Four weeks ago, my maternal grandmother passed away. She was the last living grandparent I had, who I had not seen since leaving Texas in 2006. Saturday evening, January 18th, I received a very surprising social media message from my brother-in-law informing me that my Memaw had terminal stage four lung cancer and that I needed to head to Texas immediately to say my goodbyes. My family are very conservative, Republican, fundamentalists and I left Texas for a reason. So, I was very hesitant to believe they wanted me around or would even allow my presence, and I ran these concerns by my brother-in-law who reassured me, “She is your grandmother and you have the right to see her. No one is going to deny that.”
So, I pushed my fears aside and began to pack and make immediate arrangements to travel to Texas to say goodbye to my Memaw and be with my family. Less than 20 minutes into packing, my brother-in-law messages me his number and says I need to call him. So, I do. He informs me, “One of the Aunts and your Uncle Robbie are forbidding you to come here. They say it’s your grandmother’s dying wish to not be around you [and your gay lifestyle].”
To have allowed myself to hope against hope, and then just moments later have that hope suckerpunched out of me, completely devastated me beyond any measure quantifiable with mere words. I caved into their cruel discrimination without a fight Saturday night and then woke up Sunday morning with the collar of my shirt still wet from the night’s long weeping. A friend and my spouse however, in an attempt to comfort and support me, encouraged me to make every attempt to say my goodbyes to my grandmother despite the homophobia my family had just subjected me to. They feared for any regrets that I might feel and were sure that, if my grandmother/family only saw me in person, their heartlessness would subside. So, Monday morning I woke up determine to see my grandmother in spite of the illegal ban my Aunt and Uncle had placed on me.
I reached out to my mother and sister, who my brother-in-law had assured me were not in agreement with the ban and wanted me there with them, via social media to relay to them how much it meant to me that they had contacted me about Memaw’s deteriorating health. I let them know that I was heading to Texas anyway, and asked if they would be there for me even if my Aunt and Uncle wouldn’t let me inside to see my Memaw. I sent them a very vulnerable and heartfelt message, as my brother-in-law had made it feel safe to do so, to which my mother simply reacted with a “thumbs down” as her response and my sister didn’t respond at all. I was devastated for the second time in less than 48 hours and now incredibly confused.
Undeterred however, I continue to pack up with my spouse and my pup and we started the long journey to Texas. I reached out to a couple of different Aunts, who had shown me some compassion over the years since my coming out, asking if there was anyone in the family who would give me even two minutes to visit with and say my goodbyes to my grandmother.
My Great Aunt, one of my Memaw’s sisters, replied that she had asked if anyone “had let me know” and she’d received silence as a response. So, I told her what had happened Saturday night and that I was heading to Texas anyway. She then, unknowingly, sent me the name of the funeral home and times of my grandmother’s services with her apologies.
That’s how I found out that my grandmother passed away: in the car at some random West Virginian gas station via social media messenger via her funeral information.
My family banned me from seeing my terminally ill grandmother, and then no one bothered to let me know she passed away the very next day.
Again, because if I weren’t living through it it would sound unbelievable to me too, my family banned me from seeing my terminally ill grandmother, and then no one bothered to let me know she passed away. I guess I should have read between the lines of my mother’s “thumbs down” reaction.
At this point, there was no way I could make it to the funeral home in time for her services, if I even wanted to, which undoubtedly was their intention.
So, I was forced to mourn my grandmother’s passing in Virginia, without my family, with only my spouse, who had never even met her, to console me. That night, I numbed my pain with four hotel beers and then cried myself to sleep (again) while watching cartoon reruns. Tuesday morning, we packed up and drove back home.
I was forced to sit in the car, on the road, heading home with my tail tucked between my legs, watching the minutes slowly slip by while helplessly envisioning my family at the funeral home standing together in comforting embraces, grieving my grandmother, supporting each other with love and unity while they said their goodbyes and celebrated her life. All without me. It was torturous. The absolute worst road trip of my life.
It probably goes without saying, I’ve been a wreck ever since. I’m not bursting into ugly crying as much these days, but I am still randomly overwhelmingly consumed with sadness.
I’ve been distraught with conflict over the woman I remember prior to my coming out of the closet and the woman who’s dying wish was to not see her gay granddaughter, who’s dying wish was to not see me.
Could my Memaw, who was the kindest, most generous, mild mannered, sweetest, soft spoken, most selfless woman I’ve ever known, have actually been a bigot? Or, was it just the bigotry of my Aunt, Uncle, and remaining family that banned me? Did they just hide cowardly behind her illness using it to act out their hateful cruelty? Or, did my Memaw actually not want to be around her gay granddaughter?
I suppose I’ll never know.
But, guess what I do know?
They can ban me; they can be cruel to me; they can discriminate against me; they can hate me; they can lie to me and about me; they can deny my existence.
They CANNOT change who I am; they CANNOT dictate who I love; they CANNOT force me into their religion; they CANNOT take my memories from me.
They banned me from seeing my Memaw, didn’t bother letting me know she passed, stole my legal right to attend her funeral, and denied me the basic human dignity of mourning her with my family, BUT, I woke up the day after her funeral STILL GAY.
Broken, distraught, devastated and grieving, with little faith left in humanity, BUT STILL GAY!
Am I having to pick myself up off the rug they pulled out from underneath me? Yes. Do I have trust issues. Definitely. Are my fears triggered again? Regrettably so.
But know this, my Pride flag is still flying proudly from my front porch!
And, just in case you ever happen to read this Cathy Benavidez, Robert Pless Jr., or any other family member who silently did nothing to stand up against the abusive bullying I’ve once again been subjected to, please know that this latest “tough love” attempt to get me to “turn my life around” has definitely worked, as I have turn my life around from ever believing any of you can be decent human beings.
Please also know, dear fundamentalist family, that there was already a snowball’s chance in Hell that I was ever going to return to the Church of Christ and now there is even less chance than that! If heaven is filled with cruel “christians” like all of you, then I definitely prefer Hell anyway! I will NEVER again associate with a religion that promotes and condones such abomindable behavior!
If you are LGBTQ+ you need to know that no POA (power of attorney) has the legal right to ban a blood relative from visitation or attending funeral services unless said POA proves in a court of law that said blood relative is an immediate threat to the wellbeing of the ailing family member. The POA must have a legal court order restricting blood relatives access to visitation.
I didn’t know my rights until it was too late. It disheartens me to know this sort of discrimination is still alive and met with absolutely no resistance.
So, I am the resistance. I will tell my story. Unapologetically, and to whoever will listen.
You can ban my presence, but you cannot ban the truth: no one should be treated in such an inhumane manner simply because of their sexual orientation, gender, skin pigment, or religious/lack of religious affiliation!
I will continue to share my pain, the religious abuse I’ve suffered, and the discrimination I face as a gay woman in the hope that I can reach even one person out there who may read this so they will know their rights and that they are not alone!
When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
John 8:7 NIV
Also, (on top of all this ^ or more accurately underneath it all) it’s the one year anniversary of letting go of my foster license today.
My spouse has since decided she definitely doesn’t want children.
This is why I haven’t posted in so long, as I’m still picking up the pieces of my broken heart, still trying to figure out who I am now, and what I want my life to reflect. The past five years I’ve been so narrowly focused on adopting an infant, that I’m unemployed because of it.
I never even had the chance to foster an infant, and now I am letting it all go.
It’s difficult to not feel defeated, like the hits just keep coming, despite all my best intentions, but I finally dismantled the baby room that never was this week, as it’s time to allow myself the space to heal, the space to move forward.
Some days tho, I wake up wishing I just hadn’t, because I don’t know how I am going to manage to stand up under the weight of all this pain. The disappointment, the lack of control, the discrimination it just gets to be too much. But then, the pup farts in my face and the cats stomp on my hair demanding breakfast, and I remember that I am surrounded by love. And so, I get up anyway.
I’m just having to change my definitions of what “family” means. And, that’s okay, or so says Mamma Ru. So, I am trying to believe it is ok, because if I trust anyone right now, it’s Momma Ru.
Plus, I’m finally writing again today. So, that’s progress, right?
It gets better!