When Watermark Editor Steve Blanchard wrote in his Editor’s Desk [Issue 20.08] that he’d returned to St. Louis to visit his mom, he said what most people say of the place they were born-he said he’d gone home.
But “home” can be a loaded word for this queer tribe, with so many who carry feelings of unbelonging. Like the 40 years in the desert during which the “set apart” fanned out over the map, so LGBTs, like refugees from the “family of origin,” go off in search of that “family of choice.” And like those who never gave up on the promised land, we return to that house called home, where we know our place-or claim our place-and in that place, we wrestle with moving from silence to speech.
So when Steve, at the kitchen table, thinks back down into his days “at home,” I am right there beside him as he flips through the pages of the American Family Journal and his blood pressure rises “another notch.” He’s in a difficult position. His mother is in the hospital, his father is stressed out, and Steve, in the family kitchen, is reading lies and slurs.
In his column, he never seems fully resolved about his decision to discuss-or not-the contents of the magazine on his parents’ kitchen table. As he recalls the Journal’s prescribed approach to homosexuals, he remembers the prescription-love the sinner; hate the sin-as something with which “I know my mother really did struggle.” And in his nod to her sincerity, I hear neither blame nor anger. I hear only compassion for his mother.
Last month, at the Miami International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, I attended the premiere of Two: The Story of Roman and Nyro. The film, about the twin boys raised by two gay dads, explores the relationship between Curtis, one of the dads, and an evangelical Christian named Mary Ann, Curtis’s mom.
In a gripping interview with Mary Ann, raised a strict fundamentalist who raised four sons the same way, she is talking about the moment when she first realized her son was gay. Reflecting upon a moment that is 20 years old if it’s a day, her face shifts from the muffin-making grandmother of Roman and Nyro to stark, stuttering silence. It’s like a long black car has slowed to a stop on a dusty road to release two men-one in a military uniform, the other in a white clerical collar-as they make silent strides to your front door in order to tell you your child has died.
When Mary Ann cried, I cried.
Back in St. Pete, I knew what was missing from the “guest column” I hadn’t been able to finish-the one inspired by Steve’s trip to St. Louis. Missing was the face of an evangelical mother, facing the loss, chapter and verse, of all she held to be infallibly true. Missing, from the mental pictures that inspire good writing, were the eyes of a fundamentalist Christian who had built her life and raised her sons upon this rock only to find that the place called home was a house built on shifting sand. Missing, from something I was trying to say, was the stranded pause of a lifelong believer, up against the same desert-wandering as our own queer tribe if she removed even one spade from that house of cards.
In these days of Climate Change, when shifting sands and twisting winds rock our walls on a daily basis, what matters is the house we all hold dear. I was trying to say, while the left blames the right, and the right blames the left for this mutual feeling of homelessness, that we, the divided and conquered, suffer only from a missed opportunity.
What are we missing? Each other. How will we ever get back Home? Together.
Faced with a choice between a house of cards and a house divided, Curtis’ mother chose Curtis. Faced with the choice between airing hard feelings and adding to stress, Steve chose his mother’s health.Â Mary Ann, PFLAG mom, co-founded “Open Door Ministry.” Steve blessed his voice and published his feelings in Watermark.
After years, among the living and dying, facilitating dialogue between gay people and evangelicals, I say this: the only thing that stands between hate and love, between the bitter grip that grinds our teeth and the peace of mind that sings us awake, are the thoughts we allow to take root in our heads and the pictures we hold high in our minds.
Don’t have a picture of Curtis’ mom? Picture this: An evangelical Christian, introducing her grandsons, Roman and Nyro, to two trays of muffins, hot out of the oven, in a house that is always a home to Desmond and Curtis, their two twin sons, the beauty who carried them into this world, and her husband. It’s a steamy-hot Hindu-Christian, Cuban-Anglo, I-Love-Lucy melting pot, and all the grandparents two kids could ever want.