A Letter to Mike Pence
You’ve been on my mind all week. I’ve woken up the past many days and for a few moments, things feel okay. The moment between sleep and awake is my only reprieve.
I’ve felt this way five times in my life. The first was the death of my grandmother, a Jew from Massachusetts who taught me about old Hollywood films and showed me love. Second, my first heartbreak; a woman named Mary with lovely hands. Third, when I found out that I was being cheated on by another love; the one I had the car and the checking account with. Next, the moment when my parents wished me dead. Most recently election night, when I realized my new government wished the same.
My parents are evangelicals with wide smiles and glossy vacant eyes. Life is seen as a test; a time before the real party that is eternity in heaven. My parents don’t want to know about the outside world and they certainly don’t want to question the small internal one they had crafted. In their world, queer people, people of color, and women in power were there simply as a sort of freak show of outsiders. Does this sound familiar? I remember my mother saying to me, “Black people are funny. They are entertaining at least.” I wasn’t allowed to watch Will and Grace because of the “faggots.” When we tried a new church and a female pastor took the podium, we quickly left. How could a man be taught the scripture by a woman?
Be quiet. Be small. Take up as little space as you can. I’m an overachiever and I did just that. At 15 I stopped eating all together. I went to rehab only after my parents were pressured by neighbors and friends to look at me; to see the death right behind me, lurking. It was a woman that saved me, a therapist named Karen who celebrated my victories as small as they were. She also helped me come to term with my sexuality. But that didn’t fit into the performative nature of my parents world. Once I was out of rehab, my eating disorder was never discussed again.
So I tried to live as best I could, hiding behind a homecoming dress and a weak smile. And so it went. I enrolled in a Christian college with a strict “no homosexuality” policy. I was miserable and had a 4.0 and two jobs. I never graduated from that school.
I was in Los Angeles, 21 years old, working in the Devil’s playground that is Hollywood, and my brother was gay. My little football playing perfect brother was gay. He was dropped off at a shitty Motel 6 on the side of the highway and my parents removed their signatures from his cosigned student loans. My mother hid in my parents bedroom. “It would’ve been better if he was dead!” she wept. I demanded that she stop. That she take it back. And like mothers do, she knew on some level that I was gay too. “Are you a lesbian?”she asked. I said no. I lied because I was afraid. I was afraid of what I already knew. My parents wished me dead.
Shortly after they felt a call from God and my father quit his job and returned to seminary. They moved to a shit kicker ghost town in Eastern Colorado where my father was given a church. They moved around from church to church for a few years, lying to the church councils about their son and daughter. In order to be in their lives we had to play by their rules: act straight, never talk about your lovers. At 33, I couldn’t take it anymore. I gave them an ultimatum. If they wanted any of me, they would have to take all of me. They couldn’t. They didn’t. If only I was dead. If only I didn’t exist. Last I heard, they are living in Texas.
When I see you, I see my parents.