Tuesday, July 28, 2009

An adoptee coming out

It's funny that this article about what percentage of the networks programming hours reflect GBLT characters would come out today. (as a side note it's unfortunate that I can't get HBO since they leading the pack with 42% vs 8%(NBC) and 5% (CBS))

It's only funny because Hilary and I just picked up ER season 11 on DVD (yes, we are those type of people, you know, the ones that can watch shows we've already seen 10 times, can receit favorite movies line by line and have dog-eared copies of books because they have been reread so often). ER was one of my favorite shows for a lot of reasons, not the least was the character of Dr. Kerry Weaver (played by Laura Innes). She was rude, funny, in-charge and didn't take any crap from anyone. And she also had 2 story lines that closely mirrored my own life - She came out as a lesbian and she was an adoptee searching for her birth mother.

Main stream media doesn't usually do either of these 2 story lines very well. They often go for the sensational, the weird, the stereotypical or the so-far-out-there it couldn't possibly happen in real life. ER did none of that. Kerry went through the same struggles that I and many of my gay friends have gone through. Discrimination at work, how to come out to people for the first time, finding out who your real friends are, that first date. ER was always very good at bringing current day issues to the screen. Kerry and her partner could not get legally married, just like all the other gay Americans at the time (and still). They did go on to have a baby and everything looked like they were destined to have a great future together until tragedy struck and Kerry's partner was killed. The show then followed Kerry's court battle to get custody of her son. A battle that many GBLT parents still have to fight today, 5 years after this season first aired.

Her adoption story also took some very realistic twists and turns. After hiring a private dective she thought her mother had been found. Only it turned out to be a mistake. So Kerry was back on the emotional roller coaster of search and reunion. Her mother finally finds her and they go out for dinner. Then Kerry was faced with that little question that all gay people face every day. "Do I come out to this person right now?"

This story line originally aired only a few years after I had found my first mother and had struggled with this very same question. Iris was not open to meeting me at all in the beginning so I tippy-toed around her a lot (all via letters sent through a social worker) at first, worried that I would scare her off before I ever got a chance to meet her. Eventually lying by omission can take its toll. Hilary and I had been together 10 years by then. We have moved across the country together, we owned a house together, we planned on starting a family together. I could not and would not deny her existance. To anyone.

So one night I sat in a bar in the Vancouver airport and I started to write. I had a 6 hour wait for my plane and nothing better to do. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I told Iris all about Hilary, my life as a lesbian, my parents kicking me out of the house when I was 18 because they thought I was gay and my fears that she would be another person added to the list of people I had lost when I came out to them.

It took me another few weeks to actually mail the letter, but eventually I did. And then I waited.

Part 2 can be found here.
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