I’ve never told this story publicly before, so here it goes.
My uncle and I have always been really close. We would spend all holidays together, shop together, talk to each other all the time. Then suddenly a few years ago, he stopped coming to family get-togethers and seemed distant. Nobody wanted to talk about what was happening; my parents and grandparents rebuffed my questions and concerns. Finally two years ago my uncle told me he was gay and living with his long-term boyfriend Jason in New York City. Everything finally made sense. I had had some suspicions for a while, so I was so happy he was being honest with me. But I still didn’t understand why he didn’t tell me earlier – I thought we had a very open relationship. I found out that my uncle came out to my parents a few years before, but they warned him not to tell my brother or me until we were in college because we were “too young” to handle this information. Of course my uncle thought that was ridiculous but respected my parents’ wishes. You have to understand my parents though. While I was growing up the word “gay” was never even mentioned in my house. My parents never addressed it, never explained it to my brother and me, never expressed an opinion. So I grew up thinking this was a taboo topic, and decided to form my own opinions on the ‘morality’ of homosexuality. When I finally gathered the courage to talk to my mom about my uncle (her brother), I was relieved to find out she was accepting of him and Jason. The issue was with my dad. Unlike my mom (who was born and raised in America), my dad grew up in India; he comes from a very traditional and religious family, where masculinity is defined by power, heterosexuality, and strength. My dad had never particularly liked my uncle, and was very uncomfortable when he found out he was gay. So it was ultimately my dad’s decision to keep the information from my brother and me. But now that my uncle had come out to me, I just assumed that my parents’ “rule” wouldn’t apply anymore, and he would come out to my brother also. That never happened though. A few weeks had gone by and my brother still didn’t know, so I asked my mom what was going on. She told me that my brother was still ‘too young’ and ‘unprepared’ to handle this news, she and my dad would discuss it, and my uncle would tell my brother soon enough. Six months went by and still nothing had changed. During this time my mom and I started talking about sexuality, people that we knew who identified as LGBTQ, etc. Our relationship became more open as we started talking about these previously ‘taboo’ topics. My mom and I went to NYC alone to visit uncle and meet his boyfriend, Jason, that summer. Of course we loved Jason and were so happy for them, but it was strange that we couldn’t talk about our trip back at home in front of my dad and brother. My dad still hadn’t addressed the issue with me. In the year after my uncle came out to me, my dad didn’t say one word about what had happened or his thoughts on it. One day I became so angry and frustrated at his unwillingness to talk that I confronted him and asked him why he was keeping my brother in the dark. He said the issue was not ‘black and white’ and that my brother was at an ‘impressionable age’ – implying that my uncle’s homosexuality could somehow turn my brother gay. This was the turning point for me. After that conversation I became adamant that my parents allow my brother to find out the truth. My brother had become curious and frustrated as to why he no longer saw or heard from our uncle. My family was making excuses, trying to ‘protect’ my brother from the truth. But he saw through all that. We were used to spending Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthdays together as a family; but at this point my brother hadn’t seen my uncle in over a year. And I was stuck in the middle. I wanted so badly to tell my brother that my uncle was gay, but it wasn’t my story to tell. Besides the fact that my parents did not allow me to tell my brother, it really was my uncle’s place to have that conversation and come out to my brother himself. It was only after I spent a weekend alone with my uncle and his partner that my parents began to entertain the idea of telling my brother. This had created a lot of tension within our family, and I think they were ready to move past it all. Finally, over one year after he came out to me and ten years after he came out publicly, my uncle had the permission to come out to my brother. And contrary to my parents’ initial concerns, my brother did not freak out. We love our uncle, and learning that he’s gay was not going to change that. Shortly after my brother found out, my family made a trip to New York to visit my uncle and Jason together for the first time. This was a momentous occasion, because it signified my dad’s (somewhat) acceptance of my uncle and his sexuality. Before the trip/on the way there my dad did not say anything about Jason or my uncle’s sexual orientation. Throughout the whole process my dad has been pretty silent (which is unusual for him). His actions speak louder than his words though. At first he was completely resistant to the idea of meeting Jason. But eventually he did go to New York, visit them in their apartment, and spend the day with them. Although he looked uncomfortable, he made an effort to be polite and respectful. Since then, my uncle and Jason have been to my home, and we have all spent time together as a family. My dad has spent time with Jason and realized that he’s a good guy – funny, smart (he’s a doctor), down-to-earth. Though my dad still does not say much about it, he now uses Jason’s name openly – which is quite an improvement.
This weekend my uncle and Jason got married in New York. This is truly a testament to how far my family has come and how far we’ve come as a society. The fact that my grandparents and father (all born and raised in India), Jason’s family (conservatives from New Mexico), and over 100 guests supported an interracial gay marriage gives me a lot of hope for the future. I am so happy to have two amazing uncles now!