You know how it is with best friends. You're like family. My dear friend from high school, Tracy, comes from a big family that has always made me feel like one of their daughters. Let's call them the Carlyles.
The Carlyles are a gorgeous, gifted clan that settled in Oklahoma and California, the result of three generations of what used to be called "inter-racial marriage." —Polish, Polynesian, Japanese, Full-blood Native American, Scottish. Some of the kids are blond— and some got called "nigger" and "spic" growing up because of how bigots perceived their skin color. At the time their parents and grandparents got married, it was dicey for such couples to appear in public.
All the women in the family are married now, including my BFF, Tracy, who got married this year in California after living with her girlfriend and their son for the past ten years.
All the Carlyles are devoted to their churches. They each belong to different ones, some far to the left... and others Pentecostal. But they share a kind of Southern Christian enthusiasm about all their faith communities, whether they're praying in synagogues, temples, out in the redwoods, or at a clapboard pulpit.
Tracy's sister, Mary, is a Born-Again who is a round-the-clock activist to disenfranchise gay couples from their marriage rights by campaigning for California's Proposition No. 8.
I've known Mary since she was in the 6th grade, when she was just Tracy's "cute little sister." She was a first-class athlete, a model— exceptionally photogenic— and a hardcore surfer when most girls were just working on their bikini line. She loved rock 'n' roll, she had a super-hot boyfriend, and she wore flowers in her hair— just like all the other beautiful hippie girls in Southern California in the 70s!
Mary was perceived as "white"... a chick with a great tan. I don't remember her going to church. She wasn't political like her sister and I, but she smoked pot and thought killing women and children in Vietnam was wrong, like everyone else we knew. I remember we thought she was spoiled and superficial at the time, that she merely surfed while we were out protesting. But some of that snippiness could be chalked up to envy, and our perception that from a conforming feminine viewpoint, Mary had it all.
But something happened, after we grew up and left home. I don't know what she experienced in the pro-surfing or modeling worlds, but Mary... flipped out.
She is now a homeschooling mom with four kids and is a devout Yes On 8 activist, springing from her fundamentalist's church's directives. She will tell you with a grim look on her face that although she "loves" the homosexual, she does not approve of his actions, and God made marriage for a husband a wife, not for sinners. And yes, she includes her gay sister in this God-given rule.
I have no idea how to talk to Mary about this— and judging from what's going on in the family, neither does anyone else.
This is how weird it is: We buried her mother together a couple years ago. I held her in my arms, which is the first time I've done that since she was a little girl.
When Mary graduated from college this summer, we hosted a big party of her and her family, that her big sister Tracy organized. Mary said she needed financial help, so everyone ponied up cash into a little stuffed puppy dog basket. Tracy made a huge spread of food and organized the whole family to come out.
Mary allowed me, and the other bisexual and gay people at the party, to take care of her children all day, feed her, shower her with money and good wishes, pamper her husband, and attend to her every need. I didn't think anything of it at the time... I had no idea what she was doing back home. I just love the part about how God wants homosexuals to wait on you!— that's in the Bible, too, right?
When I came home, Mary sent me a Facebook invitation, and seemed to get a big charge out of having me on her "friend" list. She thinks of me as a celebrity, but apparently she would not sanction me getting married to a woman. She'd feel sorry for me, but she'd have to warn me I was going straight to hell. That's what Pentacostal love looks like, sweetheart!
The latest humdinger is that one of the liberal Oklahoma Carlyle cousins just wrote a Fuck-You letter to Mary, shaming her for being a bigot and a traitor to her family. Cousin Pearl said she'd put Mary "on a prayer list," which is like issuing a fatwah from her side of the pew. It tickled me, to see a liberal Christian chastising a conservative one, but it's unfortunately, a War of the Roses.
I agree with all Pearl's criticisms per se, but the way she said it: OUCH! Writing that letter has made things...worse.
You cannot shame Mary; she won't stand for it. She'll tear YOU a new asshole right back. Pearl's letter has fortified her belief that she is fighting the Lord's good fight against the heathens.
Mary has told us that she is closer to her church than her blood family. That's the ultimate rebellion in this brood, far more extreme than her gay opinions.
Tracy wanted "to agree to disagree," and hope that Mary would wake up one day and realize that the Preachy People are not watching her back. Tracy would not have written that letter. She misses her mother every day, and being close to her sister is the closest thing to that female intimacy in the family. Mary must have the same yearnings... so why does she push away?
I can watch those Fundie-tastic people on TV ranting about the evils of sex and sin, and think of all the rude things I'd like to say to them. It's easy to eviscerate them with logic. But when it comes to a family member, to the psychological grips of religion and the grief of abandonment, I am speechless.
I can't help but think someone like Mary is... crazy. The cognitive dissonance is petrifying.
I get the feeling that Mary was injured somewhere along the line, and we're still looking at the open wound, perverted as it is. *I* feel guilty that it might've been happening right in front of me, and I never noticed. Whatever it was, some preacher offered Mary a lifeline at the perfect moment when no one else was present. Now her transference is complete.
I don't believe her spiritual leaders, like James Dobson, give one cynical crap about her, but there is no way to get that message across in her current frame of mind. The one thing they have in common is that Dobson also believes homosexuals should "service" him, by playing the butt to all his political ambitions.
One day, someone Mary loves deeply, who's "gay," (I'm so weary of these labels) is going to die. Or one of her children is going to be gay. She is going to cry a river because it will became clear that her beliefs have been an unbearable cruel facade. Why do we have to wait for these kind of tragic events before the puritans have their "Come to Jesus" moment?
You see in the YouTube movie above, the life story in four minutes of a conservative city mayor (San Diego) who realized, after much heartbreak, that love really does make the world go 'round. Segregation and discrimination are not what you want to pin your legacy on.
It's so poignant to see the mayor's tears, but I wish he could've come to his senses before he was brought to his knees. What did he go through with his daughter, or his best friends, before he realized that human justice and the Golden Rule— in all its manifestations— are truly what it's all about?
I'd like to know if any of you are having these kind of estrangements in your family over Prop 8— or other initiatives like it. How do you handle them?