Figuring out how I fit in became a question when I was three years old, left living with Dad, and began living with Mom…first with her parents in Davenport, Iowa. As my parents finalized their divorce when I was two it hadn’t occurred to me that I needed to fit. It was living with grandparents I didn’t know, then starting preschool in a foreign church where again life was unfamiliar.
Within a year we moved to our new home and I went through the process of yet another school. Mom was spread thin, split time between three kids so she had me wear a sign with my bus number written in marker. She parked me at the top of our street where the bus driver knew to pick me up every day. The kids were ruthless, chanting ugly duckling as I sat alone in the back of the bus. I was somehow different because I was alone and they called me out. Yes, it was awful.
The road to finding home was bumpy but I eventually found one. Still my early start left scars inside.
At thirteen I came to see that Dad was in fact gay. I choked on the reality of my family makeup. I silently questioned, if others knew our truth how would we fit in? My picture so different from anyone I knew I struggled to comfortably share who I really was. Being a part of the “in” crowd and understanding my place was critical. Without sharing my true self I simply waffled on the edge…the periphery of social life and of family.
The next mass hurdle of ‘the fitting in paradigm’ was when I discovered Dad was HIV Positive. On my late 20’s I was professionally growing, giving all I could to prove myself, then suddenly the shameful HIV virus was at my defining family core. If Dad had cancer I could surely share the news, lean on co-workers or friends for support. They would surely hold me the best they could. But AIDS was out of the question, I wouldn’t dream of sharing the news in the early 90’s. Again I would be on the outs – looked down upon.
I often thought of Dad how he worked so desperately hard to be charming, to try to fit in. He worked to have people look him in the eye, to see eye to eye with him. How exhausting that must have been to work day in day out, to simply fit in.
Society is built on those who fit in. I still often experience many in my world believing that the National Gay Marriage Law is the all-inclusive fix it law. I am not gay but have lived with the notion that my gay father could significantly shift the way people think of me, and my family. That we are broken, that my Dad’s sexuality was taboo, that our upbringing was affected negatively. In many cases a law doesn’t change that.
So the question still remains in my head even now at 50 — how do I fit in? I have painful memories but good ones too. I’m focusing on my life, one that has brought empathetic kindness – opening my heart to those who speak my same language. No matter how they look, no matter who they love.