Times have been hard lately. I lost my relationship with my mother — or perhaps I’m just now accepting that I never had a real relationship with her to begin with. Her full participation in my life was always contingent on my pretending to be someone I’m not. She never wanted the queer, polyamorous, democratic socialist, Jesus-loving version of me who adamantly believes in liberty and justice for all. I’ve finally grown to understand that she doesn’t mind losing me from her life now because my role as her child was, at best, an illusion she maintained only when it served her own sense of control over me anyway. She never wanted my happiness or freedom as much as she wanted to believe I can’t live without her. She never wanted to fight for my rights and liberty as much as she wanted to allow chaos to happen in my life so she could swoop in and take the credit for “saving” me with an “I told you so” on top.
It’s an especially uncomfortable dynamic in light of an Evangelical political movement taking over the country right now. I spent childhood and adolescence waiting patiently for the Freedom that would come with turning 18. I knew if I just performed well enough for another week at a Baptist church that saw me as a walking incubator, or if I just got through one more enraged episode of my step-father exercising his violent control over us, or if I just hid in my room long enough to survive without being noticed, I could eventually stop living in that “Christian” reality best described as Hell. I survived without killing myself, and without killing my parents despite many nights of lying awake genuinely contemplating that possibility, only because I knew there would eventually be Freedom to look forward to at age 18.
And for a while, I didn’t have to live in that Baptist reality. From age 18-34 I’ve mostly had a choice to stay away from it. I knew the Evangelical reality still existed, but I was no longer forced into it. That’s what we white folks call living in “a free country”. Not being forced to live according to someone else’s beliefs.
Family dinners were always still tense. I’ve been supposed to keep my mouth shut about my love life, about my partners, about my work, about my passions, about my interests, and most of all, about my feelings as a human being trying to survive in this crazy, hurtful world. When I tell my family I’m afraid for my life, their response is a very silent, “Well what did you expect?”
As if cooperating with the delusions of white men, to make them feel powerful and in control at every available level of everyone else’s lives, is somehow supposed to make me less afraid? As if naming this truth out loud should be dangerous? As if I deserve punishment for not stroking their Evangelical egos hard enough?
That’s been our survival strategy as white folks for 500+ years though, hasn’t it? Defer to the white men. They’ll come to bat for white women and children, as long as we never question their authority. If you dare to ask questions, or to think sincerely about the evident and abundant truth, all the white women gon’ do is tilt their heads at you pitifully over the pain you just invited upon yourself. Then they gon’ ask you like a child who just touched a hot stove, “Well what did you expect?”
I expected my mother not to leave a stove burner turned on she knew would probably hurt me. I expected her to believe I deserve safety and freedom, even as a queer, polyamorous, transgender person. I expected her to make the effort to protect me, as a child and as an adult, from being burned by a system that wants to punish me for being who I am. I don’t know why I expected that. I guess I thought being a mother would be more important to her than being white and comfortable.
Maybe I looked at the Hispanic woman who slipped out of handcuffs in Uvalde, TX and ran into the elementary school to get her two children during the shooting, without giving a damn about all the white men with guns pointed at her, because her children were the most precious and important people on the planet in her eyes. Maybe I thought my mother might hold that same kind of reverence for me, somewhere deep in the dark recesses of feelings she never shares with me? Maybe I thought when push came to shove, she would feel the motherly instinct to demand my survival, instead of being apathetic that the white men with guns are standing back and actively investing in my death?
This week I sat with a financially-quite-comfortable, white, cisgender, heterosexual, married father who is running for office on the Democratic ticket. When I expressed to him my sincere and founded concern that if the Democrats lose this election I will be jailed for being who I am, his response was, “Don’t worry. We’ll bring you hot meals and protest outside the jail for you.”
White women, I don’t know if y’all are starting to figure this out yet or what, but white men are not going to save any of us. They don’t even do the damn laundry. They call spending time with their own children “babysitting.” They might bring you hot meals and protest outside the jail for you after you have a miscarriage, if you survive at all. But they care as much about your liberty as my mother and father care about mine. Just enough to say “But I do care!” and then make you feel crazy for wondering why it doesn’t feel like they really mean it.
Part 2 of this writing will dive into the impact this reliance on white men to be our saviors has on romantic love in times like these. But for now, I ask us to sit and reflect on what it means when silence becomes betrayal. Parents, what does it mean when your queer child asks for your support, your listening, or your compassion, and all they get in return is your deafening silence?
Or worse, they get hot meals and a protest outside the prison you’ve already locked them in?