Blindsided

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I am in LA. It is around 2013. I am standing alone on a stage in a small theatre. I am at an open mic for standup comedians. The lights are so bright I can’t make out anyone’s face. I am waiting for feedback from the audience. I have just told a joke about my father for the millionth time to a room full of peers, other comedians. People I have considered friends. People who know about my dad and that he is gay.

Feedback typically consisted of comments like, “I didn’t understand the part when” or “I think it would be funnier if” But for some reason someone shouted, “Was your dad molested? I’ve heard many gay men were molested.”

And then another shouted, “Do you think gay behavior is nature or nurture?”

Then everyone pontificated on this subject while I still stood, waiting for someone to tell me if the punch line to my joke worked or not. And trust me my joke had nothing to do with whether or not my father was previously abused, sexually.

That is why I still write. Because in a room full of people who were most likely pro-gay marriage, they had the nerve to ask me such personal questions about my father. I did not know how to react so I just stood there listening to people pick a part my father and sum up his and mine entire life with their ‘scientific’ thoughts.

I write, because I want people to have empathy. I want to sit them down and make them listen to stories and care about my dad and me. Because, while I worry about homophobes that refuse to sell gay men wedding cakes, I worry about the people who don’t “get it” just as much. The ones who say, “to each his own” but inside, they are uncomfortable with queer lives.

I write even when those who think they are “hip” roll their eyes because they are so over it. Well, I say to them, queer stories are not trends. Our families are people who have unique circumstances in this world and we deserve to be seen and heard for who we really are and not just what you think you know because you had a gay coworker once or you just love Modern Family. Or because you think, “Why doesn’t Elizabeth just shut up already? She’s not even gay. She’s just like me.” If that is the case, then I ask of you, when is the last time someone asked you, in a public square, if your father was molested?


Elizabeth Collins was raised in the South by gay men. She now lives in Los Angeles and performs stand-up comedy. You can contact read all of her Gay Dad Project posts here. You can also contact on herwebsiteor follow her on Twitter& her blog.

 

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Comments

  1. oh wow! Talk about a tough crowd. Good for you for going back up on that stage time and again after getting that. xoxo Ali

  2. Elizabeth, thanks for writing this and sharing it. I hope it helps to point out that at least people are talking, even if their talk is asking questions that might seem to us as answered already. Different folks are at different stages of understanding and acceptance. But at least they are thinking and asking.
    The only thing that will counteract the ignorance and fear is more discussion, so keep talking.
    You’ve aroused my curiosity. I’d like to hear your story with the punchline!

    • Hi Pete!

      I couldn’t agree more. I think my point is not to stop conversation but to explain why I continue to write. I used to think people were already in a place of understanding, but occasionally I get blindsided by the fact they are not. Even those who claim to be pro-gay rights. So yes! More conversation is needed! But it can be painful at times for those of us who are at the center, as I am sure you know. My point is not to be a victim, but to inspire a little empathy in the process. So glad to hear from you! I have been hearing a lot about you from the other Gay Dad girls.

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