June 2000

"I'm the baby you did cartwheels for

Just to see me smile

I'm the girl you brought to the library

To teach me a love of books

I'm the girl you made a spaceship for

So we could travel to the stars

I'm the granddaughter you've always known

Grandpa, I'm gay." - BFPK

About forty-five minutes ago, I came out to my grandfather. My head's still twirling, and I can almost feel a headache coming on- so I probably shouldn't be listening to loud music using headphones, but I need to, to clear my mind of the swirls of information and emotion that are also churning my guts up.

Next week I'll be on a panel regarding gay and lesbian issues in my hometown. My mother is on the panel, too, as a supportive parent-type. After the scandal in Boston regarding a workshop for the "Safe Schools" initiative, and the blow-up regarding a supposedly graphic talk about gay sex practices, I have a feeling we'll have a contingent of conservatives at the panel because it's the first "gay" thing in our area after the scandal broke (I don't count the march in Boston, that's three hours away). My local newspaper loves controversy, so it might be covered. I didn't want my grandfather to find out that way, in the newspaper, that his oldest grandchild, and only granddaughter, is gay. He's been such a great force in my life, and I love him. Also, in less that half a month, he'll be attending my graduation party, and since a few very out friends will be there, that could get interesting, too. There are other reasons why I chose now to come out to him, but basically, I've been trying to for almost a year. Ever since I came out to my parents, exactly a year before the panel I'm going to be on, I've been thinking about the next step, telling my grandfather.

But back to what happened. We randomly went out to supper together, albeit at three in the afternoon, but that's his schedule so he can be with my grandmother during her dinner at the nursing home. We usually talk politics and economic matters over when we get together, because that's his interest, and I do like politics. Mostly, though, it was about the next couple of weeks of my life. This coming week is exams for me, and the week after that is our two graduation rehearsals, our class trip to Boston, baccalaureate, and then graduation itself. I tried to direct the conversation over to gay matters a couple of times, but he didn't get the hint. It's not like we normally discuss those kinds of things anyway, ever.

Finally I just said that I was going to be on the panel, and what it was about. I couldn't just say, "grandpa, I'm gay." I couldn't, the words refused to form in my mouth. Instead, I asked him if he knew what I was trying to say, and he nodded and said yes. Then we went back to economics, and that ruled the discussion until we got back to my house. He walked me to the house, sat down, chatted with my mom, petted our cat, for a few minutes. Then he got up to leave, and I asked him to wait in the kitchen for a second. I ran to my room, grabbed the little packet of information I'd prepared for him, and walked him out to his car. I said that I didn't want to make it an issue, but here, and handed the packet him. It had a handout from a "Safe Schools" conference, which was photocopies from a book for parents of gay kids and the book _The Shared Heart_ which is portraits and stories of gay kids, a PFLAG thing called "Our Daughters, Our Sons" (remember my rant about the lack of stuff for grandparents, anyone?), and a pamphlet from the American Psychological Association on homosexuality. We hugged, I whispered that I loved him, and he got in his car and drove off to the nursing home, the information I'd given him in his hand until he put it next to him on the car seat. He said he loved me too. Goddess.

I'm out to my grandfather. When I came out to my parents, I was so happy, hyper, excited. Right now, I'm scared maybe I've hurt him, because I can't be the granddaughter he probably thought I was. Maybe he knew- he's been in my room, seen the gay-oriented stuff up on my walls or the books strewn about. He said he'd keep an eye out for something on the panel in the paper. I don't know if he's disappointed, in shock, or just receiving confirmation of something he'd already guessed. He's an old-fashioned Yankee, and doesn't really do the sensitive chat thing. I could see the hurt/confusion/I don't know what emotion that was in his eyes, like maybe a little of his world view was crumbling before him. My grandfather has probably never knowingly met a gay person. When he was a kid, gay meant happy, not homosexual. But I love him, and it's been interesting to try and avoid gay topics when I'm in the school diversity group-slash-GSA and he knows it. It's been interesting to talk about my friends and just simply not talk about my gay friends because, well, you know...

Avoidance is hard, and hurtful to the person avoiding the issue. I hated feeling like I was lying to him, which I was. A lie of omission. Now he knows, and I don't know if he'll be able to deal with it. He's the grandfather who made me wooden swords to play Robin Hood with when I was little. We built a spaceship once, or at least the control panels of one. He's brought me to the Springfield Science Museum so many times we both know a good number of the exhibits by heart. He brought me to see "The Lion King" in the theater. He's been to every single one of my concerts in all the six years of my involvement in the music program at my junior-senior high. He was so proud when I joined the jazz band because he played in one as a teenager, and even got offered a scholarship to the Boston Conservatory of Music to play trumpet (he didn't take it; he didn't want to be a musician). I know he still loves me. That's the great thing about unconditional love, it's unconditional. Goddess, I'm so confused. But at least I'm out. And he didn't freak, or yell, or try and blame anyone. I just worry.

Things will sort themselves out. He is my grandpa. And I kept thinking, beforehand, about a friend of mine who never got the chance to talk with her grandpa about being gay, because he died. I had the chance, and I took it. Now my grandfather is sitting with grandma at dinner, and maybe tonight he'll go home and read the stuff I gave him. And tomorrow the sun will rise, and life will go on. Now, my grandpa just knows me a little bit better.


Bethany is 17 and from Western Massachusetts. You can contact her at k41632@yahoo.com

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