Every Saturday, I go to my cousins’ house. They are young – one is an eighth grader, the other a fifth grader. For the past few years, I have grown closer with the fifth grader, who I shall call Ashley for the purpose of anonymity.
I lie a lot on Saturdays.
This past Saturday, the topic of gay marriage came up at my cousins’ house. I’m not sure how it happened, though I think it had to do with the upcoming presidential election. My slightly socially conservative aunt didn’t directly castigate gays, but she expressed something similar to discomfort, leaning toward disgust.
Later that day, Ashley and I sat across from each other. Somehow, while she colored her artwork and I struggled with calculus, Adam Lambert came up in our discussion. As I failed to find the derivative of number 47, she said, “did you know that he’s gay?”
I looked up, and after seeing a grimace on her face, I knew that she thought being gay was wrong – maybe not wrong, but not really right. I knew that her parents’ beliefs had infiltrated her, and I wondered what she would think if she knew I was gay. I stopped my work and looked at her. This was my closest cousin, the one I wasn’t afraid to act weird around, the one who had seen me cry and comforted me with board games and bad pop music. She looked back at me, waiting for an answer.
I said yes, and changed the subject.
I remember one of the toughest moments, for me, was when Ashley had to get glasses a few years ago. Every time she tried on a new pair, she would shrink into herself, hesitate, and say that she looked weird. I knew that one of the reasons why was because I had gotten contacts just before her transition, so she didn’t want to trade places with me – she wanted us to stay the same.
It hurt me, when my cousin – bright, gifted, and an avid reader – felt insecure about her appearance, as if it took precedent over her perfect exam scores in English, or her ability to read people way better than I could at her age.
So, I saved her. Or at least I like to think I did. I had one of my good friends purposely tell her she looked way prettier with glasses. I agreed over and over again. It wasn’t a lie this time, because in a way, it was true. Once my cousin believed us, her confidence grew – and after awhile she went back to caring more about her academics and the books that she read than how her face looked in the mirror. I gave her this book as a gift and now we agree that aesthetics aren’t nearly as important as what’s on the inside. It’s harder than one would think to convince a precocious nine-year-old that people care more about something they can’t see than what is right in front of them.
But now, I can’t save her. I can’t say that being gay doesn’t matter, that who you fall in love with or marry doesn’t make a difference. I can’t, because she could tell her mom, and her mom could tell my mom, and the consequences would be severe. Yet, I wish I could help her see that being gay doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t change how blurry I look when she forgets to put her glasses on, how hard we laugh when we have random conversations, or how crazy it is that we can read the same books and love the same characters.
For now, I am a liar. I am a liar of omission, as I know, deep down, that I should be saying something – even if it’s just a little something – but I’m not. I’m not able to yet.
But I will be someday. Someday, I will break away from my mother, and I will be who I want to be without care or caution.
I will make up for my lies by telling the truth.