Claire and Cherry Pie

Wake up and smell the rainbow

Tina Turner asks us ‘What’s love got to do with it?’ and the answer is, well, everything.  The Beatles told us that all we needed was love, so clearly it is pretty important.  A quick google search tells me that love is the most common song theme – out of all themes a person can possibly choose to write a song about (and the possibilities are endless) love tops them all.  There are quite literally millions of songs about love.

But why is one love more acceptable, more equal than another?  Why can some people choose to spend the rest of their lives together and celebrate that with a legally binding ceremony when others can not?  And why, when the official recognition of one type of love is not legal in our beautiful country (and supposedly goes against religious teachings because it is so offensive to the eyes of the church and defiles the sanctity of ‘marriage’ etc etc) can we possibly have a tv show called ‘married at first sight’?  How is that not incredibly wrong when marriage between two people who love each other and just happen to be of the same gender, supposedly is?  Are you confused by all this hypocrisy?  I sure am!  And quite a bit angry too.  Grab a cookie and get comfortable, this is a bit of a long one!  I promise I don’t have my ranty pants on – there is something very important I want to share with you, something I don’t talk about often.

On June 26th the United States Supreme Court ruled that marriage between two people of the same gender (male or female, but not those who identify as being a gender other than male or female – i.e. genderqueer/non-binary) was legal in all states – it’s pretty big news for one of the most influential countries in the world to decide this and Facebook became a field of celebratory rainbows (well my feed did anyway, I hope yours did too).

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So what about our country?  I could go into detail about how disappointed (but not surprised) I am with the position of our current Prime Minister and his party on this topic.  I could talk about how they seem to be more concerned with shouting down and blaming the previous government for anything and everything they can think of and of course, stopping boats (lets not forget the boats, it is after all the thing they are most proud of) than any other issues – but I won’t because I detest the pettiness of politics and don’t really have anything to add that hasn’t been said thousands of times before.  I am disgusted – end of.

Lets talk a little bit about rainbows – yay!  The rainbow flag is the symbol of the LGBTIQ community; it is a symbol of peace, hope and equality and the diverse colours of the rainbow represent the diversity of that community – which is more diverse than a lot of people probably realise.  The flag was designed by an artist named Gilbert Baker to be used in the 1978 San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade – it originally sported 8 colours but has been streamlined to the 6 colour version over the years when it lost its hot pink and indigo stripes, supposedly due to fabric availability and issues with mass-reproducing.  It has been suggested that the rainbow flag was inspired by the late Judy Garland’s best known song ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ from The Wizard of Oz – she was one of the first widely recognised gay icons.  I hope this is true.

Rainbow umbrellas, Matthew Wheeler, StockSnap

But who has the right to sport a rainbow flag?  Does the LGBTIQ community have exclusive rights for its use or can their ‘allies’ proudly display the flag as well?  Who are the allies of the LGBTIQ community and why do their voices matter in this debate?  Does changing your profile picture on Facebook so it has a rainbow filter mean you believe that all is right with the world and every issue a person in the LGBTIQ community has ever had is instantly solved?  Um, no.  The decision in the US doesn’t mean that everything is shiny now, it doesn’t mean Australia is going to suddenly follow suit, it doesn’t magically take away deep-seated hatred and bigotry or erase years of appalling treatment and yes there are still people who have been left behind.  BUT it is a step in the right direction.  It’s a starting point and most proud flag displaying and rainbow profile picture sporting allies know this, we’re not naive.

The decision in the US gives hope to all of us that want to see change in countries where the rainbow tide hasn’t quite overcome law, it gives us hope that this change will come and come soon.  It gives us hope that someday soon our ridiculous, backwards ass of a Prime Minister will finally wake up and smell the rainbow and follow suit.  But who am I to hope for this change?    Am I a member of the LGBTIQ community?  Well, no, but do I have to be to be entitled to an opinion on this?  I am an ally and I am proud to be.  I believe my voice is important because this is an issue that doesn’t just affect the LGBTIQ community, though they are undoubtedly the most affected; it also affects the people who are close to them.

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9 years ago my parents split up.  This happened because after years of depression and generally being a shit person to live with, my father finally acknowledged to himself and his family that he was gay.  I can’t imagine what it was like for him to grow up being told he was one thing, feeling so much pressure to live his life one way all the while being confused and depressed and not being able to understand why for so long.  I grew up thinking it was normal for fathers to love the Sydney Mardi Gras, to listen to Cher, George Michael and Elton John, to hate camping holidays with a passion and have many gay friends.  Actually I still do think this is normal, but some may say this should have been an indication as, at the time, they were not ‘normal’ things for straight fathers to have an interest in – they are things that fit the crude stereotype of a gay man.

I grew up in a largely accepting family; we were taught to value people for who they were and what they do and not judge them by their race, religion or sexuality.  Dad didn’t have this when he was growing up; his parents were a product of their generation and the society in which they lived.  They were vocally against what he grew to feel more and more as the years went on and the pressure they put on him to be and behave a certain way must have been very difficult for him.  I can’t speak for my dad, I can only speak for myself and tell you what it was like for me growing up with someone who didn’t really know who they were for so long, fighting how they felt inside and the world they grew up in.

Basically it was shit.  It was really hard and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.  From an ally perspective, there are so many stories and articles about parents accepting their LGBTIQ children for who they are and friends accepting friends – very little is ever said about adult children of LGBTIQ parents, people whose parents realise or accept later in life that they are not straight and I know it’s not that uncommon for his generation.  9 years ago when that was new to my life there was nobody I could talk to who could identify with my situation and say to me ‘yes, that happened to me too, it’s ok to be angry’.  I hope there is more out there now, I hope that anyone searching for the term ‘adult children of gay parents’, or similar, finds this post and knows they are not alone.

Before I go on let me clarify one point just incase it needs it; I don’t care that my father is gay.  How a person identifies themselves makes no difference to me or how I view them – it doesn’t change how I see them as a person.  But my happiness for my father’s newly accepted identity and acceptance of his lifestyle does not undo the past.  By the time he moved out of our family home his relationship with my mother, my brother and I had deteriorated to the point where we wanted him out of the house anyway.  It came as more of a shock to mum but I think by that point we all suspected the truth to some extent and weren’t hugely surprised – I certainly wasn’t.

So the hard part was not acceptance; the hard part was putting the pieces back together in his wake, it was as if he had shed a layer of himself, left it all and us all behind and moved on without a backwards glance.  The hard part was watching my brother withdraw into himself.  The hard part was seeing my mother so upset because she didn’t know what to do to fix our disintegrating family.  The hard part was my struggle with depression throughout my adolescence that was partly fuelled by our relationship, which was influenced by his internal struggle  – I was there and I was emotionally vulnerable and he projected his anguish and depression on to me.    The hard part was being young and being scared of my own father because he couldn’t control his own emotions, his own anger because of what was eating him up inside.  The hard part was forgiving him for his appalling behaviour, time and time again, and having that forgiveness thrown back in my face shortly after.  The hard part was what that repeatedly shattered forgiveness did to my ability to open up, become vulnerable and trust people.  The hard part is that he still has not really acknowledged his behaviour and the effect it had on us all – there is a term for his behaviour pattern now, it’s called emotional abuse, but there wasn’t back then.

He wasn’t a jerk because he was gay, there’s no genetic or physiological switch in a person that says to be gay you have to be a jerk; he was a jerk because for his entire life society had told him that he wasn’t good enough, that what he felt was wrong and unnatural.  It told him that his duty as a man was to get a good job, get married, have a family and support that family.  He was a jerk because he had experienced so many hits to that belief over the years by way of a repeatedly uncertain career future, many of which were not his fault, and then there was the big hit hanging over his head like the sword of Damocles, the one that said maybe he wasn’t who he had been told he was supposed to be.  He was a jerk and none of those reasons excuse his behaviour in the slightest, but they do help us understand somewhat.  I don’t know when he began to realise he wasn’t the person he had always believed and been told he was – our relationship had been difficult for a while so it’s impossible to pinpoint an exact time.

My parents were happy for many years, they did love each other and they still have affection for one another (and there is still some of dad’s stuff at mum’s place that she wants him to take or get rid of…).  I’m glad they met and got married because obviously without that my brother and I would not be here.  I just wish that things had been easier for him, well easier for all of us really.

My mother remarried a few years ago to a wonderful man who loves her very much and she loves him.  I now have sisters, something I never had before, and nephews and brothers-in-law; I love this wonderful family we have expanded to be.  My dad is happy too; he lives a few hours away with his partner and their two ridiculous, chocolate labradors.  We see them occasionally but not too often – there is still hurt there and it’s hard to let go of, particularly when the other person makes it difficult.  I am happy for him in his happiness – I wish there was more of a place for me in that happiness and more acknowledgement of our previous life because he is still my family, but we can’t have everything – I guess he doesn’t want to think too much about the person that he was.

From where I stand this whole debate seems so ridiculous – there should be no debate.  Why could my dad get married when he was straight and not now that he is gay?  Genetically he is the same person – the only thing that changed was his view of himself and the world.  Why can’t the world change its view too?  Starting with our Prime Minister.

I proudly wave a rainbow flag – I wave it for my friends in the LGBTIQ community in celebration of how the world is (slowly) evolving to accept them and their rights as humans.  I wave a rainbow flag in the hope that my father may one day be allowed to remarry.  I wave a rainbow flag in the hope that nobody else has to go through what my father and my family went through because everyone has the right to discover who they are, to love whomever they choose and not be made to feel less because of it.  And I wave a rainbow flag because I like rainbows, they make the world a happier, more beautiful place.
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5 Comments

  1. Rach

    Oh Claire, what a heartfelt and generous piece you have written here.
    I have a friend who went through what you went through and the scars are deep. I wish for both of you that you hadn’t had to be caught up in the collateral damage of society’s narrow mindedness. I am sure there are a lot of families who suffered because one of the parents was suffering. It is never confined to just them. And the fallout can be hard to live with. I am sad for you, for the younger you and for the now you. And I identify with the daughter in you that longs for her Daddy to care enough to break through all the history and all the hurts and find a way to show he still cares.
    Big hugs to you. This is an important, beautifully written, thoughtful and insightful post. -Rach X

    Reply
    1. ClaireCherryPie (Post author)

      Rach you are so beautiful, thank you <3 Your words made me shed a tear or two. I hope your friend is doing ok, it is a crap thing to go through. And I hope you're doing ok, having to fight for the affection of a parent sucks, no matter the reason.

      Reply
  2. Robyna | the Mummy and the Minx

    I hope my boys will grow up knowing they are free to be their true selves, whatever that may look like. So much damage is done by forcing square pegs into round holes, all that does is break people and relationships. Thank you for sharing a very important aspect of the whole debate.

    Reply
  3. The Hipsterette

    Great post – thank you for sharing your family’s story!

    Reply
  4. di gm

    Dear claire,
    i was very moved by your story and didnt realise how tough life was for you. You are a very courageous person and i am so pleased that you are in my life thank you for sharing this part of your journey and giving others insight to know that relationships are not as they seem. So pleased that you and your dad are finding a way of being father and daughter again. May you continue to celebrate the colours of the rainbow love gm x

    Reply

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