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Being A Child Of Divorce Makes Me Think I Get Gays

This is not a syndicated post. Just my opinion. I know there must be some gay men who aren’t hot. Anybody?

I’ve been watching Ryan Murphy’s (Glee) new NBC sitcom The New Normal about a committed gay couple having a baby with a quirky, kind surrogate mother who lives with them.  Last night the men kissed passionately after one proposed marriage to the other and I had a very strong reaction.  Which was elation.

I distinctly remember television’s first openly gay character, played by the mortified Al Corley as Steven Carrington on Dynasty.  I remember it being such a scandal and that you should watch at your own risk!  Maybe gay was catching?  Now, an admitted thirty-one years later, gay characters and story lines are commonplace.  And the televised gay kiss?  While still a bit self-conscious, no longer taboo.  I think this is progress because I’ve always felt a kinship with the gay community despite the fact that I’m not gay.

I’ll tell you why.

My parents divorced when I was two-years old (yes, mom and dad, here I go again.  Lucky you to have a scribe for a daughter) so I don’t ever remember them together as a couple.  It was an amicable divorce, both of them wanted out.  My mom tells me the only thing she and my dad fought about was who should get me.  I was lucky that they both wanted me.  It was 1967, so my mother was awarded primary custody and my dad got every other weekend.

Despite the fact my parents had a “good divorce” (an oxymoron, but true), I couldn’t entirely escape the collateral damage; which was the cultivation of a Secret Self.

Going from my mom’s home to my dad’s was like going from Jupiter to Mars.  My mom’s world was unconventional.  We took camping trips to the wilds of Mexico, people smoked, drank, carried the occasional concealed weapon and we lived on a sailboat for a period of time.   My dad’s world was consistent and abstinent, with church on Sunday in a suburban subdivision.  Each parent or set of parents, thought their way was best and I suspect that’s the case in most split-homes to varying degrees.  So when a child transitions from one home to the other there is a marking-of-the-territory that occurs.  All traces of the values, habits and behaviors from the other home must be suppressed.  My parents didn’t intentionally fumigate me upon re-entry, they just couldn’t help it.

Because of this I was a different person in each home.  At my mom’s I came and went as I pleased, was a tomboy who could beat up my same-age cousin Billy and even gave my older stepbrothers a run for their money.  In my dad’s world I was more closely monitored, watched my Ps & Qs, wore dresses and was reverent in church.  Unbaptized though I was, I was a better Mormon than most Mormons.

This all boils down to the fact that I wasn’t completely authentic in either world.  I prided myself on being a chameleon, blending into any environment.  When I grew up “chameleon” became “fraud.”  And quick on the heels of “fraud” came furtiveness and shame.  My Secret Self.

I don’t know what it feels like to be gay; to grow up in a culture that tells you that you’re fundamentally wrong, but I know what it is to have a secret.  To pretend you’re okay when you’re not.  To try to be who you think other people want you to be.  So the gays are stuck with me as one of their advocates.

I believe claiming one’s authentic self should be every human’s birthright.  I hope one day very soon “gay rights” will simply be “human rights.”  I look forward to a new normal.

Tags assigned to this article:
Ellen Barkingay pridegay rightsThe New Normal


Write a comment
  1. pattie
    pattie 12 October, 2012, 08:37

    First off, I LOVE this show. It’s amazingly amazing. And I know what it’s like to be a chameleon. I think it’s something that women/girls just do naturally, without really thinking about it. We assimilate to the situation to fit in, but we end up feeling “off” inside because we get lost and we don’t know who we are in the end.

    Reply this comment
  2. karen
    karen 12 October, 2012, 08:40

    I think you’ll get flak about this piece, but I can tell you — as woman who has been “in the life,” that you are right on as far as the dichotomy having to play two roles depending where you are and whom you are with. it’s getting better, but still there are proper/expected ways to act in each world.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 12 October, 2012, 08:46

      Hi Karen — There’s probably something annoying about this post, but I’ve been working recently with a good friend who happens to be gay, which has me thinking about gay rights. The election as well.

      Reply this comment
  3. Debi Drecksler
    Debi Drecksler 12 October, 2012, 09:26

    You covered an interesting topic and I enjoyed your perspective. As always, I am intrigued by you which brings me back time and time again!

    Reply this comment
  4. Jeannine
    Jeannine 12 October, 2012, 09:41

    My 10 year old son has been going back and forth for 9 years… I better start saving for therapy!

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 12 October, 2012, 10:29

      Don’t worry Jeannine — I’m sure mine will need therapy too after all the writing I do about them.

      Reply this comment
  5. Joy
    Joy 12 October, 2012, 11:38

    Love this Shannon. And it’s so true. Mark’s kids feel the same I’m sure, going from their grandparents (not me!) house to their dad’s. Different rules, different generation. My kids were mostly with me (Pat was always off doing his thing), so not sure they felt that torn.

    Reply this comment
  6. TJ
    TJ 12 October, 2012, 12:24

    So interesting how the world changes. I was not normal in elementary school in the mid-seventies because my parents were divorced and my father was not in my life at all. I became the queen of blending in because I never wanted to singled out. Now statistically it is more common to have divorced parents. Normal changes every day depending on a million variables. Meaning it’s BS. You should be able to be who you want to be, gay, straight or circus acrobat. Should not matter what that is and no one should bother you about it. Be tolerant and be happy!

    Reply this comment
  7. Shannon
    Shannon Author 12 October, 2012, 12:56

    Hi Aunt Joy — the good news is that there’s a lot of language out there today for kids and parents going through divorce. Back in my parents’ generation (not yours of course, being so much younger than my dad) they just didn’t have the kind of resources we have now. I think my parents were a great divorced couple and today they seem to really love each other again. Life is funny that way.

    Reply this comment
  8. tania luviano
    tania luviano 12 October, 2012, 13:56

    Haven’t seen the show, but I’m gonna! About gay rights I’m with you! Although I’m still a bit uncomfortable when they kiss on the lips.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 12 October, 2012, 15:52

      I get uncomfortable watching straights kiss! In public,though, tv is fine.

      Reply this comment
  9. Ericka
    Ericka 12 October, 2012, 14:17

    I’ve seen the show and I really enjoy it. I’m so glad it’s out there on prime time. It is The New Normal 😀 I love your writing BTW.

    Reply this comment
  10. Yvonne Condes
    Yvonne Condes 12 October, 2012, 15:09

    I love watching men make out. There should be more of it on tv.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 12 October, 2012, 15:51

      Yvonne I love your insouciant side. Seminal moment for me (pun intended), My Beautiful Launderette with Daniel Day Lewis and some man whose name I can’t remember, finding passion together. Oh Daniel, I love you!

      Reply this comment
  11. Anne Louise Bannon
    Anne Louise Bannon 12 October, 2012, 16:20

    I’ve been advocating for this show since I first saw it. It’s just so well written and Ryan Murphy has the rare guts to let the bad guys be right sometimes even while you’re still cheering on the good guys.
    As for trying to blend in and not being yourself, I for some reason never could blend in and quickly gave up trying. Maybe it’s because I caught so much flak from my peers (nowadays we’d call it bullying) that I saw no reason to become like those jerks. I’m still insecure and distrustful of people I don’t know, but at least I know I’m me and that the people who do like me like me as I am. For what that’s worth. That being said, I wish could have blended in a little more. It would have made life easier in some quarters.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 13 October, 2012, 00:12

      Hi Anne — It’s remarkable to realize you don’t want to fit in with abusive wankers.

      Reply this comment
  12. Lady Jennie
    Lady Jennie 13 October, 2012, 09:49

    What I find interesting is how wildly different your families both were – it has definitely affected you in a cool way. Not many people are so interesting!

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 13 October, 2012, 14:59

      I was very lucky to have colorful and loving parents. Four of them, in fact.

      Reply this comment
  13. Vanessa: the queen of swag !
    Vanessa: the queen of swag ! 14 October, 2012, 07:41

    love the show and the post. You’re posts are always great. Gay rights!

    Reply this comment
  14. Audrey Gomez
    Audrey Gomez 14 October, 2012, 17:04

    I wish that I had time to read your blog regularly. I always enjoy it when I find the time. Thanks for writing this piece, I really connected with it!

    Reply this comment

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