I was born in the southern tip of The South. I was born in Mississippi, so far south you can't go any farther without swallowing the sea.
I grew up among rows of churches and church goers, puzzled by why there needed to be two next door to each other. I grew up listening to sermons that no one else seemed to hear, wondering why everyone claimed to be a good Christian when they immediately forgot the words of their so called Savior the moment they left the churchyard.
I grew up among a strong sense of tradition, of what men and women should be. I learned abstinence only education. I got used to seeing pregnant classmates as young as fourteen.
I grew up taught that the poor were just lazy. I grew up amongst a culture of hate. I grew up being told that gay people were evil. I grew up with prayer in schools.
I grew up thinking everything I was, everything I am, was a source of shame.
I am the bisexual daughter of a Southern Gentleman, and I grew up knowing that I could never tell him my true thoughts, my true opinions, on anything.
But last night, I did.
I'm still shocked by what he said.
I learned long ago that I could never be myself around my father if I want to avoid unpleasantness. My opinions, after all, can never be as valid as his, for I am only his daughter. The culture we both grew up in, the culture he is very much a product of, demands that as both my elder and the father of a daughter, he at all times know better than I on any subject. It does not matter that I have a high degree of education, and he does not. It does not matter that my education is in the field of law and politics. I am his daughter, and so I am wrong.
I can hear it in his voice, the tension, the mad scramble for something he can say to keep himself from losing face, even if we are the only two there. At times, I wonder if he even thinks about what he says, or if he is merely repeating what is socially acceptable in the region: Men should be men, and should tote guns, and women await their husbands at home. Gays and lesbos are not people, and deserve no rights. Come to think of it, women might not be people either. Obama is a demon who does nothing good, and his "Demoncraps" all want to take my money. Helping the poor is just rewarding the lazy. Life is sacred and begins at conception, except for when a jury of your peers condemn you to death.
Normally, when talk turns to politics. I bite my tongue. "There is no point," I tell myself. "You know your father. Even if he thinks you are right, even if he sees you have a point, he cannot say so, he will not allow himself to think so. For he is a Southern Gentleman, and there is a code of conduct, a code of thought they must follow."
But when my father called last night and began to lambaste President Obama, I decided no more. I would not be silent. I am done keeping the peace.
I'm done being the good daughter of a Southern Gentleman.
I questioned what my father was saying. I demanded he explain his reasoning.
He could not.
I asked why he disliked our president, and then asked what sources verified his words.
He could not name any.
I asked what was so wrong with equality. Why can't gays get married? Why shouldn't women control their own body?
"Life begins at conception," he said.
"What about rape victims, Daddy?" I asked, making my voice childlike in an attempt to remind this particular Southern Gentleman that I was his daughter, and thus could be impregnated by rape. In an attempt to make what he said real for him. To make him think.
Daddy said, "Well you won't get raped cause you don't wear things you shouldn't or go places you shouldn't be."
I could not speak for several minutes. In that time he only dug the hole deeper.
The worst part was that he didn't seem to see the problems with what he said.
I began to ask questions once more, trying to make him think, trying to make him see, telling myself that surely this must be because he has not thought, has not truly stopped to consider his words, because they are what a Southern Gentleman should say, and he hangs his hat upon being one.
I never know if his opinions are real, or a blind following of the crowd who sits and smokes at his Gentleman's Club, where there are deer heads mounted on the wall, and women are not allowed to enter.
But Daddy had been questioned enough by his daughter this evening. I was making him uncomfortable, wanting him to explain his beliefs. I was making him uncomfortable, speaking my mind.
I was being awkward and uncouth, unladylike in my demands. I am the unseemly daughter of a Southern Gentleman, who in another time would have been packed off to boarding school where I couldn't embarrass the family, and married off as soon as possible.
The conversation degenerated into a shouting match. The Southern Gentleman screamed into my ear, and I screamed back with all the force of a lifetime spent holding my tongue.
Eventually I realized there was nothing to be done to salvage the conversation. I hung up. Not out of anger, but because I would not sit and listen to the hatred, the poison being dripped into my ears, and the Southern Gentleman would not stop shouting long enough for any goodbyes to be said.
I hate that I had to hang up. I hate that I am the daughter of the Southern Gentleman, and he likely thinks my act was "oh so very female" because I could not refute the Words of Father.
I am the daughter of a Southern Gentleman, and I am not sure if he is unthinking or malicious.
I am the daughter of a Southern Gentleman, and I am not sure which is worse.
I am the daughter of a Southern Gentleman, and I am tired.
I am the daughter of a Southern Gentleman, and I am angry.