Saturday, March 5, 2011

Gay Dude in a Huge Family

I have written some blog posts from time to time about being gay, being the only gay sibling in a large family, and about my family in general. I received a few email messages this week inquiring what it is like to be in this type of family, and one asked, "what's like to be a gay dude in a huge family?"

While I have talked about that before, I will approach this question again from a renewed perspective, and try not to repeat myself (too much.)

First of all, I did not know that families were any different from mine. Think about it -- when you are born, all you know is your own family and how it functions is just how things are. You do not realize that families are different until you get a bit older and spend significant time at a friend's home, or have to change living arrangements due to death, divorce, abuse, or other factors.

I was born #14 among 15 siblings. My twin brother being four minutes younger (I'll never let him forget! LOL!), that means that J and I were last. That also means, then, that 13 other rug rats were tearing up the place long before we popped out of Mom's womb. So how things "worked" and "who did what to whom and when" as well as all the usual routines of our home had long been established before J and I were born.

My father also comes from a very large family. He had 21 siblings (yeah, 22 kids in one family from the same two parents, believe it or not!) My Dad loved large families, and my Mom was fertile... so... ta-dah! Here we all are.

My life as I was growing up was, as far as I knew, quite normal. It was only later in life that I realized that my family life was not comparable to the family life that my friends had.

Each of us kids were treated as unique individuals. We had our own bedrooms, clothing, and preferences for things to eat and friends to play with. We never were forced to wear "hand-me-downs" or share bedrooms or birthdays, for that matter. Our parents wanted us to be individuals, and we were treated that way. I understand, upon reflection, that this was quite unusual as well.

I have written before on this blog that I didn't know that I was gay until much later in life -- when I reached my mid-20s. I'm not like one of those kids you see on popular TV shows who is out to everyone at a much younger age.

When I lived at home with my family, I didn't experiment sexually with anyone. To my knowledge, neither did my twin brother. The "house rules" said that we couldn't bring anyone home to "sleep with." While J and I tested the house rules on other matters, we never did on that one.

J would date various girls in high school, and I went on dates, too. I knew, even back then, that J's dates were much more "involved" while mine were strictly platonic. That is, J would "make out" with his girl-of-the-night while I would be more of a friendly kinda guy, but never put myself in a situation where "making out" was expected. I didn't date girls who expected that, either (or so I thought.)

What I'm saying is that even back in high school, I behaved in ways to avoid sexual interactions -- even the most simple (i.e., "first base") with females -- because something inside me kept telling me that I really wasn't interested. Further, I knew I liked guys better, but didn't know why. I would find myself hanging out with other guys just to watch them, see their Frye boots, and admire. Not act on anything... just watch. Now that I am older, I realize what I was doing -- gay voyeuring. At the time, I had no clue in my conscious mind that I was interested in guys as something else other than just as friends.

Further, my twin was tall, dark, and handsome, and developed early. I was short, klutzy, and funny-lookin', and developed late. I think the fact that our physical development was significantly different, it had something to do with why J became quite a "ladies man" and I was the "left-out kid," but I am under orders from my twin brother not to discuss these differences further, as he thinks I am putting myself down while I truly felt out-of-place and dorky.

When I realized that I was gay, the first person that I "came out" to was my twin brother. His reaction: "dude, I've known that for years. Tell me something new." I wasn't expecting that reaction. I then began to tell my siblings, and my Mom (by then, my Dad had died).

Each of my siblings took the news differently. The older sibs who were married and who are practicing Catholics had the most difficulty with the news. Some of my other siblings said, "no big deal" while others said, "are you sure?" or "how do you know?" or "did (female name) just dump you and now you want to give up on women?"

I think my Mom took it the hardest. She had figured out that I wasn't quite the same in how I related to women ... and dating ... and sex. But she really only began to understand and accept that I was gay when I brought the man who I call my partner home to meet her for the first time. She knew... she could tell... I was in love!

Various family members adjusted to knowing that their brother was gay over time. Some did right away, like J did, and some took years. My Mom researched and studied, talked to others, and listened. Fortunately, she didn't have some crackpot church trying to tell her that I was living in a "deadly lifestyle" and stuff like that.

I was also happy that my Mom accepted my partner after a few years, because she realized that he was going to take care of me for the rest of my life, and love me unconditionally. Isn't that what parents want for a spouse for their children -- someone to take care of their child? My Mom and my partner grew to love each other, and I am so happy that happened, because my Mom died just five years after I met my partner, so the time to develop that relationship was limited.

I think what made things work out and facilitate healthy adult relationships with my siblings is that fundamentally, all of my siblings and I loved and respected each other from Day 1. Our parents demanded that we behave as a family and support one another -- and we did. Sure, mostly due to age differences, we look at things differently. Some of my siblings are more conservative, often due to influences of their respective spouses. I get it.

I have been "fully out" to my family for about 30 years. It took some of them several years to "get over it" but now they don't think a thing about my sexual orientation. I laugh and enjoy their kids, and now their grandkids, like any uncle would. I see them frequently, and they come to see me. We have dinner together (most of us, at least, who still live in Maryland) once each week. When I go on a business trip that may bring me close to any of them, I definitely take time to see them. And vice-versa.

After all, as they say: blood is thicker than water. I am truly blessed that my family functions well, loves each other, and sticks together through thick and thin and for all the right reasons -- regardless that one of their brothers is gay and lives in a same-sex relationship.

I know that I am fortunate, as several people have told me that their families have not been as supportive, accepting, or tolerant. I credit my parents for those characteristics which they taught to us from Day 1.

...and some day, I'll tell you about my first cousins--all 169 of them. Yes, I know who all of them are. But as I said, that's a different story for a different time.

Life is short: understand your family, and embrace them!


Anonymous said...

Dude, I think you forgot to mention your personality. You are easy to love, easy to like, and a great, warm-hearted person. Your family loves you and respects you because of the man you are.

Thanks for this post. What you write is always interesting to me.

I am proud to be your twin brother, and love you very much.

Ore e sempre,


Anonymous said...

BHD: I'm guessing from your description that you and J are not identical twins. It has been my experience with identical twins that if one is gay, the other is, too.


Booted Harleydude said...

Yes, Steve, J and I are fraternal twins. We have much in common, but we have different physical appearances. When people see J and I together for the first time, most say, "he's your twin? Really?"

We are much closer in mind than in appearance, and are definitely twins in how I know what he is thinking and vice-versa.