Homo For the Holidays


By Josh Kilmer-Purcell

I've decided that this will be the year I go homo for the holidays. I'm coming out of the closet to the last two people on earth who don't know that I'm a big ol' fag. I'm tired of their questions about my living situation. And about when I'm getting married. And about why I wear bright pink shirts.

It's not my parents who put me through this torture. They've known they were blessed with a diva-to-be since the day I started insisting on wearing my Bonne Bell Lip Smacker necklace everywhere I went. Nor is it my brother, who used to throw baseballs at my head to try to stop me from decoupaging flower seed packets onto our swing set.

No, the dratted busybodies who have ramped up their homophobic interrogations into my privacy are ages 9 and 11 -- my niece and nephew. They've worn me down with their incessant prying into what goes on in B's and my bedroom: 'Why do you and Uncle B. have only one bed?' 'What's in this drawer?' 'Can we watch Hannah Montana on the TV in here?'

Here's an exchange I had with my nephew a month ago:

Nephew: Why do you and Uncle B. live together?
Me: Because we're best friends.
Nephew: But why do you and Uncle B. live together?
Me: Because we love each other.
Nephew: But why do you and Uncle B. live together?
Look! A dinosaur!

My niece has begun to hold me personally responsible for the intolerably tragic fact that she doesn't have a female relative other than her mother and grandmother. She is (although I haven't independently verified this) the only girl in the entire world who doesn't have an aunt! As much as she worships B., she instinctively knows that he is the sole reason I haven't yet found the right aunt for her. I've caught her glaring at him with a look in her eye that says accidental stab wound.

I've been patiently waiting for my brother to tell them about the birds and the bees. Or the bees and the bees, as the case may be. But no. The questioning continues. 'Is Uncle B. your brother?' 'If you got married, where would Uncle B. live?' 'On what branch do I hang Uncle B. for my family tree project?'

Someone's going to have to break it to them. But break what? The same thing that's so wonderful about kids is also what's so complicating. They have no idea what being gay is. And the more I think about what to say to them, the more I realize that I have no idea what being gay is either. I mean, beyond the obvious sex bits, which they can learn the old-fashioned way -- from the class slut.

I thought I was being progressive by ensuring that my niece and nephew called B. 'uncle.' But maybe it's just more confusing. After all, they don't have many more youth-oriented gay cultural references than I did 30 years ago. As a society, we're still nervous about openly portraying gay romance to anyone on the hairless side of puberty.

The result is that they have no frame of reference to explain B. and me. Their idea of romance is limited to Disney princes and princesses. And their idea of love is pretty watered-down as well. They know that I love their dad. They also know that I love Barbra Streisand. And also -- inconceivably, to them -- that I love broccoli. When I explain that the reason they have an Uncle B. and not an Aunt C. is that I 'love' B., I picture them imagining future Christmas presents from Barbra Streisand. Who I'm pretty sure celebrates Hanukkah.

So their entire definition of gay comes down to me and B. There's no Heather in their school with two mommies. And while I'm sure that many of their peers also have matching sets of uncles or aunts, I doubt that those families know how to explain themselves any better than ours does. When I think of revealing myself as 'different' than everyone else around them, it makes me feel as isolated and freakish as I did back when I was their age.

I don't know. Maybe I can go one more Christmas as Silly Uncle Josh instead of Gay Uncle Josh. It's kind of nice to be around people who haven't yet learned how to segregate love -- be it animal, vegetable, or Yentl.

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