These are my musings and observations on my daily life, loves and the laughter that are all a part of my experience of living now in the shires of England.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Homecomings - DADT

Homecomings are times of celebration. These are great occasions when the people who have been away return home. They return to a place of safety and comfort. A place where all barriers have been removed, all formalities have been taken away and you can relax and be yourself. Homecomings are occasions when the ones who have been away are greeted with joy by those who have remained and also happily reacquaint themselves with those other travellers who are returning to the familiar base. Well, that is the theory…
I knew that there was a homecoming anniversary gathering and I was going home. Yet I was nervous for a multitude of reasons. The relaxation that should have accompanied me was missing. The barriers that I hope were absent were present and the formal behaviour replaced the friendship that used to easily exist.
I went back to my home church to celebrate 50 years since the building had been dedicated for worship. I was greeted, with genuine affection, by several people. I had expected their continued friendship; we had kept in touch over the years. I was also met by sideward glances and frosty practiced smiles on an otherwise bright and beautiful day by those who evidently didn’t expect or want to see me there. 34 years ago my family moved to the area and joined the local church. We grew up in that environment. It was my home.
The day of celebration was punctuated with songs, readings and gifts to recognise long service within the church. The rolls of honour were read. People were applauded, lauded and honoured for their contributions to the Christian ministry and local community. I did not go there that day with expectations of any reward, and I was sat there quietly enjoying the shared memories until my son, who was sat beside me during the ceremony, spoke and it was then that I really acknowledged the missing evidence of my presence in the records.
Morgan was listening to the list of officers who had taken part in the youth club over the years and when they finished reading and were stepping down from the platform, he looked at me, aghast, and said, to everyone and no-one in particular – in what I thought was quite a loud voice – “What about my Mum?”
Embarrassed feet shuffled and heads turned away.
I hugged him and said “Never mind, darling. I know I was there. God knows why they left me out.”
The same thing happened again and again. One after another groups that I belonged to reformed without me. Some people suggested I go and join them on the platform. I laughed at the idea of a mass exodus if I went to the front of the church. I declined politely and remained where I was. The church authorities, in their wisdom, could not see me so I chose to remain invisible to them that day.
My nephew, who now lives in Swansea, and who also grew up in the church community decided not to attend – for his own reasons. When he called me on my return home he asked a simple question.
“Well, how did they treat you?”
“They ignored me for the most part, Daniel,” I said, with a deep sigh. “To be expected I guess. I don’t fit in their picture. They can’t bring themselves to tell me outright to keep away, however they can choose to publicly ignore my contributions.”
I mainly went to support my sister and another nephew who have remained in the area and who are alienated within the church, but my presence seemed to exacerbate the situation - being part of my family means that they are treated as contaminated as well. My link with them is also a constant reminder of my ‘leper’ status within the church ‘family’.
My home is not with them.
There will be no future homecoming events for me with people who don’t acknowledge the person that I am. I’m sure that Christ, the Man the church congregation claims to follow, would not agree with the estrangement of His family members.
I broke the cardinal rule with them years ago. I ignored the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law. When homophobia was rife in the groups I was part of I stood up and said I found it offensive and unChrist-like. I outed myself, and they’ve never got used to it. They cannot accept that the person they loved and played with through all those years is gay.
It’s not my problem. It’s theirs.
I am home now.
I know why I live so far from them now. I know why for the first time in three decades I haven’t moved every three years; I have now stayed in one place for 14 years. I have found a home and I keep coming back to it.
I don’t need their homecoming to celebrate my existence. I do that everyday when I awaken in my peaceful haven.
I am home.

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