“Why Are You So Gay All the Time?” — Honoring My Grandfather

A.P. Nyquist
Sep 16, 2020 · 3 min read
Illustration by Daniel Castro Maia

This is a common question that I get from the people around me. The intensity of this question increases when they discover that I am “only” bisexual. The answer is very simple: because my grandfather couldn’t.

My grandpa had an extremely hard life. Growing up in a poor, abusive farming family in the Midwest, he was stranded in the middle of nowhere, caught in a tornado of shouts, back hands, and belt buckles. Not only was he physically trapped in an isolated purgatory, but he was also emotionally trapped. He was attracted to men in a time and a place where that was a death sentence. I am apprehensive to say that he was gay as he never explicitly declared it himself and I know better than most that he could very well have been bisexual. Regardless of his precise sexual orientation, I do know that he was forced to hide his attraction to men.

When he was 20 years old, he met my grandmother, who was equally eager to escape from an unhappy home life. While neither felt particularly strong romantic feelings towards the other, they were each other’s ticket to freedom, which was more than enough for the miserable duo. Before long, my uncle and mother were born. It was a marriage of survival, rather than love, and so the cracks soon began to form. Growing more and more uneasy with the life he hastily chose, one full of repression and lies, my grandfather turned to alcohol.

While he tried to be an engaging and loving father, overseeing many projects for his children ranging from creating them elaborate Halloween costumes from scratch every year to renovating their bedrooms into such elegant masterpieces that they deserved their own TLC show, his alcoholism and turbulent emotional state always got in the way. I grew up hearing countless stories of them being evicted from their homes or of them watching their furniture and cars get repossessed. He was in a completely unstable mental and emotional state that only got worse as time went on. He was falling apart.

For decades he struggled to create a stable home for his family, the entire time hiding from them who he really was. It’s not difficult to see what an extreme toll this took on him, as well as my family. Then came the worst of it. In 1987, my grandfather tested positive for AIDS, 6 years after the first reported cases in America. Despite the virus having been around for several years, lack of concern and research funding from the Reagan administration left the severity of the virus right where it was when it first arrived.

My mother, who was 17 at the time, had to drop out of high school so that she could work during the day to make up for my grandfather’s loss of income while helping care for him at night. For 2 years she watched as her father turned to skin and bone, as his stomach bloated and sores covered his body. She was at a sleepover when he finally went into his death coma.

They never got to say their goodbyes.

An unaccepting, oppressive culture destroyed my grandfather’s spirit and a neglectful government killed him as his daughter, my mother, watched helplessly. And that is precisely why I am “so gay all the time”. Because my grandfather lived a horribly repressed life where at no point did he ever get to truly be himself. Because my grandfather literally died as the result of a government that made the conscious decision to “let the f*gs die”. Because I am still here. Because I am proud of who I am and I have the privilege to be in a time and a place where I can be loud and free about that. I will never for a single second take that for granted. Because I know just how precious that is and that it’s not always the case. Although I was never able to meet my grandfather, I will honor him and his struggle every single chance that I get.

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