Tuesday, June 14, 2016

From Avalon to Orlando

For the last year and a half we have been in a period of adjustment: to life in a new country, life as a new foursome. The first five months here were in survival mode: where is the supermarket? how do we take the tram? which pediatricians speak English? or French? Then Logan started pre-school and we began to find a rhythm and routine as a family. We finally started to become part of the community, to put down roots, to find a new church (much easier said than done), to meet people and make friends. I have been fortunate to make quite a few mom friends here, which, as most will tell you, can be challenging. I’ve hosted a few trunk shows, and had meaningful conversations with other women about our aspirations, desires, relationships, parenting, menu planning, manicures.

Jérôme plays soccer on Tuesdays, I joined a chamber choir, the children have school and playdates, judo, toddler gym. We usually play tennis on Saturday mornings. Our life here is peaceful if perhaps lacking in glamour. I look longingly at my beautiful evening clothes somedays and wish I had the time and the occasion to wear them. We are healthy, our families are fine. We’re usually sleep deprived but that’s a small cross to bear. I love our home and give thanks daily that we moved here. I am content, but there is one thing missing…for the first time in my life I don’t have any gay friends.

On Thursdays, we have a play date with two others families; one Dutch, one Greek. The Dutch dad brings his two daughters, the Greek mom brings her two boys, and I bring my Franco-American pair. The six kids wreak havoc, cry, fuss, laugh, snuggle, and we three weary parents talk about anything and everything. A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I miss having gay friends. Both the Dutch dad and Greek mom looked puzzled. Do you have any gay friends? I asked. The Greek mom shook her head. She has her hands full with the boys, so outside of the Greek community here, I don’t think she has met many other people who aren’t parents to toddlers. What is the attitude toward gays in Greece? I asked. She grimaced. Well, the official position of the government is in line with the orthodox church, so…it’s not really supported. What about you? I asked the Dutch dad. Do you have any gay friends? No? What about your wife (also my friend)? She works at an Arts organization, surely she has gay colleagues. I think there might be one guy in her office, he said. Why do you need gay friends? he asked. What’s the difference?

I paused to reflect. A friend is a friend, of course, regardless of their sexual orientation, but a gay friend brings an experience and perspective that is unique. I’ve had gay friends since I was 18, a lot of them, and I have been richer for it. Until today, until this hideous, horrible, senseless fucking tragedy, I had never truly considered the depth of courage and defiance it takes to be gay and out in America in 2016. When I think now of friends who came out to me in college, I am awed at their self-awareness, at their bravery to no longer deny their true selves. I am also honored that they trusted me with this precious information to accept and support them. Two girl friends sat me down at the end of one of my famous parties to tell me that they were not just best friends, but together. "We wanted you to know." Another friend told me during our choir tour in NYC. We were on the bus. « I’m gay, you know ». A brief but profound moment for me.

Today I am remembering so many Sunday nights spent at Avalon. Yes, this middle-aged Mom was once a club kid. Big time. Gay night on Landsdowne Street was an event anticipated all week. Great music, revelry, release, escape, boys and girls together in the ladies room and nobody gave a fuck what your gender was, laughter, catharsis, safety. Yes, gay clubs are a safe place. And not just for gays. I always felt safe, protected even, when I went to a gay club. I didn’t have to worry about drunk douchebags bothering me while I danced. I didn’t have to feel self-conscious that my outfit would draw the wrong kind of attention. I was always greeted with smiles, made to feel part of the family. Included by a group that is so often excluded. That this horror took place at a gay club, a space where one should feel safe, sickens me. So too the abominable responses from haters. I naively believed that once gay marriage was legalized the fight was over. That people would get over it. Move on. I see now that there is still much work to do.

My beloved gay family, I have not lived your struggles, I can’t imagine the pain and heartbreak that you are feeling, but I am your ally, I am your sister, I am grieving with you. You are not alone in this fight.  If I hear a homophobic comment, I will call a motherfucker out. If I see discrimination, I will speak up. Loudly. 

I am sending big love to you and giving thanks for your presence in my life. We’re in this together.  xox O