were able to make it for the big day.  We all met at one coven member’s cabin in the woods and performed the rite at one of the outdoor altars that had been constructed in the woods.  We wrote our own vows.  I don’t think I remember any of mine and very few of Hubby’s.  I will say that Hubby was creative and crafted vows that were both sweet and funny.

After the rite itself, we built a nice bonfire in the “front yard” and set our vows on fire as an offering to the gods.  Then we celebrated with food we all cooked together and some fireworks.

It also turned out that we had enough people that we were able to treat the handfasting as our marriage ceremony.  The person who presided over the rite signed the marriage license and the other two acted as witnesses.  So we didn’t have to do a civil ceremony afterward.

Overall, it turned out almost exactly as I wanted, but even better.


what do if you have a homophobia brother and your gay

[Content Note: Homophobia]

The title of today’s blog post is based on a search term that someone used to find my site the other week. Strangely, I had a friend who was offering guidance to a young lesbian facing a similar situation ask me for any advice I might offer her several months ago. As such, I thought it would be good to talk about this subject.

First, I have a great deal of sympathy and empathy for anyone in such a situation. One should not have to deal with homophobia – no matter how minor or subtle – from one’s closest families. It can instill a real sense of betrayal and that you don’t belong. So to anyone who is reading this and is facing anything less than perfect acceptance from their immediately family, know that I would totally give you a hug right now if I were able to and you were comfortable with it.

To address the question, we first have to understand what we can do and what is our responsibility to do. For example, many of us – myself included at times – often think that what we need to do is convince our loved one to stop being homophobic. And in a perfect world, our loved ones would end their homophobia. (Well, in a perfect world, they never would’ve been homophobic in the first place, but hey.) But here’s the thing: we can’t make people change their mind or their behavior. It just doesn’t work that way. And trying to do it will only leave us even more frustrated and possibly (more) depressed and a lot of other things. In the end, we have to give our loved ones the freedom to address (or not) their own prejudices and their own actions in their own time.

So instead, we need to look at what we can do. And the thing I think we most need to focus on is the same thing we really should be focusing on anyway. We can and should focus on doing what it is that we need to do in order to feel good about ourselves. We can and should focus on making sure we like ourselves.

Liking ourselves and finding the good in ourselves can be difficult, especially when we have people saying or implying negative things about us. Doubly so when some of those people happen to be close and dear loved ones who are supposed to embrace, accept, and encourage us. In those cases, we have to struggle even harder to remind ourselves that we’re amazing people. (And if you don’t believe you’re an amazing person, please find someone safe to talk with about that fact as soon as you can!) Look at the things you enjoy and the things you are good at. Do you like to write? Write your heart out and cherish what you write. Treat yourself like you’re the next literary genius in training. Do you like to draw? Draw your heart out and treat your drawings like they’ll be hanging in the Louvre some day. Think of all the great qualities you offer the people in your life and the parts of yourself that you have to share with them. The sting of homophobia will never fully go away – especially when it comes from a loved one – but being able to confidently see yourself as a valuable and wonderful person does help.

Another thing that you can do is find the love, support, and encouragement you need. After all, that’s one of the really sucky parts about homophobic loved ones. Loving, supporting, and encouraging you is supposed to be THEIR job, and they’re failing at it in at least some ways. So it’s time to find people – and there are a lot of them out there – who would be happy to take on at least part of that job. Find and focus on other family members who are more supportive. Be honest with them and let them know that you need their support. Focus on friends – and make new ones if you need to – that will give you the support you need. When I came out nearly twenty years ago, I built an entirely new circle of friends. Oh sure, I kept in touch with some of my older friends and even have the occasional contact with some of them to this day. But my new friends were the ones who were both able and willing to walk with me through the process of self-discovery and self-acceptance. They were also the ones who felt safe to go through that process with. Those are the kinds of friends you need.

So if you don’t have them, find them. If you’re in school, see if your school has a GSA. See if there’s an LGBT community center or LGBT social groups in your area. See if there’s an active PFLAG chapter in your area.

Don’t rule out online friendships, either. For the first ten years after I came out, a lot of my friendships were online. Even the close and supportive friends I knew in person were people I mostly stayed in touch with via the Internet. An online friend may not be able to give you hug, but they can listen to you and tell you that you’re okay and that what you’re feeling is okay too. That’s extremely valuable.

You’ll notice that I talked about finding support after talking about learning to love yourself. There’s a couple reasons for that. The first is that while support is important and good, other people ultimately can’t make you feel good about yourself. That’s a gift you give yourself and you need to give it to yourself.

The other reason is because knowing what you like about yourself also helps you think about what you have to offer friends and possibly how to find them. If you’ve figured out you love to write, then finding friends that accept you for who you are and share that love of writing is an excellent plus. Maybe you can find a writing group locally or join a writing site online. The same is true of drawing or any other talent or interest you have. And the bonus is that they’ll encourage you and remind you that your talent or interest is awesome and valuable. Hey, other people can’t make you like yourself, but they sure can remind you of what there is to like about yourself!

The last thing to consider about finding love, encouragement, and support is to consider whether you want to and would benefit from talking to a trained mental health professional. If you have someone who is frequently – or even only slightly frequently – saying and doing things, that can really take a toll on you. It may be helpful to have someone in your corner who is trained to help you sort through that.

The final thing that you can do to take care of yourself in such a situation is try to limit your interactions with said loved one as much as possible. This can be tricky, depending on your circumstances. At 41 living on my own, I can get away and stay away from any homophobic relatives I may have as much as I want. If you’re a younger person who’s still living at home, you may be stuck living with a homophobic parent or sibling. If that’s your situation, you again have my sympathy. That totally sucks. It especially sucks if there’s more than one homophobic person in the house with you, or even if others in the household doesn’t see what the big deal is with the homophobic person’s behavior. Maybe they think you’re overreacting. They’re wrong.

In that situation, you can only do the best that you can do. If you can stay in your bedroom – and the rest of your family will leave you alone rather than barge into your room and try to force conversation on you – that may be what you need to do. You may need to find ways to keep yourself busy. (Again, this is where having those loving and supportive friends may be helpful – as you can go spend time with them whenever possible and get away from the homophobia.)

You may also want to consider calling out the homophobic person’s behavior when they’re being hurtful and disengage. “I feel what you just said or did was hurtful to me and I would like you to leave me alone now.” Then walk away if you can. Be aware that this can be a difficult thing to do. The other person is likely to get offended. They’re likely to try to get you to tell them exactly why you found what they said or did was hurtful – most likely so they can tell you that you were wrong to feel that way. If you decide to go this route, don’t let yourself be drawn into an explanation or an argument over it. Simply say, “I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I need time to be alone.” Stick to your guns. Go talk to one of your supportive friends or loved ones, someone who will totally understand why you’re hurt and will tell you that it’s okay to feel that way.

At any rate, that’s the best advice I can offer to help anyone going through such a situation. My readers are welcome to offer their own insights in the comments. Maybe some of you found something that helped you. Please feel free and encouraged to share.

Moderation Note: All comments complaining about how “easily” the word homophobia gets thrown around will be deleted. Any commenter trying to open a debate about what does and does not constitute homophobia will be banned. This is not the space to get defensive over how your words and actions are properly labeled. This is a space for you to listen and carefully consider how your words and actions impact the LGBT people in your life. If you try to do the former rather than the latter, than you’re part of the problem, and likely a bigger part than you want to admit.



Given that this is the season to honor and remember loved ones who have passed from this world, I thought I would make today’s blog post a more personal one and talk about a beloved relative, my paternal grandmother.

I forget my exact age, by Grandma Harris passed away when I was very young, before I began school, if memory serves.  The past several years of her life, she battled cancer.  I vaguely remember many nights where my sister and I would sit in the hospital waiting room with one of my parents while the other one would go upstairs to visit Grandma during her latest hospitalization.  I cannot think of Grandma without thinking of memories of her failing health because I never knew her before her battle began.

I am told that Grandma was a caring and strong woman all of her life.  I’m inclined to believe that because of the strength, grace, and dignity with which she faced her fading health in her final years.  Anyone can be strong and loving in the best of times.  However, it takes a special person — like Grandma Harris — to be strong in sir darkest hours.

One of my most cherished memories is of a day I spent alone with my grandparents.  Grandma Harris gave me a peanut butter cookie1 and I laid on one of the couches in my grandparents’ single-wide trailer munching on it.  Now, like any preschooler, I was a messy eater.  And peanut butter cookies are prone to leaving lots of crumbs.  By the time I was done, both I and the couch were covered in crumbs.  My grandparents saw it.

Grandpa Harris — who had a much harder edge than his wife — started to get upset and critical.  But Grandma Harris calmed him and told him that these things happens.  Besides, Grandma Harris had a solution.  She told Grandpa to go get the old vacuum cleaner.  He did and Grandmother began to vacuum up all the crumbs, both those on the couch and those on me.  Grandma Harris was a rather practical woman.2

When I think about the kind of person I want to be, I often think of Grandma Harris.  If I manage to embody half the love, strength, and no-nonsense approach to living that she did, I think I’ll have done a great job.  And I’d like to think she’d be pleased with the man that little boy grew up to be.

[1] Grandma Harris loved making peanut butter cookies, and they are forever intwined with memories of her in my mind.  If you asked me for an honest evaluation of which cookies I thought tasted the best, I would likely say chocolate chip cookies.  But if you ask me what my favorite cookie is, I will still tell you “peanut butter” cookies more than three decades later.  It’s not about how they taste, it’s about the fact that they are the cookies Grandma Harris used to make.

[2]  Plus it gave me countless opportunities to watch people’s reactions whenever I mention in passing that I got hovered by my own grandmother.

Glowing with pride

Postcard - The White House in Washington D.C.

Image by adam79 via Flickr

Last night after I got home from my coven’s business meeting, my seventeen year old unofficial godson* sent me a text asking if we could make a run to Dunkin Donuts before school in the morning.  He explained that he had some exciting news he wanted to share with me.  He explained he couldn’t tell me over the phone, despite my efforts to talk him into doing so.  I finally relented and went to bed, agreeing I’d find out in the morning.

So this morning, I got up, showered, and headed out to pick him up.  As he climbed into my car, he handed me an envelope made of heavier paper — the kind of paper some greeting cards come in.  I flipped it over and saw the envelope was addressed to him.  Then I saw the return address on it.  Whatever I was about to look at, it had come from the White House.  You know, the one at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  In Washington D.C.  I was excited.

I pulled out the first piece of cardstock in the envelope and began to read a beautifully printed invitation for my godson to attend the White House LGBT reception later this month.  I took a few seconds to let what I was reading sink in, then I hugged my godson tight.  (Not an easy task when you’re buckled into the driver’s seat of a Mercury Sable, let me tell you.)

We’re not exactly sure how someone at the White House got his name.  I’m guessing that someone from GLSEN‘s national office submitted it, as he’s had some involvement at the national level** and is a student member of our local chapter’s board of directors.  Between that and his involvement with the local LGBT community center and his school GSA (holding leadership roles in all of them, no less), it’s no surprise that his name got submitted, really.  In fact, the invitation is a testament to and wonderful reward for everything he’s done.  He’s proud and excited about going to the White House.  And I don’t blame him.

I’m proud of him too.  And maybe a little jealous.  😉


*  Godfather and godson are the best terms we’ve come up to describe the friendship that has developed between the two of us, though our use implies no official status as such.

** That includes having his picture appear on both the national website and the promotional literature for GLSEN’s Safe Space campaign.

Enjoying the Lilac Festival

CIMG0026.jpgToday, my parents (see the picture to the left) drove up from Pennsylvania to spend the day with me.  This weekend was the opening weekend for the Lilac Festival, and Mom decided that she wanted to check it out this year.  Since I usually go every year by myself, I was all for this, and spent a pleasant day with them.

After ascertaining that they would not be here until 12:30pm at the earliest, I arranged to have my parents meet me at Psyschic’s Thyme so that I could run in and visit my friends when the shop opened.  This worked out well, as I had already planned on taking my parents to the shop to meet everyone (well, everyone who was working) today.

Once the introductions were done and we had a bit of conversation, I took my parents over to DiBella’s for a quick lunch, and then we were off to check out the festivities.  My mother was quite amazed by the festival.  She was not expecting to see something quite on the grand scale as this.  This is because she is used to the Laurel Festival in Wellsboro, which is nice, but much smaller.  So as we walked all along the hill next to Highland Avenue, going from bush to tree to bush, she was impressed with all the colors and varieties of lilacs.

I admit that I found the experience far more enjoyable than when I go alone.  When I’m by myself, I don’t spent quite so much time wandering through the lilacs or really appreciate them.  Of course, I also had to keep reminding Mom that no, she could not uproot one of the bushes (like the one that produced the lovely purple ones in the picture) to take home with her.  Of course, she was joking.  Or at least I think she was joking.

CIMG0033.jpgAfter we got done checking out the lovely flowers and the arts and craft fair, I took my parents over to Genesee Valley Park so she could see where I plan to take my sister and her family the evening they come to visit me later this month.  Mom was again quite impressed.  Apparently, she’s just not used to city parks the size of the ones we have around here.

It was a wonderful day, if a bit exhausting.  Hopefully, I get plenty of rest tonight, as tomorrow is the Walk to Cure Diabetes.

Tribute to a Dog

tas-2008-12-24-resized.JPGThis week, my sister and her family had a bit of a scare.  They’re fifteen year old beagle mix, Tasslehoff Burrfoot (Tas for short), had a bit of a medical scare.  They took her to the vet, expecting the worst.  Fortunately, the vet gave Tas a happy diagnosis and a promising prognosis.  So everyone’s relieved to know that we have at least a little longer to enjoy her company, at least when she’s not too busy sleeping.

When Stephanie first gave everyone the initial news, I began to think about what I wanted to say about Tas.  I wanted to give her something of a tribute like I did with Saddle when I heard he had passed.  So having thought about it, I’ve decided that even though it looks like Tas is going to be with us for a while longer, I figured I’d go ahead and offer my tribute anyway.  After all, why wait until a loved one is gone before expressing how much we love and value them?

For those who may be wondering, Tas’s comes from a character in the Dragonlance Chronicals by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.  My brother-in-law, Bill, was a huge fan of the whole Dragonlance series at the time he and Stephanie took Tas into their homes as a little puppy.  Bill decided the name fit Tas as she was always friendly and high-spirited.  And of course, the day that Tas was sleeping on Bill’s lap and he suddenly realized she had somehow managed to snake her front paw into the pocket of his jeans just cinched the whole deal.

When I thik of Tas, I most often think of her younger years, before she started facing the health issues of getting older.  I remember the highly energetic pup who loved to be chased through Bill and Stephanie’s apartment in Rome, NY.  I still laugh when I think of how she would run up the couch at an angle, shift her body just enough to push off the wall behind the couch with her legs — I always joked that her legs were longer than the average beagle’s legs so they could fit the springs inside them — and run back down the couch on a new trajectory.  I also remember the day that I had to stop in total amazement as I watched her leap from a total stopped position over the back of the couch (it had been moved so it was in the middle of the room rather than against a wall) and landed on the seat cushion.  I never understood how such a small dog could clear that height from a velocity of zero.

The other great thing about Tas was that as Bill and Stephanie began to have kids, she proved to be one of the best family dogs I’ve ever seen.  She was quite protective and nurturing of each as the kids when they were born, often expressing distress if the adults around allowed one of them to cry or fuss for to long.  (To Tas, thirty seconds often seemed to qualify as too long.)  And then there was the day my sister and I watched as Tas managed to retrieve her paw from my then-infant nephew’s death-grip simply by licking his hand until he let go.

The years have worn on Tas.  She’s not quite as energetic as she used to be, though the last time I saw her I still saw the occasional glimmer of that old fire in her eyes.  She’s taken more to sleeping and her days of flying around the house or chasing rabbits in the yard are mostly to a close.  But she’s still a sweet old girl and everyone who has known her can attest that she’s probably one of the best furry family members anyone could ever ask for.  And I’m thankful we all have a little more time to spend with her.

Struggling with the collision of faith and family

This past Saturday, I took my parents out to dinner at TGIFriday’s. While there, our waitress asked me about my pendants. I normally wear two pendants:

  1. A silver pentagram which is a little bigger than a dime. It has a bear at the top point, walking on all fours.
  2. A brass spherical cage, which contains a piece of amber resin.

Both pendants are religious in nature and are deeply personal to me. I’ve had a handful of people ask about them, and I’m usually quite happy to answer their questions. In fact, the only two times I’m hesitant to say anything are as follows:

  1. When I’m at work (or a work-related function) and there are customers around
  2. When I’m with my parents, especially my mother

Sadly, this situation falls into that second category. And I could already see my mother’s expression when the waitress asked about it. The problem with being the sole witch in a family that consists mostly of evangelical (and even fundamentalist) Christians is that it can certainly strain family relationships a bit.

After a brief hesitation, I simply told the waitress that they are religious symbols of significance to me. I think she realized I was being somewhat avoidant (and I hated that I was being avoidant) and let the matter drop. Fortunately, the subject quickly changed.

Then again, maybe that’s not so fortunate. One of the messages that I keep getting over and over is that I need to be more open with my family. I need to let them into all aspects of my life. The problem is, that’s difficult when there are certain aspects of it that they don’t really care for. Certain subjects cause hackles to raise.

In fairness to my parents, it’s not just them, either. Any time the subject of my faith comes up around family, I get defensive. I automatically expect a problem. And that’s not fair. Not only that, I’m beginning to wonder if on some levels, my own family is unconscioually reacting to my own defensiveness. It wouldn’t surprise me.

But at the same time, I still haven’t found a good way to overcome my first reaction in such situations.

Congratulating a cousin!

Last night, Aunt Janet and Uncle Tom came to visit my parents. My parents have DSL, whereas my aunt and uncle only have dial-up. Aunt Janet asked if she could use our computer to view the following video of my cousin, Chris, running:

This was the 1 mile race at the Division II National Championships for indoor track and field. Chris (he’s the one in the red shir tand black and white shorts) finished second in the race, only 0.01 seconds behind the first place runner. Way to go, Chris!

Remembering a family man from my past

In an entry on Mutiply, I talked about my perspective changed in regards to getting involved with a guy who has kids. It seems proper to note that while I’ve only become fully aware of this change, the actual change process has been a long time in the works. In fact, I can trace its beginnings back as early as 2001.

Back in 2001, I met Mike, who I ended up dating for four years. Mike didn’t have any children of his own, but was fiercely devoted two his sister’s two sons, especially David, who was in his mid teens at the time. In fact, he was so devoted to them, you would’ve thought they were his own kids.

Again, this level of devotion was very attractive for me, for all of the same reasons I mentioned in the previous post. And there was the fact that Mike was devoted and close to his family in general, including his mother. (To be honest, he struck me as something of a “momma’s boy” at times.) That in itself was also an attractive quality. I myself have always been close to my family, so it was nice to see that reflected in the person I was with. Of course, I also think that it was a bit of a comfort to me, as my family was becoming more distant at the time, too. So it was nice to be reminded that such closeness could still last, even if not in my family. (Fortunately, things are on the mend in my own family now.)

Of course, in the end, Mike’s closeness with his family contributed significantly to the end of our relationship. This is mainly because in the four years we dated, Mike never reached the point where he was comfortable coming out to his family. This meant that he spent that entire time leading a double life, keeping our relationship safely separated from his relationship with his parents, sister, and nephews. This also meant that when his time was limited, that time was usually spent with his family rather than me. After a while, that simply became unacceptable to me. Along with other issues, I finally confronted him and ended our relationship when he admitted he was unwilling to do anything to resolve these issues.

In retrospect, I don’t hold Mike’s devotion to his family against him, even if it did contribute to the end of our relationship. To this day, I consider that a positive quality and something I’d still find attractive. However, I do take issue with his unwillingness to integrate his devotion to me and his devotion to his family, because his failure to do so was the real problem. To this day, that fact is something of a sore spot in my life, though I’ve mostly made my peace.

Through the grapevine, I’ve come to understand that Mike’s gone back to dating girls, and has been with the same girl for at least a year now. I guess things are going quite well, at least from what I can gain from indirect sources. When I first found out about this, I was deeply hurt. In fact, I won’t say I don’t still feel a twinge of pain over it now. However, I’ve come to be more accepting of his choices, and I hpoe he can truly find happiness with this woman. After all, I don’t think he’d ever find happiness with me or any other guy. Because it’s become clear to me that he could never make that choice that would ultimately be necessary. So I hope he can find happiness in the choices he has made.

I know I have. And to be honest, I’m starting to realize that my new choices since breaking up with him have offered me more chances for happiness than I ever would’ve had with him. (I just hope that doesn’t sound too cruel.)

Coming out confession

Logo designed by artist Keith Harring

Image via Wikipedia

Originally posted to Multiply on 6 February 2008.

I’ve spent the last couple of days thinking about my story about coming out to my parents. I feel like there was so much that I left out. Of course, when I shared them during the panel discussion, I naturally had to keep my comments short, and this meant an extremely abbreviated story. So I shared what I felt were the most relevant points at the time.

However, now that I have more time to spend, I feel it’s important to share a bit more. After all, when I talked about how much time it’s taken my parents to work through everything, I felt like I was attributing it to them. That’s not entirely accurate. In retrospect, I made my own share of mistakes which has probably prolonged the reconciliation process.

The most immediate example is the fact that I came out to my parents well before I was ready. After all, I had only come to accept my sexuality a scant two months before I told my parents. So in reality, I was still emotionally processing everything myself.

Mind you, I don’t regret my choice to come out so quickly, mainly because it was the right choice at the time. The week before I had that fateful conversation with my mother, I had made another poor choice, the choice to tell another person about my sexual orientation. Telling that particular person was a horrible error in judgment on my part, and I can only say that I did so in a moment of emotional weakness.

The problem was, I knew that this particular person sometimes wasn’t the best at keeping secrets, and I was concerned that news of my revelation could get back to my parents. When I realized this, I decided that if my parents were going to find out, I wanted it to come from me. So I I made my decision to make sure that’s exactly what happened.

I made what I still believe was the moral choice. However, the moral choice meant trying to deal with my parents’ reactions to my sexuality while still trying to go through the emotional healing and self-acceptance process myself. That was a high price to pay, and I probably wasn’t always as understanding and patient with my parents as a result.

Another choice I made — and I’m not sure whether this one was ultimately a mistake or not — is that I backed off once I told my mother. Because of her reaction, I let the whole topic drop for a long time. I didn’t deny my sexuality, but I didn’t bring it up either. I didn’t correct my mother a year later when I moved back home and she told me that I wasn’t allowed to have “overnight guests of the female persuasion.” (Actually, I snickered to myself, thinking that wouldn’t be a difficult rule to keep.) In effect, I did allow my parents to linger in their denial and otherwise ignore the whole matter.

Was that a mistake? I don’t really know. In some ways, I wonder if I might have sped up the process if I had pushed the issue a bit more at crucial moments. But then, I also think that maybe they really did need that time.

Then there was an incident that I’m almost positive I made a mistake. It was back during the first few months when I was dating Mike. I had met him and taken a picture of him. One day, I printed out a picture of him because I was going to visit friends and wanted to show them what he looked like. My mother saw the picture and asked who he was. I told her he was a friend and left it a that.

I think she knew I wasn’t being completely honest with my answer. In fact, even back then, I had the impression she was looking for the real answer. But I chose not to tell her he was my boyfriend. I was afraid to admit it. I was afraid she’d once again go into a tense and brooding silence as a result. And I didn’t want to deal with that at the time.

In retrospect, I think she was trying to bridge that gulf of silence that had developed between us when she asked about Mike. Instead of responding with honesty, I chose to reward her efforts by maintaining the wall between us. I have to ask myself what percentage of responsibility for the time it’s taken us to be more open since then lies on my shoulders because of that choices. And I wonder what other ways I’ve shut my parents out without realizing it.

It’s something I’ve been working on recently. That’s partly due to my friend, Amy, who did a reading for me while we were at the Naturist Retreat this past August. She told me that I needed to share all of my life with my mother. And as Amy predicted, Mom’s been fairly open to it.