So it’s National Coming Out Day.
I’m not gay. I occasionally contemplate sexual encounters that, if I’m honest about them, pull me a little back from the far end of the Kinsey scale, but not far enough that I’m comfortable calling myself bisexual. Finding out that someone I’m attracted to is trans* would not change my attraction to them, so I suppose I could also call myself pansexual to a degree. That’s nothing compared to the statements so many of my friends have made today. Hopefully it’s small enough that the family members I have who have tried to encourage my gay relatives into reparative therapy think better of starting that fight with me.
But if it’s permissible here to extend the “coming out” concept to my own experiences, then I’ve spent a lot of my life coming out.
I had to come out as an incipient marine science double major in a family where the options were “go into the trades and be regarded as a failure,” “go to law school,” or “go to med school.” I had to come out as, even after that, having no intention of seeking a medical career. I feel grossly trivializing even articulating that idea as “coming out,” but that’s what it felt like: disabusing my family of their preconceived notions of what future milestones they could expect from me, and revealing myself to be something other than what they thought.
I had to come out as an atheist, several times. My family’s denial on that front is so deep that they are probably still, after all these years and all the bitter recriminations I’ve endured, trying to convince themselves that I’m just poorly articulating some bizarrely esoteric version of Christianity and that I’ll totally send my kids to Sunday school because that’s just what parents DO. I’ve endured the usual batch of science-bashing and Dad claiming that marriage equality would be a horrible thing for the US to have and being encouraged to seek solace in churches whenever I experience any kind of difficulty in my life. I’ll hear it again next time one of them says something ridiculous or bigoted or both and I take them to task on it.
Revealing myself to be a leftist has been a similarly acrimonious process. The Cuban old guard regards any Hispanic-American person to the left of Genghis Khan as a traitor to their heritage and to the United States, so as far as they’re concerned I’m a filthy Communist swine. Or I’m a naive over-educated ivory-tower egghead who will come to his senses as soon as he has to take full control over his own finances or gets mugged by a black person, whichever is an easier slight to invoke in that particular moment.
So I’m a traitor to my own legacy as the descendant of first-generation Hispanic Catholic immigrants, as they see it, in at least that many ways already.
Yet I know that all of those battles, all of that anger and mistrust and disappointment, that I’ve already endured is NOTHING compared to what they would do to me if I were gay and they found out. My parents and uncles, with a few exceptions, hearken back to that dark time in history when homosexuality was in the DSM and most of them still oscillate between thinking it’s a disease and thinking it’s a sin and thinking it’s a form of demonic possession. All of them think that it would be an affront to their “just and merciful” deity if their government dealt equally and fairly with such people or offered their relationships the same bevy of legal support that straight people can get for theirs. I have one sibling who would suffer a fit of cognitive dissonance trying to process her muddled Catholicism and her more modern attitudes at the same info, and another who would think I was foolish for coming out at all in a way that they’d eventually see, even if it means hiding my partner from them for decades. To their credit, my parents didn’t cut me off for not picking a university direction they liked or for being nonreligious. They’ve come close to that for our gay relatives.
But there is one bit of denial I’d like to divest them of now, one closet I shall exit forthwith.
I have no desire to return to the United States to live long-term. I will almost certainly have to after my degree is completed, for whatever amount of time passes between the end of my study permit and the beginning of whatever job or postdoc I get afterward, but it will be temporary. I might even find myself forced by circumstance to accept such a position somewhere in the US, but that’s something I will be actively avoiding.
Because after my experience in Miami, I would consider myself an abusive parent if I were to subject my offspring to the Miami-Dade County Public School System while having other options.
Because some places are not beholden to this idea of “if another country tried it first, that makes it a bad idea, because AMERICA IS NUMBER 1!!!!1!!!!” and I intend to take advantage of that to live in the 21st century instead of the 20th or, increasingly, the 19th.
Because I want to live in a country where the idea that someone’s checkbook should have the remotest relevance to their healthcare is an antiquated throwback they’re almost done excising, and not something that will take another generation or two for the “greatest country in the world” to repudiate.
Because I want my kids to grow up in a country where shutting down the entire executive apparatus over a trivial reform to a healthcare system that ought to be razed and rebuilt to 21st-century developed-world standards is WEIRD, and not part and parcel of the same hyperbolic grandstanding that I’ve gotten increasingly embarrassed of in the past few years.
Because I want to live in a country where being a leftist, being an atheist, being gay, or (gasp) not being from “around here” are non-issues that are barely worth discussing compared to the monstrous, hateful abuse that still characterizes those conversations down south.
Because it’s just disturbingly, wretchedly, phantasmagorically grotesque what backwardness Americans will tolerate in their own country out of sheer pig-headed intransigence, and I do not feel a need to subject another generation to it.
Because I want the best life for me and for Ania and for the kids we’ll eventually have, kids that will grow up thinking of the United States as “the old country” and its truly amazing, revolutionary legacy of a government system birthed out of Enlightenment values as a beautiful experiment that its people weren’t smart enough to keep.
It’s a tragic, ironic, tearful day when an American has to admit that doing right by them and theirs means saying a preemptive goodbye to the stars and stripes. It’s an even more tragic, ironic, tearful day when he has to admit it to people who themselves fled their original homes for the US for the same reason.
There’s nothing tragic at all about trading it for the land of maple syrup and colorful curling pants and a religious right that is hilariously ashamed of itself and entirely too much in common with the land south of the world’s longest border.