Keeping Up with the Jonzee

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

My Two Gay Uncles

My grandparents have four children—three boys and a girl. One of the sons is my father, married for over 32 years one year to the day I was born. The other two sons were gay.

As a little girl, I guess I knew that my uncles were different. My oldest uncle (May he rest in peace) never had a girlfriend I can remember. He had a friend. Growing up with a middle class African American family from the Midwest, "friend" was always what someone you were dating was called. I never really thought about it one way or the other. And as my great granny would say, "it made me no never mind".

My family never made a big deal out of it. My uncle’s “friends”, were no different than my auntie’s “friends” of the opposite sex. His friends were treated like family. Even after one serious relationship ended amicably, the friend still often came to Sunday dinner. The “friends” called my grandparents "Mom and Pops" like they were their parents, and never missed a birthday or anniversary.

My uncle is gone now. My father lost his best friend and I lost my hero. But his closest friend will be at Thanksgiving dinner with some delicious dessert in hand.

Being out was not as, or at least as it appeared, simple for my younger uncle. He got married. Got cheated on badly and got a divorce all within a year. And then he found his voice. After that he entered into a serious relationship with a couple people, who were embraced as family just as well. The family of the man from his first serious relationship still sends letters and cards from Germany on holidays and birthdays. Just like his older brother he loves deeply and has a special place in his heart for his nieces and nephews.

Now, he is getting older, his embers have become a nice glow and he is with the man I think he will be with for the rest of his life. And Michael is family too. I hope one day, that I will get to see that commitment ceremony.

I am sure my grandfather and grandmother as well as my aunt and father struggled a great deal with the idea that both of my uncles were gay. But love was the key to dismissing any hard feelings or thoughts of putting them out of their lives. The strength it takes to not pay attention to what many in the world would say is a sickness, or the hatred and animosity the world may throw your way for having gay children is undeniably difficult. After all, my grandparents grew up in the Great Depression and raised a family during the height of the civil rights movement. To be a black man and make it through those times you had to be tough. But my grandparents raised three intellectually tough, free-spirited, big hearted men—two gay and one straight—and they love them all the same.

What I realized today, is that we have never differentiated my Uncles' pursuit of "finding the right one", from any of our straight family members. To this day, I don't think I have ever heard anyone make a differentiation between them being gay and us being straight. I don’t even think we think about it. It is what it is.

And in the end, what it is, is love.

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