With a family as large and as complicated as mine, I’ve always known that statistically I cannot be the only one who isn’t heterosexual. However growing up in a rural area in a Christian, farming family is a very effective way to make you feel like you are. Nothing LGBT was ever mentioned. Nothing queer ever spoken. (Though we used to go and watch cows being milked a lot.) So it’s no surprise then that at 27, I’m still only out to a few family members.
I made a rare trip back home this week for my uncle’s funeral. Once the service had finished, we all shuffled awkwardly into a function room with chairs lined round the walls but no tables. Everyone was slopping tea as we all tried to shuffle seats round so we could sit in small groups and make the kind of awkward small talk you can only make with relatives you only ever see at funerals.
“Do you have a boyfriend yet?” my grandad’s sister asks.
“No.” I reply.
I see a man who looks friendly so wonder over and ask how we’re related. He’s my mum’s cousin. During small talk I notice he uses the word partner instead of girlfriend or wife. A few questions later, I discover he’s living with his male partner in Blackpool! I confess that I too am not straight, and immediately ask him whether he is out, and how other family members took the news if he is.
He said he told everyone when he was 40, and whilst it was a shock to all, most relatives have been ‘ok’ with it. I guess because these things are never talked about, word never got through to my immediate family. He also said he has a niece and a nephew who are gay. (I had to look this one up to find out what they are in relation to me. My mum’s cousin is my ‘first cousin, once removed’. The niece and nephew are my second cousins.) It turns out the nephew actually lives in Manchester, so I was both saddened and heartened to learn that when I thought I was alone, I was actually living in the same city as an LGBT family member for three years.
Anyway, what a sad and surreal way to find out you’re not the only rainbow sheep in the family. Though I’m happy to know there are at least four of us!