I had a somewhat disturbing dream, in which I was out shopping with my mom, and she occasionally made references to a book I had given her as one of her presents the previous Christmas. Except she wouldn’t mention the title, she kept referring to it simply as, “that book you got me.”
And the conversation got a bit weird and emotional. Finally, she pulls out the book, and it’s a book of quotations. But specifically a book of gay and lesbian quotations. For a second, in the dream, I was very confused, and then I realized that I had accidentally swapped the tags on two books I had been wrapping up for different people. I had intended to give Mom a book about the writing process or something, and this was supposed to go to someone else.
It became clear, in the dream, that she had agonized for months over the book, trying to decode some sort of message I was trying to tell her by giving her the book. Reading the quotations had made her re-think some of our previous discussions on the subject of me being gay. But, of course, she had also inferred some odd things.
The disturbing part, the part that woke me up feeling a strange mix of irritated, sad, frustrated, and amused, was that dream-me couldn’t decide if I should take the opportunity to discuss her re-thinking, or if before I did that, I should confess that I had accidentally given her the wrong book.
It’s been a bit over 20 years since I came out of the closet to my mom. I had been out to an ever widening circle of friends for years before that, but like most gay kids from evangelical families, I had put off letting the family know for as long as I could. And like most evangelical families, most of mine did not react calmly to the news that one of their own was gay.
It took a few years for Mom and I to reach an uneasy ceasefire, and a few years more to forge a more stable truce. She no longer freaks out if I happen to say, “Honey, could you hand me that?” or something similar to Michael when we’re visiting. We always get a hotel when we come to visit and never, ever, ever ask to stay in a guest room at any family members’ home. I pretend I don’t know she’s still secretly hoping that Michael and I will each see the light, leave each other, and find nice Christian girls to settle down with. She’s stopped telling me that she’s asking her friends at church to keep praying for exactly that to happen.
It’s not supportive acceptance, but it’s better than grudging tolerance. To be fair, she’s grown genuinely fond of Michael. She introduces him as “her other son” to friends and neighbors. And I know it’s a lot more support and acceptance than some people (not just gay people) get from parents who don’t approve of their choice in spouses.
Unfortunately, it means we don’t talk about a lot of things—some of them quite important things. It means I’m still a little afraid that some of my relatives might try to cause trouble for Michael if something were to happen to me. Under current state law Michael is supposed to have all the same rights as a surviving spouse.
Supposed to. But in other states with similar domestic partnership laws, things haven’t always gone that way for some couples.
I’m probably having anxiety about this right now because of the Referendum on the state ballot to affirm the marriage equality law that the legislature finally passed earlier this year. If the voters don’t approve it, technically things don’t get any worse, legally. But the practical upshot (as has been shown in other states), is that a lot of people take the vote as justification (and legal permission) to discriminate.
It may also be because, with the anniversary of Ray’s death looming, I’ve been reminded again of how very little support or even acknowledgement of my bereavement I got from most of my family when it happened.
On the other hand, the dream-me was as mortified about simply giving the wrong gift to the wrong person.
So maybe, just maybe, I shouldn’t analyze so much.
Sometimes a weird dream is just a weird dream.