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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Gay Brother, a Gay Daughter, and a Family's Political Identity Crisis

"I wanted to see who, out of my Facebook friends, was voting for Mitt Romney," said Danielle, a very liberal friend of mine during the 2012 Presidential Election season. "The only people who 'liked' Romney on Facebook were members of the Galvin family—your family." Yes, everyone on my father's side of the family happens to be a Republican.

The Massachusetts Republican—also known as the "Massachusetts Moderate," which was the term used against Romney in the 2012 Republican Primaries—is not your typical conservative Republican. Massachusetts Republicans, like those in my family, tend to be "conservative" on fiscal issues—supportive of small government, low government spending, and low taxes. However, when it comes to social issues, Massachusetts Republicans tend to break with their party and be more "liberal" in their support for issues like gay marriage and abortion rights. This tension between fiscal conservatism and social liberalism poses a voting issue for every Massachusetts Moderate. They must determine what they value more—their tax rates or civil rights?

More often than not, members in my family choose their tax rate—while two gay family members—my uncle and myself—wait anxiously for the inequalities of the status quo to change through our American democratic process.

"Gay marriage is going to become legal over the next decade no matter what," my family tells me. In their minds, voting for Republican politicians that are against gay marriage and homosexuality in general does not interfere with the future of equal gay rights because public opinion is changing rapidly.  Yes, public support for gay marriage is increasing rapidly, but for some reason, my father voting for an anti-gay Republican like Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney still hurts.

"We love you not matter what. Why does it matter who I vote for as long as I love you and support you?" my father responds when I ask him about his decision to vote for anti-gay candidates. He continues with a defensive rationalization of why he votes against the interests of his daughter: "The economy is really important for my business, Mikayla. Gay marriage is going to change anyways. It doesn't matter who I vote for."

Really, Dad? You live in Massachusetts—of course you think that gay marriage is changing. It's legal here! But you don't recognize all of the Federal benefits that, one day, I won't be able to have. You can't afford to vote for a pro-gay Democrat because of your taxes?

Perhaps I'm spoiled. At the very least, I have a family that loves me and supports me for who I am. In fact, I'm lucky to have grown up right outside of Boston—one of the most liberal cities in the country. I don't have horror stories about coming out of the closet, being bullied in high school, or being disowned by my parents. The only real turmoil that I've experienced related to my sexuality had to do with the initial pressure I put on myself when I realized that I was gay. I was afraid to come out in high school, but I did it with very little resistance. When I told my friends that I liked girls, they simply said, "Oh please, Mikayla. We already knew that."

Despite the absence of lesbian-related turmoil in my life, mere verbal support from my family does not feel like it is enough. The "gay marriage is changing no matter what" rationalization doesn't cut it for me. The only reason gay marriage is changing is because people a fighting for it with their votes, their political action, and their lives. Just because you don't see many "God Hates Fags" signs in Massachusetts doesn't mean that vehement anti-gay sentiment doesn't pose significant political and psychological challenges for gay Americans. Bullied gay teenagers pay the price of their lives in some unforgiving areas of this country.

Until this past election, I usually let my gay uncle make the political case for voting for candidates who support gay marriage when you have a struggling gay member in the family that you love, but at the next family gathering, I plan to ask everyone something: What is more important to you—the amount of taxes you pay or the equal rights and life-long happiness of your granddaughter, your niece, your daughter, your sister, your brother, your son, and your uncle?

-Mikayla Galvin


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