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.
Read all of our posts for the month of February on the topic writing here.