Many of you know that I have been having this family thing going on. It has wrought havoc with my plans for this diary. First I knew what I was going to do and posted a whole bunch of other diaries so that I could link to them when this day came. Then the family stuff came up and it took over to the point that I was avoiding preparing this at all.
So then I thought I would post an old review I did of of Pat Califia's Sex Changes: the politics of transgenderism. I also wrote a response...both of which I got to Pat and we exchanged a couple of emails planning to have a conversation about it, but Pat had some "personal issues" to deal with first. Next thing I knew Pat had become Patrick. Patrick never got back to me.
I thought I was rescued. But the family stuff didn't go away. It's here and needs discussion...
A few words about the series:
Feminisms is a series of weekly feminist diaries. My fellow feminists and I decided to start our own for several purposes: we wanted a place to chat with each other, we felt it was important to both share our own stories and learn from others’, and we hoped to introduce to the community a better understanding of what feminism is about.
Needless to say, we expect disagreements to arise. We have all had different experiences in life, so while we share the same labels, we don’t necessarily share the same definitions. Hopefully, we can all be patient and civil with each other, and remember that, ultimately, we’re all on the same side.
Background:The yada's are not such a nice story. The yada's matter. A life is more than just an account of a person's obstacles and how those obstacles were navigated. A life is also the trail left in one's wake, the disturbances we cause. Most of the time we don't know everything that erupts because of our passing by, but sometimes we do. And sometimes we don't but we should.I have two brothers and a sister. I'm the second child, with one older brother. My younger brother is much younger than me. It is my eternal shame that I don't really know either of my younger siblings.
As I have written before, after a suicide attempt in Bryn Mawr, PA, which lead to be flunking out of Penn during what most probably would have been called a nervous breakdown if I had actually been diagnosed and/or treated, which lead to me returning home in disgrace (worse yet, disgracing the "family"), knowing that I was destined to be drafted into the War at the End of the World, I took off for places unknown...except to me: Haight-Ashbury.
Several years later I was captured by the FBI in Venita, OK and given the choice between 5 years in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary without pay or 2 years in the USArmy with pay. By that time I had a family. I chose the latter. Yada, yada, yada...
My story is about that latter case.
I've written about my mother. I've written about my father. I've written about me being The Unfather. I've even written a bit about my older brother, two years older than me, with whom I was forced to share a room for my entire childhood. He's the least likely of us kids to ever read this.
Recently, I was contacted by my younger brother's friend Tam, who expressed her love for my brother by asking me to contact him. I did. He has been angry with me for at least 40 years. I told him he could unleash that anger towards me, but that I would still be here afterwards. He wrote. He didn't write just his anger, although there is a lot of it. I responded to him Monday night. He wrote back last night. Words are good.
Tam and Mike have been reading my diaries. [How's that for pressure?]
When I went to send my response to Mike, I noticed I had another email...from my sister Jan. It turns out she's been reading some of my stuff as well.
My brother is angry because I left both him and Jan exposed to my parents...and to the entire community as well. I had disappeared from the face of the earth...or under a bush in Buena Vista Park in this case.
Practice makes perfect. My parents became ever more skilled at tearing us down as they had more kids. Never, never, never were we good enough...even though I earned a Ph.D. in mathematics and my sister is a cardiologist. Their treatment of my younger siblings was ugly. It was progressively more ugly. I feel responsibility...now.
As Debbie (my partner) points out, I was 19 years old then. Do nineteen-year olds perceive the world beyond their narrow self-interest? I was struggling for survival, somehow, some way, in this world.
Meanwhile, Mike was floundering. And I didn't know. All that has happened in my life since then has happened without the knowledge of what happened to Mike. I have had a more knowledge about Jan. But not all that much.
I regret that. It hurts me to the bone. I feel pain that my younger sister and brother have been damaged by being members of our family. I feel even greater pain that the only real bond we have is the one which has pushed us so far away from each other. I would give anything for them to have had happy lives...except becoming who I am.
Family is hard. If there is anything here that I can draw from our family experience into a discussion of feminism, it is that this is what happened in a family which devoted all of it's patriarchal effort and resources in the first-born son...who turned out to be a failure. The rest of the kids were just the substitutes. This is what happens when parents thinK fostering sibling rivalry is a good strategy for raising kids, rather than encouraging us become friends.
My story doesn't exist in a vacuum. It seems that way because I'm the one writing it. Perspective probably matters. The stories of my brother and my sister speak volumes.
I don't know that I am ready or deserve to be a matriarch. But I can hope to be their friend.
|Crown of Creation
You are the Crown of Creation