Category Archives: Family

Certain Phone Calls

My mother called last night. For a variety of reasons, it depresses me to talk to her these days. One of the things she said to me was, “I should have had three children, then maybe I’d have had a normal one.” WTF! She always has something hurtful to say like that. She always has to get a dig in, though she acts like she’s joking, but she never actually says it in a joking tone.

Then, she started in on “that idiot Biden.” I told her I’d voted for Biden because he was a good Christian who went to church every Sunday, while she voted for Trump who never attends church. The problem is that Biden attending church regularly means nothing to her because she doesn’t believe Catholics are real Christians. She’s not the only ignorant Protestant that believes that. She also sees Biden as godless because he’s a Democrat, so she can’t allow herself to believe he’s a Christian and deludes herself that Trump is a good Christian even though I have no idea how that delusion exists. 

I reminded her that she’ll vote for anyone and everyone with a (R) behind their name even if they are a rapist or someone who tried to overthrow the government (Trump) or a child molester (Roy Moore) or any number of complete idiots (ex. Tommy Tuberville). Her response was, “Yes, I will. Do you go to church every Sunday?” I said I don’t because I can’t find a church up here that I like, but I study my Bible every Sunday. I would love to tell her that I have people from all over the world of many faiths who read my devotionals every Sunday and often write to me to tell me what an inspiration they find my writing. She would just get mad and not understand. She can barely use the internet, so it would do no good.

She just pisses me off so much! And, she wonders why I don’t call her. I will probably go home at Christmas, but it’s more to see friends of mine than to see my family. I know I’ll be depressed and made to feel like crap while I’m home. The only enjoyment I get from being with my parents these days is doing all of the cooking while I’m home. I can immerse myself into that and disregard the rest, at least for a little while. I don’t think she understands just how much my mental health and physical health (except for the headaches) have improved over the past couple of years that I haven’t been home because of the pandemic.

Benevolent Hatred

I grew up being taught that “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Although, I prefer what Clairee Belcher (Olympia Dukakis, may she rest in peace) said in Steel Magnolias, “Well, you know what they say: if you don’t have anything nice to say about anybody, come sit by me!” 😂 I try to be a nice person, but sometimes, the gossipmonger in me comes out. I think it’s part of being a southerner. We love to gossip, which is often one of the worst things about the South. I grew up around people who never wanted to show outward hatred to anyone. Yes, in private, they would say horrible things about people, and they would often discriminate against people subtly, or sometimes not so subtly. They always wanted the outward appearance of being nice. That outward appearance was far more important than actually being kind. A kind person is loving and giving out of the goodness of their heart. Nice people often just want to avoid conflict at any cost. Charlie Ray, a gay Birmingham, Alabama, TikToker says it better than I can:

In the South, there are a few phrases that are meant to be nice, but are often anything but kind: “Bless your heart” and “Aren’t you precious?” Bless your heart as a phrase has multiple meanings. It can be used as a sincere expression of sympathy or genuine concern. It can be used as a precursor to an insult to soften the blow. It is also sometimes used to mean “you are an idiot, but you can’t help it” by individuals who wish to “be sweet” and do not wish to “act ugly.” It can also be a “pleasant” way of saying, “Fuck you.” I once heard that it was like aloha in Hawaii, there were many meanings according to the context. I think only true southerners can really interpret the meaning of how it’s being used at the moment. Then there is Aren’t you precious? Although this phrase sounds like a question, it can genuinely be a statement to compliment something cute or sweet. It’s usually intended as an interjection and generally in reference to a child’s outfit or behavior. But in the South, beware. If you hear someone saying, “Well aren’t you precious?” it’s probably being said sarcastically. It’s a phrase usually said if someone has said or done something you find stupid or insulting. The same goes for the phrase of calling someone “sweet.” When you see a baby that is just not attractive, I’ve often heard, “Well, isn’t he/she so sweet?” It means that the person did not want to say, “How beautiful!” or “What a pretty baby!” but they couldn’t outright say, “OMG! What an ugly child!” My mother used this one a lot.

One of the hardest things to handle when I lived in the South was when people were nice to me, but they never really accepted me because either they knew I was gay or perceived I was gay. They would hug me when I saw them. They’d ask about my day or my life and mean it. They would welcome me over for dinner and make sure I got more than enough to eat. They’d laugh with me (though often you could sense they were laughing at you). However, no matter how nice or kind they acted, they never accepted me. I remember one time I mentioned that I thought a guy was attractive (this was amongst a group that I was out to), and the husband of a friend of mine said, “I don’t have a problem with you being gay, I just don’t want to hear about it.”


#gay folks don’t need your acceptance or your #bigotry & #hate #lgbtq people are just like you. #bekind #blm #pride #gaypride

♬ original sound – Desi P

It’s hardest when they are kind because then when they are not kind it cuts more deeply. When they ask about your life but then you see the tense jaw and the pursed lips as you answer. Even when you are telling about something that is incredibly important to you or that you are passionate about, they have a hard time actually feigning interest. You can see their tension if it goes against what they deem appropriate, proper, and/or Christian. They might respond with a “that’s nice” but you know they are thinking it’s anything but nice. Then, the next time they ask about your life you are more careful. You tell the sanitized version. You leave some stuff out. I did this a lot. When I felt someone’s judgement of me or was told I told too much (that they did not want to hear), then I’d censor myself around them from that point onward. It kills you a little bit each time it happens, each time you have to censor yourself. It wears away at you when they are nice because it’s harder to say, “Your behavior hurt me.” They will almost always say they didn’t mean to hurt you; they were just sharing their beliefs. Often, they will claim that you are being too sensitive.

Later on, when they realized that they missed a big part of your life, they might even call you dishonest. They will say you left too much out, that you deceived them. They will say that you are the one who shut them out of your life. They will never realize that they are the ones who set the boundaries on the acceptable conversation and behavior with their non-verbal gestures, with their snide comments back, with their clear disapproval. They will say that you hurt them, or you made them feel excluded. They tell you they love you and want to be in your life. Then we often try again to let them into our lives, but we get the same response, and it hurts even more this time. They will often claim you were the one who caused the rift. You weren’t respecting their feelings or beliefs. They will claim that you weren’t willing to compromise. Even though, for years, you were the only one to always compromise and kept your mouth shut and acted the way they wanted you to act. I have spent nearly forty years denying myself happiness because I spent so much of my life hiding parts of myself from my family. 

Maybe you are someone who sits alone on a holiday or misses out on a family gathering because you simply cannot bear to go and hear people force you to be someone you are not for one more holiday. You cannot bear to smile even though you want to be weeping. You cannot bear to keep so much of yourself hidden. You become the one who is alone, and you feel like you are punishing yourself, when it is they who are punishing you. Maybe you know you did the right thing to save your sanity, but it still feels like you are the one being punished. For many of us, we realize that whenever we meet someone new, it’s their voice you hear in your head telling you that you aren’t worthy of love. But it’s a subtle voice with kind tones. This is benevolent homophobia. In racism, it’s akin to paternalism. People in positions of power restrict the freedom and responsibilities of those subordinate to them in the subordinates’ supposed best interest. The same is true of homophobia, they want to save us from ourselves by imposing their twisted beliefs of what they believe the Bible says to force us to conform to their twisted morality. Some people do this with “kindness,” but it is veiled hatred, and we cannot pretend it’s not.

A Glimmer of Hope?

Last night, my mother called. It was the second time she had called yesterday. The first time was to ask about a recipe, and in the second, she called back to tell me about a procedure she had done with her eyes. Mama has macular degeneration, just like her father had. It had begun to deteriorate because of a blockage in a blood vessel, so they had to give her a shot in her eye. The good news is that the doctor said it was very successful, and she probably would only need one more injection. 

After telling me about the procedure, she asked me what I would do on Christmas Day. I told her I would likely cook dinner, and that was about all I’d do. Then she asked, “ Do you have anyone to spend the day with?” I told her that no, I didn’t have anyone. I said that maybe I could spend some time with my downstairs neighbor, who she knows is also from Alabama, but I doubt I’d see anyone. Then came the glimmer of hope. She asked, “No, I was wondering if you had met a guy you could spend Christmas with?” Now there could be any number of reasons she asked this. She may just be worried about me being alone on Christmas. She could have only been curious or thought this might be the real reason I was not coming home for Christmas.

In the fifteen years since she found out I was gay, she has never said anything positive about being gay. It has always been a nasty, snarky side comment when she has mentioned my sexuality. The examples are too many to name. She asked this with no malice in her voice, just curiosity (and maybe a bit of hope that I would not be alone on Christmas). For some, this would not be a big deal. For me, it seems like a possible reason to hope that she is finally accepting my sexuality. I could be reading too much into this, but I know my mother very well. I know when she is lying. I know when she’s being manipulative. I know when she is being nosy in a malicious way. This comment did not seem like any of those things.

Only once before had she ever mentioned a possible man in my life, and that was my college roommate. She thought that we might have had something going on. We did not, and I told her so. I did try one night when we were drunk but was rebuffed, then after college, I came out to him, and I’ve never heard from him since. We were roommates for four years, and I haven’t heard from him in nearly twenty years. I haven’t tried to contact him, and he hasn’t tried to contact me again. It wasn’t awkward or anything when I told him, and I am terrible at keeping in touch with people. It’s easier now with Facebook, but Facebook wasn’t around or popular back then. Anyway, I am sidetracked.

I don’t know exactly what my mother meant when she asked me if “I’d met a guy I could spend Christmas with.” Once I said that I had not met anyone, she said she had to go, and we disconnected before I could say anything more. The thing I can’t stress enough is that she did not seem to be negative in any way when she asked about me meeting a guy. Maybe I shouldn’t see so much hope in this little question. Time will tell if she has had any kind of change of heart. I wish that I had a guy to spend Christmas with, cook for, cuddle up with on the couch, and watch a Christmas movie. Maybe someday that will happen. I find it increasingly doubtful, but I can continue to hope. 

Maybe if I met someone and decided to spend Christmas with them instead of with my family, she would decide it was okay for me to bring him home to meet them. That’s probably really wishful thinking, but maybe she’s had an epiphany. Isn’t that what happens in all the Christmas movies? Scrooge had an epiphany about his miserly ways. George had an epiphany in It’s a Wonderful Life about the many lives he has touched. In every Lifetime or Hallmark Christmas movie, a woman decides that her life in the big city is too hectic, and she’s better off with a simpler life in rural Vermont with a guy she met two days ago . It’s a common theme at Christmastime. So why can’t I have a glimmer of hope that my mother has also had an epiphany about her homophobia?

I’ve been here for five years, and it still hasn’t happened to me either. Dammit, Hallmark! 

Be Thankful and Be Safe

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

—Philippians 4:6-7

This year won’t be my first Thanksgiving without seeing my family. Since I moved to Vermont, I have chosen to go home for Christmas and not Thanksgiving. It’s always been impossible to afford both. However, this year, I won’t be going home for Christmas either. The pandemic is just too bad in Alabama, and I don’t want to take the chance of getting the virus and spreading it to my parents. I think this will be the second time that I have spent Thanksgiving on my own. Since I moved to Vermont, I have spent most years having Thanksgiving with friends or coworkers. Last year, I spent Thanksgiving and my birthday with my friend Susan in Manhattan. It was one of my most memorable Thanksgivings and birthdays. For once, I got to spend those two days with someone who loves me unconditionally for who I am. With my family, it’s always on the condition that I don’t speak about being gay.

This year, the United States (and to a certain extent, the whole world) is in the middle of what disaster-preparedness experts once believed would be a worst-case scenario. A highly contagious virus with unpredictable symptoms (sometimes mild, sometimes fatal) is raging worse than ever in the United States. The curve is not flat, nor is there even a curve. It’s a line that is starting to point straight upward. More than 1,000 Americans are dying every day, on average. Soon that number will likely hit 2,000. Over one-quarter of a million people have died. That number may rise to over 300,000 by Christmas, or more if people gather together from multiple households over Thanksgiving, which will see the United States have thousands of super-spreader events. It doesn’t look like there is a lot to be thankful for this year. However, 1 Chronicles 16:34 tells us, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

I know that few things sound nicer for many of us than sitting around eating with friends and family after so much isolation and worry over this seemingly never-ending year. But from an infectious-disease standpoint, the guidelines at this moment are stark and frank: 

  • Limit activities to those essential to life. 
  • Don’t gather socially. 
  • Don’t travel. 

Many doctors, public-health experts, and some civic leaders (though not enough) have begged us in recent weeks to follow these guidelines. They have asked us not to celebrate Thanksgiving in anything resembling the modern American way—with multigenerational gatherings that involve travel and prolonged conversations over an indoor meal. Canada celebrated its Thanksgiving on October 12. In the days and weeks following Canada’s Thanksgiving, coronavirus case numbers immediately started to rise. From November 12-19, Canada reported three of its five highest single-day totals in the entire year, all within the span of a week. Canada’s COVID-19 surge since after Thanksgiving is a warning for Americans.

In any other administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would issue guidelines to Americans. In a coordinated effort with the president and coronavirus task force to advise and coordinate with governors, mayors, and citizens. Instead, there is a messaging void. The president has spent his time golfing and tweeting about the election being stolen from him, including saying dead people voted when the families of over 250,000 people are mourning the death of loved ones from a virus he has done nothing to control. He has effectively quit being the president and at the same time trying to hang on to the false belief that he won the election. He has broken with his task force and refused to concede or transfer power to incoming experts, leaving them without vital information. The CDC has a barely adequate page of new “considerations” for holiday celebrations that the agency’s officials have neither publicly announced nor explained in news conferences.

If people don’t stay home and have Thanksgiving with only the members of their households, this virus will spread exponentially, and thousands more will die. The truth is that we will likely need to be more vigilant with each passing day this winter, not less. The virus knows no difference between holidays and workdays. Our default should be to treat Thanksgiving as a day when the health guidelines are no different from any other day. As the prevalence of the virus increases, things that were previously low risk become more dangerous. This is why it’s so important to follow the directives of not gathering indoors or traveling. It’s never been advisable during the pandemic to socialize with people outside your bubble who can’t manage to wear masks and keep their distance, but it’s especially ill-advised now. 

No family member should put pressure on others to gather. Many people will likely join reluctantly because they do not want to be the ones who are no fun or to keep others in the family from acting indignant or insulted. That’s what my parents are doing by going to my sister’s in-laws for Thanksgiving. Just simply say no. Say that you are thankful they are currently safe and healthy, and you would like to keep it that way. If you don’t, it might be the last Thanksgiving you do see your family. Remember, the risk of such gatherings is not limited to those who gather. Each transmission of the virus can possibly spread to dozens more, and those dozens will spread it to dozens more, and the spread goes on and on. We are all in this together, and we can’t forget that.

Take the opportunity to think about what you love most about the day. Focus on how to re-create that, and even build on it. Maybe learn to cook one of the dishes that someone else usually brings to dinner. Think of the people you actually look forward to seeing, and call them. Think of the people you don’t look forward to seeing, and don’t call them. Maybe most important, this year is an opportunity to bond over the moral certainty of the moment. At its core, Thanksgiving is a day of giving thanks for the blessings of the past year. While there may not be a lot to be thankful for when it comes to 2020, 1 Timothy 4:4-5 tells us, “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” This year, families, friends, and communities can work together to achieve something meaningful and good: ending the pandemic. All you’re asked to do is eat food at home.

Whatever you do, have hope that next Thanksgiving, if the news of an effective vaccine proves as promising as it sounds, we can go back to whatever traditions draw people to Thanksgiving. We can hope and pray that this is a one-time deal. Next year will be an opportunity to be thankful for the fundamentals of the holiday that we tend to take for granted in normal years.


In 1976, Jimmy Carter famously said in a Playboy Magazine interview, “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.” Carter was referring to a particular Christian theological idea about sin. I was taught two things about sin growing up: 1) all sins are equal in the eyes of God and 2) if you contemplate a sin, it is no different from committing it. I have always had a fundamental problem with both. Carter did not. I think the supposed sin of a “lie of omission,” which is leaving out part of the truth on purpose and is still considered a lie, is not nearly as bad as murder. How can the two sins be equal? Furthermore, we all contemplate sins at various times. Many of us lust after people we shouldn’t but that is not the same as acting on lust nor is it adultery even if the person is married. If contemplating a sin was really a sin, then I am going straight to hell, “do not pass go, do not collect $200.”

I had the opportunity to be very cruel yesterday, but I held my tongue. My mother called upset that her preacher had died of COVID-19. I said I was sorry to hear it, but what I did not remind her of was that he had refused to wear a mask even though he was in a high risk category, and he had continued to hold church services even when he was told he shouldn’t. The man was elderly and had Parkinson’s but did not try to protect himself, his family, or his congregation. Did he get what he deserved? No, no one deserves to die like that. However, I am not going to feel a great deal of sadness over it either. Will those around him that still refuse to wear a mask learn from this? Again, no, they won’t because they would rather listen to the lies of a president who denounces science only because he is against abortion. I will not feel great sorrow for them if they get sick either. I will admit that I have a few prejudices; Republicans and Southern Baptists are at the top of the list. Both groups have done so much harm to the LGBTQ+ community and to me personally, not to mention minorities and whoever else they deem to hold in contempt. 

As I mentioned in my post about depression, when I needed my mother the most, when I was at the two lowest point in my life, she was not there for me. She never knew that I attempted suicide when I was a teenager, nor did she really care. She never understood the bullying I faced at school or my struggle with my sexuality and when I have tried to point out the bullying to her, she refuses to listen. She also constantly reminds me how wrong it is to be gay. When my friend died five years ago, and I called her because I wanted to hear her voice and wanted her to comfort me, she dismissed my sadness because my friend was gay. Some of you may be asking why I would have even sought comfort from her, but I used to be very close to my mother, and I so desperately wanted her to try and make it better. She has failed me many times, and yet, I still keep her in my life. I still love her. I know my relationship with my family is far from healthy.

Phone Calls

Yesterday afternoon, my best friend who lives in Texas called me. We talked for a few minutes; the conversation we had lasted maybe 30 seconds. The rest of the time for about 30 minutes or so, she talked to her three-year-old son who was in the backseat of the car. I have no idea why she called. I hate when people call me and apparently, don’t really want to talk to me. I have one friend I never have to worry about with that. She’s going to have something to say when she calls. However, my friend in Texas, my sister, and my aunt are the worst about calling and not really having anything to say. I guess they want me on the phone, but really have nothing to say. When my sister calls and does have something to say, it’s usually something idiotic, like telling me about a trip she took to Florida or Tennessee in the middle of a pandemic. Whenever Mama calls, she never wants to talk long, and she seems to try to get off the phone as quickly as possible. And people wonder why I have issues with talking on the phone.

After my friend called, my mother called. She wanted to tell me that a neighbor I grew up next to had died of pancreatic cancer. It’s sad because she left behind three young children. However, I barely knew the girl. Honestly, I don’t even remember her name. She lived next door but there was a pasture between us. I grew up in a very rural area. My mother didn’t really want us associating with the neighbors, so I never knew any of them very well. After she got through telling me this whole story about this woman who died, I mentioned that Olivia de Havilland died. Mama is a huge Gone with the Wind fan as is my sister. Apparently, my mother and sister had already had a conversation about Olivia de Havilland’s death, so it wasn’t news to her. Anyway, Mama was confused about who de Havilland had a long love affair with. I tried to tell her it was Errol Flynn, but she wasn’t listening to me and kept talking about the man she’d been in love with was the one who played all the pirates in movies. Again, I told her it was Errol Flynn, and she said, “Oh yeah, that’s right.” Then as I continued to try and talk to her, when she interrupts me and said, ” I have another phone call. Bye,” and hung up. 

Then I get another call. This time it was my niece, who apparently was at my parents’ house. (I won’t even get started on what’s wrong with that, since it is not safe for them to be around the grandchildren right now with the pandemic.) My niece basically said, “Hi, Uncle Joe,” and then it was like pulling teeth to get her to talk to me. She was obviously distracted by something. What it was, I don’t know. I tried asking her about school starting back, and eventually she answered me. Finally, she said, “Grandma wants to talk to you.” I was thinking I just talked to her, it had only been 2 or 3 minutes, but I didn’t say that. Mama proceeded to ask me if I will be able to come home at Christmas because apparently, she has heard that AOC is trying to shut down all travel. I started to write that I don’t know where she gets this stuff, but I do know. All her craziness comes from Fox News. I don’t even have to ask. Why can’t the FCC just shut that shitshow down for all the misinformation they spread. Anyway, I said that I would probably not be able to come home but it had nothing to do with AOC but with the fact that the university has asked us not to travel outside of Vermont, especially to high risk areas, of which Alabama is one such place. Then she tells me how sad it will make her if I can’t come home at Christmas. I said that it would make me sad too. I was in the middle of explaining about why the university doesn’t want us to travel and when I would start going back into the office, when she breaks into the middle of what I was saying to tell me that she needs to get off the phone. All she called for was to make a nasty remark about a Democrat and when I tried to tell her something, she didn’t want to hear it. My family drives me crazy.

So, I basically had four phone conversations about nothing yesterday afternoon. Finally, my friend Susan called. She always has plenty so say, whether I do or not. Last night, I was actually in the mood to talk, we ended up being on the phone for nearly two hours. When we both have a lot to say, we end up on the phone for a long time. I always feel better though after talking to Susan. If she hadn’t called, I would have probably remained in a pissed off mood about the useless phone calls I’d received that afternoon.

Fourth of July Traditions

When I was growing up, our family had five big holidays that we celebrated: New Year’s Day, Easter, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. New Year’s Day was always celebrated with traditional foods (pork, greens, and black-eyed peas) and with my paternal grandmama’s family. Easter was a holiday for just my parents, sister, and me. We always had ham, macaroni and cheese, and the other vegetables varied. Independence Day was always celebrated with my paternal granddaddy’s family. Thanksgiving was always celebrated with my mother’s family, and Christmas was numerous gatherings with all the different branches of my family. Each of them was a very special occasion that I always looked forward to.

The Fourth of July was always particularly special. My granddaddy had his own barbecue pit and would cook pork and beef ribs. Ive always preferred pork ribs. My grandmama would make the sauce that would go on them. Granddaddy also would grill some corn on the cob, too. Grandmama would make baked beans and potato salad. My mama would make the coleslaw. Daddy would go early in the morning to help Granddaddy barbecue the ribs, while Grandmama made iced tea and lemonade for refreshment. Everyone else who came generally brought a dish and they often varied according to who came that year. After lunch and around the middle of the afternoon, we would usually cut up a watermelon, and many of the years, Grandmama would get out the ice cream churn and make her special ice cream. There is just nothing like my grandmama’s homemade ice cream. Well, maybe Bluebell’s Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream, but only the Light Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream. The regular is too sweet.

Family would come from as far away as Arizona to be at Granddaddy’s Fourth of July barbecue. All of the nearby family members would have some out of town relative staying with them. Sadly, the largest gathering was the last. My granddaddy died of cancer in 2001 and that Independence Day every member of the clan came from far and wide. Granddaddy was bedridden at the time, so my daddy did the barbecuing. Granddaddy was so sick, he was no longer able to eat much, but he was so happy everyone came that year. He died just three weeks later. He had held on for that last barbecue, which tells you how special it was to him.

While we keep up with most of the other holidays, the Fourth of July has never been the same. It’s always been a much smaller affair after Granddaddy died. Daddy usually still cooks ribs, but they are now made with Mama’s BBQ sauce recipe instead of my grandmama’s. In the last five years, I have only been back for the Fourth once. It’s just not the same.

This year, I will be cooking some ribs, baked beans, and scalloped potatoes just like my mama taught me. Well, the ribs will be cooked in the oven, something unthinkable for the rest of my family, but I do not have a grill. This year it will also be a solitary affair. I found one small rack of ribs at the grocery store. I was surprised the supermarket had a small rack of ribs, but they did and only one of them so, I bought it.

Happy Fourth of July, Everyone!

Thank You

I want to thank everyone for their wonderful words of advice and encouragement on yesterday’s post. I’m still feeling a bit down and anxious over the argument with my mother. I can’t help it. Family can be so frustrating. I have lived with my agreement with my mother that I made when I came out, which was that I would not tell anyone else in the family I am gay. (I have not lived by the agreement that I would be celibate, that was just taking it too far.) While only my parents know for certain, I am pretty sure my aunt knows. I have a large collection of books that are stored in bookcases at her house. Many of those books are gay fiction or gay history that I had collected over the years. After I moved to Vermont, she took down all my books and built new sturdier bookcases. She then placed all of my books back in the new bookcases. If she didn’t notice a theme, then…. Anyway, I’m pretty sure she knows and doesn’t care. My aunt worked for a dentist that she admired and cared for a lot; he was gay and died of AIDS back in the 1980s. She has always seemed pretty accepting of things like that.

My biggest fear is not what my parents would do, but I do fear telling my sister because since she married a complete asshole in 1998, her in-laws have brought her over to the dark side. My sister used to be laissez-faire about most social issues. She just didn’t care, and she was never political at all. However, her husband and in-laws are extremely conservative, homophobic fundamentalists. She becomes more and more like them every year, so I fear if she ever knew I was gay, she would not let me see my niece and nephew. She and they are of that mentality that gay people cannot be trusted with children.

My only hope is that the world is different enough for my niece and nephew not to have the same prejudices as their family. They are growing up in a far more accepting world than I grew up in. They are growing up in a time when LGBT couples can get married, and we can’t be discriminated against in our jobs. Things are so vastly different than they were 20 years ago. (I know, there is still much to do, but we are getting there.) I hope they will have a mind for themselves about social and political issues. They aren’t old enough yet to really understand. All they know right now is that they love their Uncle Joe. I get to see the joy and excitement in their eyes when they see me, and I hear it in their voices when I talk to them on the phone.

All of my other close relatives have passed away. In fact, yesterday would have been my grandmama’s 97th birthday. I miss her so much. I think if I’d had the courage to come out to her, she would have accepted me for who I am. I may be wrong about that, but she would always listen to reason from me, even when she was unreasonable to everyone else. I had a connection with Grandmama unlike anyone else. If she had accepted me, as I believe she would have, she would also have been my advocate and told my parents they could go straight to hell if they didn’t fall in line. That may just be wishful thinking and a fantasy on my part. I will never know what her reaction would have been, but I have faith she would have accepted me.

I will make up with my mother at some point. She will probably have to be the one to call me, and if she does, she is likely to act as if we never argued. Denial is not just a river in Egypt to my mother, it’s a way of life. She has been in denial about my sexuality since she found out I’m gay. I always hoped that one day she would accept me, but she seems to have doubled down and is more homophobic than ever. It goes along with her faith which seems to no longer be the Bible but Fox News. 

I have a fervent desire for something to happen that would discredit Trump and Fox News so badly that they would lose all of their support. They do more harm to American than anyone else. I hope that when/if that ever happens that people like Mitch McConnell, Lindsay Graham, Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, and all the other Republican idiots go down hard with them. You can also throw in the Rush Limbaughs, Franklin Grahams, and their ilk with it. The hatred in America needs to end, and November is the best time for that to begin to happen.

We need to have a great movement that will change the minds of Americans. We need something that will move America away from the right and teach the American people about love and acceptance. I just hope it isn’t a great tragedy. It will probably take the Rapture* coming and no Republicans rising into Heaven, but then they would say it was a liberal conspiracy.

*By the way, I do not actually believe in the Rapture (an event in which it is believed that both living and dead Christian believers will ascend into heaven to meet Jesus Christ at the Second Coming). It is nothing more than a postmillennialism belief/hoax dreamed up by the 19th-century theologian John Nelson Darby. I use it here in jest. The lawyer I used to work for always joked “I hope I’m standing outside when the Rapture happens. I don’t want to hit my head on the ceiling.”

For Your Boy

“For Your Boy” by Arthur William Brown

For the past month, I’ve been taking an online professional development course designed to teach museum educators, like myself, how to develop and write formal lesson plans for K-12 teachers. It’s been a pretty interesting class; our end project is to write a lesson plan for our museum. I chose to write about our vast collection of World War I propaganda posters. Most lesson plans are no more than 5-10 pages; mine currently is 36, and I still need to add in the curriculum standards for Vermont. While I did get a bit carried away, my teacher said the lesson plan did not contain anything that wasn’t needed. In fact, what takes up the most pages are the posters themselves as well as background information on the artists and posters. I also compiled a list of early propaganda techniques. Tweets and accusations of “fake news” may be everyday politics for Trump, but in April 1917, the U.S. government had to create an entire committee to influence media and shape popular opinion; and for the most part, they used propaganda for the good of the country.

When I look at the various propaganda techniques, I see correlations to the tactics of the current administration. The only difference is propaganda is usually based on at least some shred of evidence or a grain of truth. What that man in the White House says and disseminates has no grain of truth; it’s just lies. He doesn’t even attempt half-truths, and when he does tell the “truth” such as in his Tulsa speech when he said he ordered a slowdown in COVID-19 testing because it was revealing too many positive cases, the truth is worse than fiction.

For this assignment, I’ve been doing a lot of research on types of propaganda, and it’s easier to come up with ways Trump uses it than ways it was used in WWI. To give you some examples: Name Calling (Sleepy Joe), Transfer (I’m a very stable genius), Plain Folks (calling Neo- Nazi’s “very fine people”), Weak Inference (referring to Putin’s claim of not interfering in the 2016 election, “I believe he believes it”), Stereotyping (Kung-Flu), Guilt-by-Association (Liberal Media=Fake News), Bandwagon (“I’m a winner. I beat people. I’m ahead in the polls and there’s no end in sight.”), Faulty Analogy (“All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here—a lynching. But we will WIN!”), Glittering Generalities (Make America Great Again), Virtue-by-Association (Trump’s claiming he’s a Christian), Patriotic Symbols (How he abhors protestors who kneel for the National Anthem), Testimonials (Trump’s new slogan “Transition to Greatness”), Distortion of Data (Do I even have to give examples of his more than 19,000 lies?), Emotional Appeal (the way he demonizes immigrants, protestors, Democrats, etc.). The list goes on and on and on ad nauseam.

It’s difficult to understand why people blindly follow Trump. It can’t be only about being pro-life. Which brings me to the main point of my post: I’ve been a bit down since Sunday night. I got into an argument with my mother about her support of Trump. She made me so upset, I ended the call by telling her, “Bye,” and hanging up the phone. I just could not take any more of her parroting Fox News drivel. I told her she had disappointed me by supporting a bully like a Trump, that I’d dealt with bullies all my life—which she knows—and I didn’t want one in the White House. I don’t want an amoral person as president who goes against everything I was raised to believe in. I was literally shaking when I got off the phone. What upsets me the most: she didn’t seem to care that I was upset.

I read an article in The Washington Post the other day that talked about how many public health officials were being harassed and threatened. People were publishing their emails, home addresses, and phone numbers so others could harass them from around the country. I thought of my mother who spent 25 years as a nurse at the county health department. If she were still working, she’d be one of the people enforcing rules to mitigate the spread of the virus. I wonder if my family—my mother specifically—could have faced the hatred and retribution of Trump supporters who care more about money and their “freedom” than they care about the safety of others. I wonder if she were still at the health department would she have felt differently about an administration that has downplayed the deadliness of this disease and politicized a public health crisis for their own political gain. 

Mama was always a particularly good and caring nurse; I don’t understand what has happened to her. She wasn’t like this when I was growing up or at least, I never saw it so blatantly. I can’t help but take some of the blame for her change of heart. Since she found out I am gay, she has become more of a fundamental evangelical Christian and a diehard Republican who sees no good in anyone who doesn’t think like Fox News tells them to think. She has closed her mind to so much of the world, and I wonder if this is all because she has a gay son. She has never been able to accept my sexuality. As she becomes more and more in line with conservative Republican ideology, the less I want to talk to her. I am getting to the point where I no longer care what she thinks of me. I have held off finding someone to spend my life with because I knew she’d never accept him. Now, I fear I’ve wasted my life hoping for my mother’s love and acceptance when that hope can never be fully realized.

I do love my mother, and in some strange, twisted, and warp-minded way, I know she holds some love for me. But I don’t know if I can continue to live my life this way. I live 1,100 miles away from my parents. Perhaps it is time to become who I really am, and to quit holding back because of the fear of what my parents and family might think of me.