Pride Month is wrapping up. Many have been celebrating and decking out in every imaginable color from personal wardrobes to Target store racks. Others have been remembering and honoring lost heroes and friends. Some have discovered the novelty of their identities while a few more committed to becoming allies. And unfortunately, as always, there are those who have wasted their time being disruptive and disrespectful toward LGBTQIA+ community (Straight Pride? Gimme a break). Each year for Pride, I honor the month by writing a retrospective story about any milestones or hardships I’ve faced in the recent year as a queer individual. Now that it has been nearly a decade since I first came out, I thought it’d be suitable to write about the last chapter of my coming out story which took place last fall.
I came out as gay for the first time at 16 years old. Like a classical coming out story, I came out to immediate family and friends, one by one, throughout my late teens. However, it wasn’t for another 8 years until I finally mustered up some courage to tell my grandparents (Opa and Oma). They’re the last individuals I came out to. This delay was rooted by fear; fear that I’d learn their Catholic views to be more righteous and sensible than their own gay granddaughter. Despite the still-existing fear then, I developed an acceptance to any potential consequences overtime.
Several months ago, I packed up my fear and acceptance and brought them with me during my visit with Oma and Opa for a weekend, alone. The second night, I asked my grandparents if we could go talk in the kitchen “because I have something I need to tell you.” After a couple hours of shaky hands, cracked voices, and sporadic stiffy silences, they came to terms with my truth. They looked at me in the eyes. They anxiously listened. They asked hard questions, attempting to understand. We squeezed one another’s hands until our blood circulation no longer reached our fingertips. We found some answers. We cried together. By the end of the night, Oma decided this conversation called for a round of Disaronno shots. We commenced with some swigs as relief settled into the room.
But that wasn’t it. I needed to tell them something else. Then I decided to wait, knowing I needed to do one thing at a time so to be gentle with them and their process. They needed time to process my reality as an individual. A few months later, I visited them for another weekend alone and told them something else.
I bought an engagement ring.
I am proposing to Maya.
Will you come to our wedding?
With more shaky hands and cracked voices, they sent me on my way with their affirming hugs as they sandwiched me, nodding that they’ll be there for our wedding. They affirmed my reality as a soon-to-be married partner.
Now, why was I compelled to tell them before proposing? Usually people tell their family, friends, and grandparents after the fact, right? Over the years, my Oma has repeatedly expressed her frustration that she finds out last about anything important going on in the family. This happens despite her being the family’s savior again and again; keeping the whole family fed, cared for and alive. She hasn’t been respected in the way she deserves to be. That needed to change so I decided she’d be among the first to know I wanted to propose to Maya. While an irony, this was my gift to Oma. It didn’t seem like a gift because she was nauseous with confusion and concern. I anticipated this and yet it still hurt to see her hurt. Nevertheless, I knew that including her in something momentous for both of us, mattered more. If she still doesn’t know what I was trying to do, then at least I know what I was trying to do for her. Being who I am is hard for my Oma and it may be for the rest of her life.
But at least she wasn’t left out from the truth this time.