Sara Whitman

Whitewashed

Filed By Sara Whitman | November 26, 2007 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: homophobic behavior, issues, LGBT families, love, marriage, parenting, personal, problems

I read a friend’s blog today and looked back over my own from the last few days and realized we were both guilty of a bit of whitewashing.

whitewash.jpgYou know, censoring out the unpleasant and making lovely pictures of events. I know I wasn’t intentionally leaving out the difficulties. But leave them out, I did.

Why?

Partly because I think it’s dull to hear over and over again that I’m still having nightmares, Jeanine is still working too much, and my family of origin continues to be a battle, one that leaves me feeling small and powerless.

Boring.

I also tend to paint a picture of a perfect family structure, one with two moms, two dads and our three boys. But it isn’t. We often disagree, and struggle with our roles. There are triangles on top of triangles built. None of us came from picture perfect circumstances. We all have had to deal with questioning ourselves, our sexuality, how the world perceives us based on who we love, a process that leaves scars on your psyche, no matter how much therapy you do.

The truth is we fight, we argue, we don’t like each other at times. We wrestle constantly with the roles of who has what right to say what about the kids lives. Do we, the moms, get ultimate veto power because we are the legal parents or do the dads have as much right to demand something? We all have the same overall values but how it plays out on a daily basis can be very different.

We are far from perfect.

Some of it comes from a desire to show off our gay family as just as good, if not better, than anyone else’s. I can hear my mother’s voice telling me that raising children as lesbians was wrong. She loved her grandchildren, but at any given moment, no matter how loving and accepting she seemed, she was quick to point out how wrong it was.

I was guaranteeing them a life of pain, discrimination and being an “other.” I would shrug and say, last I looked, people of color were having children and their kids were in the same boat, only they didn’t have the choice to disclose their difference.

She hated that response. She would mutter something about it being different and a choice.

I love that. Oh, yes, being gay is a choice and because it is so much easier to live this way. Why, complete strangers are willing to come up and slit our throats simply because we breathe. I believe that was part of the recruitment literature.

Get free pass to be a hate crime victim! Be refused employment! Denied heath care benefits! Have family and friends reject you!

Some of the need to ignore the bad, highlight the good is because I’m tired. I don’t want to be someone with nightmares. I don’t want to work so hard all the time at relationships. I hate being afraid. If I close my eyes, and plug my ears, it will be better.

I’ve been guilty of a little whitewashing over the last few weeks. Painting beautifully lit domestic harmony, like Johannes Vermeer where the reality is more like a Jackson Pollack painting, smattering of globs of paint all over. I spend so much time trying to stay in the lines when the lines don’t even come close to the reality of my life. The irony is, when the boys were little, I would sit and color with them, purposefully crossing the thick black borders, creating other images that didn’t exist on the paper. I encouraged them to do the same.

And yet I sit here, waiting for the world to say I am good enough. Look at how well I draw. Not a single mistake.

My apologies for being less than truthful at times. It comes, I know, from a deep-rooted need to be accepted. Loved. Acknowledged. To silence the critic on my shoulder, always pointing out the flaws in my life. Telling me how messy everything is, how I'll always be a failure. A disappointment.

My life does not fit in the lines. Nor does it need to be whitewashed.

The trick is for me to see it's still beautiful.


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Bravo! The picture you have drawn is beautiful and unique because you draw outside the lines.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | November 26, 2007 2:33 PM

Quelle courage! Bravissima!

P.S. Your mom, in this instance, is spoutin' baloney. You have only to look at your children when they're sleeping -- that precious wonder of love and life and connection back and forward into eternity to know. Your retort to her was kind. You could've pointed out that she was, in criticizing your bringing them into the world, being part of the very problem she was using as reason not to -- that she was participating in hurting the grandchildren she loves but loves not well enough to evolve into an advocate for them instead of just another obstacle to happiness for them. I only hope she has the good sense to keep these hateful views to herself when they're near -- for her sake as much as theirs because they know better from the example of loving courage you set.

Your post reminds me of the Globe magazine article a few weeks ago about the "New Wave" of LGBT youth. As a person that loosely falls into the category of "New Wave," it frustrates me to see articles like that getting published by third-party straight men and women who only interview LGBT youth who are openly accepted by their parents and their friends. I don't fall into that category, and I have a few friends that also face homophobia within their families. The issue is white-washed and it is impertinent that we realize that while things are getting better, the LGBT community is still segregated.

I am almost too concerned that we as a community will "white wash" our circumstances too much and forget that there is still a war to be fought. A few years ago at an annual NAACP meeting, I forget who exactly (it might have been Whoopi Goldberg) remarked how her generation of black Americans failed to appropriately pass on the civil rights fight to the next generation. I fear that this is what is happening to the LGBT community. Your generation marched on Washington and fought for gay marriage legislation. My generation needs to not settle for what has been accomplished, but realize that until equality has been achieved for every American regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, etc., we need to be upfront and open about the injustices plaguing our society and our personal lives.

Thanks for the post.
Waverly Pascale

Waverly, I could not agree more. Thank you for extending to a more global concept of whitewashing in the gay community.

Countless times I've heard that the next generation will have no trouble with LGBT lifestyles. I hope for it for my own kids.

But I know better.

You are a lot more personal on your home blog than I've ever been here at bilerico, Sara. I applaud your courage in blogging the good times as well as the bad, but I'm not going to fault you any for a little "whitewashing" of the bad times.

Focusing on the bad times can lead to serious depression. We all have good times and bad; it makes us human. And we all try to gloss over our bad times, I'm sure.