Letter to Dad
I know that you don't want to hear this, but it's something I have to get off my chest. I think about you a lot, and every time I do, I am reduced to tears.
We live on separate coasts, living lives that make us both happy. Every week that I call you, I hesitate to pick up the phone. It kills me to have to talk to you about the weather and the news when there are so many other things going on in my life. I want to tell you that it's my partner's and my anniversary in a few weeks. I want to tell you that I just joined an anti-hate campaign. I want to tell the reason that I have to cut the conversation short is because I am headed out to my lesbian reading group. I can never tell you any of those things. You know I am a lesbian. You know that I consider myself married to Julie. But we can't talk about it without you saying mean things and me hanging up the phone and crying. I often wonder why we talk at all. It seems that the only reason we talk is because I am your daughter and you are my father.
I tried so many times to talk to you about my life. Remember the time I told you that Julie was considering getting pregnant? You said to me, "A pregnant lesbian? That's an oxymoron! There's no such thing as a pregnant lesbian. It's against God!" I hung up the phone and cried for hours. Do you remember all of the times you reduced me to tears with your lectures about being gay? After years and years of insults, I decided it was best not to mention the words "gay" and "lesbian" around you. Now we talk once a week and we talk about the weather and the news. I only allow myself to mention Julie casually. I can tell you that Julie and I are going grocery shopping, but I can't tell you that we are renewing our wedding vows.
This pretending has driven me further away from you than you could ever imagine. I love you tremendously for who you are yet you cannot offer the same to me. Sometimes I lie in bed at night and think about the good old days. I remember all of the fun we used to have together. I think about the walks through Metcalf Park [in Providence, R.I.], the trips to Rocky Point and the joy of simply having you as my father. You really did your best to be a great father. I looked forward to my weekends with you after you and Mom divorced. Then, in high school I came to live with you, and that's when things went sour. Things went downhill when I became an individual. If you ever wonder why I ran away from home, it wasn't because I was a hormonal teen-ager.
You didn't like it that I was a lesbian. I bet you can't even count how many times I felt so hopeless because of your words. You never laid a hand on me, but your words were enough to put me in the hospital. I am proud to say that I have since grown into the person who I wanted to be. I grew from teen-ager to adult very fast, and I suppose I have you to thank for that. If it wasn't for you I wouldn't have run away from home and followed the path to my destiny. I am 26 years old. I live in a beautiful house in California with Julie, with whom I intend to spend the rest of my life. I can be my own person, which you never wanted me to be.
Do you know what hurts me the most? I may not see you for years. It is a 7.5-hour flight, and Christmas would be the time that I would usually visit. I know that it is not an option for me to show up for Christmas dinner with Julie, and I refuse to have her sit in a hotel while I visit my family. As much as it hurts that I might not see you for a long time, I will never again compromise who I am. Do you know that we plan to have a baby next year? I will never ever put my child in a position to be shamed, and if that means not seeing you for 20 years, then that is what I have to do.
I love you more than I can explain, and it hurts me so deeply that you probably will go to your grave without ever knowing who I am. All I ever wanted was for you to know who I am and love me for it. I only asked for unconditional love, nothing else. I would like nothing so much in the world as to have you love both Julie and me as much as I, your daughter, love you. What tears me apart is the fact that I don't ever see this happening.
If I have learned anything from this, I have learned to love someone regardless of how he has hurt me. I will never stop loving you and not a week will go by that I don't think about the good old days between us. If you could only open up your mind and heart, we could return to those good old days again.
I understand that you were raised in a different generation. I understand that you probably listen to what bigots say about homosexuality. I understand that you are the way you are because of the way that you were raised, the social circle you have and your own personal beliefs. I also understand the true meaning of unconditional love, which is something you don't have for me. I promise that I will raise my own child with unconditional love so that she or he will never have to suffer this awful feeling that I have.
[Author's note: This letter was never sent. It has been sitting in my desk drawer for two years.]
I think that too often when we debate about abstractions we lose track of why we're fighting. This is a story I found on the website of the Human Rights Campaign.