I love taking the train home for the serene allotment of time it forces upon me. I am required to do nothing but digest the landscape that sails beside me and think. The sky that was full of spring sunlight soon gave way to a turbulent sky though. Bruised clouds pushed across the horizon and spoke of a violent storm. Rain pelted against the train window as the familiarity of my southern Ontario upbringing slipped past.
Trees appeared anxious to pop and release the life within. Fields frozen solid just months ago will soon be tilled, turning worms and arrowheads, dying seasons and harvested crops into new growth and hope.
I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on the conversations around me. The French woman berating her shaggy-haired boyfriend for not watering her plants. Surely they would be dead by Tuesday morning when they returned home. The man in polished loafers with a folded newspaper and peppery cologne barking into his Blackberry. The girl twirling her corn silk hair into tight curls picking at the frayed knees of her pencil jeans squeaking with excitement to her friend on a bubblegum pink cell. A family with children in tow, the kids pounding each other with red faces, intermittently crying. They had giftbags at their feet and baskets with slippery pastel easter grass littering the train seats. The youngest grinned like a jester, her mouth stained orange from the pop bottle she sucked on. The oldest bounced a shiny new soccer ball against the floor to elicit a repeated scolding from the mother. The mother hushed the kids and the father hushed the mother.
An Asian woman quietly folded and unfolded her hands. She kept her purse close as she closed her eyes with sleep or possibly meditation. Three teenage boys flopped obnoxiously into seats around her, laughing louder than usual, as is expected at that age.
I’ve taken the train home a hundred times. Today I drifted from the conversations around me and thought about how lucky I was for being able to take a train “home,” and that I have a sense of home. And parents that love me within an inch of my life. I knew exactly how the night would unfold. Wine would be poured upon my arrival and my mother would be at the stove, stirring something fabulous. She would have music playing louder than my dad appreciates. It’s always Jesse Cook. The Tenors, Pavarotti or the like. My mom likes to listen to it at concert levels, to immerse herself in the experience.
My dad picked me up at the train station, after first going to the station stop that I told him not to. We have played this game before—waiting at different train stops, or in opposite parking lots.
We drive home under a bizarre margarine-coloured sky that morphed into a grey slate. A rainbow burned bright and faded to the east. My dad is patient when I ask him to pull over to so I can snap pictures. “You’re just like mom with your camera.” We laugh to think of the times my mom has nearly tipped over her Tracker with reflex turns on to soft gravel shoulders in order to take a picture or catch a longer glimpse of a hawk on a hydro pole or deer in the field.
Tonight when we walk in, my mom has k.d. lang on full blast. Hallelujah. She has pink shrimp, scallops and button mushrooms spitting in oil on the stovetop. “The sauce is totally fat-free.” Ha. Yeah, right. I’d be disappointed if it was. Later she tells me the sauce has a block of cream cheese in it, half a block of mozzarella, parmesan and cream to boot. It’s decadent. We sip Riesling from Reif Estates and catch up in the sunroom with plates on our laps. Izzy, their darling cat briefly visits, moving about in slow motion figure eight’s around our ankles.
Tomorrow my brother Dax will arrive with his charming new boyfriend Brenton. My mom has already decided on chicken Kiev, and has baked a Kahlua cheesecake for the boys with zero body fat. And this is when I feel the surge of gratefulness.
Earlier in the day, I walked down Church street through Toronto’s gay village on my way to Union Station. The patios were full, tables were topped with pitchers of sangria and ale. White legs and flip-flopped feet were stretched out into the sun. Dogs were no longer in cute, tiny jackets–they were panting and waiting for drips of ice cream from the waffle cones of their owners.
As I passed the crowded pubs I was reminded of how many can’t go home this weekend. I am well aware of how many gays aren’t welcomed home, at all. A small percentage are welcome, but not with their partners. And then there are those who are completely ostracized and have been forced to create new families without bloodlines as their memory keepers.
I have told this story before, but I think it’s an important one. It happened at a gathering a few years ago, around our living room table. My dad raised his wine glass and toasted his kids, for no reason in particular. He began by saying that he should play the lottery more often. We were perplexed. “Well, I’ve got two out of three, so my odds are good.”
He was alluding to the fact that he has two out of three gay kids. And at Easter, Christmas, Mother’s Day and every other day of the year, we are all welcome home with those we love. I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
Before my grandfather died, he wrote his own obituary. He was adamant about including my partner in the remembrance. I was so proud of him, and our family in that moment. If my grandfather who had owned a pig farm in the country all his life could acknowledge and support a gay relationship, I wondered, what was wrong with the rest of the world? He probably didn’t even know any other gay people, but my partner found a kinship with him that was unmatched.
I have never suffered any strife or discrimination over my ‘lifestyle.’ I’ve been out since I turned 18. It’s been such a non-issue that I am flabbergasted by the death sentences that still exist in many countries for simply identifying as gay. I hear stories from my friends in the southern states about not being able to go out to a restaurant as a couple for Valentine’s Day and I am appalled. I thought we were making headway when Ellen Degeneres and Portia De Rossi were named Top Celebrity Couple of 2009.
It was 13 years ago that Ellen made national television history when her title character came out. Earlier that year, Ellen announced that she was gay on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
It was 16 years ago that Roseanne kissed Mariel Hemingway in an episode of her namesake sitcom that generated a feverish response when 30 million viewers tuned in.
Fast forward to 2010. Just last week Anna Paquin announced she was bisexual in support of The Give a Damn Campaign, a web-based anti-discrimination effort supported by Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours Fund. The True Blood star’s outing actually led to the crash of the organization’s web site. Aren’t we all beyond this?
The True Colours Fund “works to inspire and engage everyone, especially the straight community, to get involved in the advancement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and straight identity.” Lauper believes “if one of us is not equal, none of us are.” She addresses workplace discrimination, the military, marriage, faith, immigration and health care. The site is an engaging crash course on how we should be living more cohesively, because, shockingly, we are still learning how.
I know of a woman whose parents expressed that they would have been happier to hear that she was a murderer instead of a lesbian.
Really? It would be more acceptable to have a murderer as a daughter versus a child who loved someone of the same sex? Oscar Wilde would roll his eyes at the mere thought of such a ludicrous conversation.
Our lives and very being all simmer to one essential, shared element, and that is love. And as Wilde said best, “Hatred is blind, as well as love.”
I am proud to be gay, but am even more boastful about my sister, parents and relatives and their non-reaction to what seems to be so controversial to the rest of the world. Like Christian Morganstern said, “Home is not where you live, but where they understand you.”
I am understood, I am home.
Please give a damn and visit Cyndi Lauper’s site—