Saturday, January 26, 2013

Living in exile

I used to think that only gay people had to deal with this based on my personal experiences. Of course that has never been true.

The Christmas before I came out I was with some friends who were also gay and in the Navy and they were talking about going to Washington DC for the holiday. I thought it odd that they wouldn't go home and their response was that this is what it was like to live in exile. Back then, as now, some families did not want their openly gay children at family gatherings or special occasions. Yes, it's hard to imagine and I assure you this still happens.

More common these days is that the gay family member will be "invited" to the big family gathering or special occasion but the partner or spouse is not welcome. Yes, in 2013, this conversation is being had at many kitchen tables and in many living rooms.

When my cousin Jennifer got married she made it very clear that me and my partner were invited. This was back in 1997 and it almost seems like a lifetime ago. Jennifer and I had grown up together, I love her very much and it didn't even come close to a thought that my partner would not be invited to her wedding. (Not to mention that gay people stereotypically give great wedding gifts!)

In the 23 years that I have been out there have been many times I did not want to attend a family gathering because of who might be there or what might be said in front of my partner and now husband. I have always understood that there will be people everywhere, in and out of family, that are not comfortable with me dating or being married to a man. Knowing this helps me in making decisions on whether or not I want my beloved to be treated poorly. This is more like self-imposed exile, and it is no fun.

 Mike and I have family members who decide not to visit us because they are afraid they won't be able to eat meat while visiting us. The practice in our home is that there is no violence allowed, including that of eating animals. It's really not that big of a deal as our neighbors are not vegan and there are a ton of places to eat around us that serve meat.

And then there is religion. Friends who are of different faiths in their parents eyes are not included in certain gatherings because one of them is not of the family faith.

And race. The list could go on and on. Whether we choose to not be a part of something or that choice is made for us, living in exile is no fun. What we can do about it is to show up at gatherings with love and openness and to accept nothing more than love and recognition for who we are or who our partner or spouse is. We can also make sure that through word and action we never allow friends or family to live in exile, whether it is self-imposed or not.

We want our friends and family to always feel love and support from us, to always know that they have a safe, loving place in our home.

To anyone reading this is is living in exile: You are not alone. We love you.

Thanks for reading.


  1. That feeling of awkwardness when you don’t quite know how other people might react to you and your beliefs is one thing but it’s sad when people go out of their way to deny you entry just because of who you are. I try to be civil and set an example for people who are that prejudice and openly hostile/passive-aggressive towards others, but most importantly I see it as their exile, not mine. I don’t claim to understand or be familiar with all aspects of our culture so it’s an exciting learning experience when I meet someone who has a different lifestyle to mine. Having been brought up as a bit of an outsider I often feel like a visitor to Earth as a whole, so everyone I meet can teach me something new or offer me a new insight into this beautiful but sometimes daunting world that will help me feel at home. I’m as patient as I can be with people who are prejudice because of ignorance (it is a scary world if you’ve been kept in your own little sheltered corner for so long) but some people must know that they’re being cruel and hurtful when they push people away for no reason other than their own insecurities. It’s very selfish. But I tell myself that it’s just their defence reflex and not purely an offensive manoeuvre. It’s just a shame that our instinctual reaction to things sometimes can be to draw up that wall of anger and segregation. I like to think that we’re all learning to live in such a diverse world and that it’s best to try and get things right and get it a bit wrong than not to try at all.

    1. Hi Jim! Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a thoughtful comment!

  2. You really struck a chord with me here. As a straight, white, middle class married female in America, it would seem that there's not much about me for anyone to take exception to... except that I'm vegan...

    When people first learn this, they always get that stunned "what do I feed her" look in their eyes. The kind ones, if they've invited me to a meal, will make a salad to go with whatever else they're having. But most people have given up altogether, and never invite us to their homes at all. We have all the dinner parties, and while friends will come to eat our weird vegan food, they also say snarky, awful things about us, sometimes behind our backs, sometimes publicly on FB, and sometimes even to our faces.

    My husband and I have been called rude, elitist, and coercive - by family and friends who supposedly love us, simply because we decline to participate in their mealtime carnage. Maybe it's time to find some new friends! Thank heaven for the internet, where people who are "like me" are often so different from me in other ways. Thanks for being here, and for doing what you do to include rather than divide.

    Kim Miles
    Positively Vegan
    Taos, NM (but maybe moving soon)

    1. Kim! Sending lots of love! We can relate. New perceptions, new learning experiences and new friends for sure. And don't give up on your old friends. You never know when a spark might make sense to them or your next delish vegan dish might make them think! And if you're up for a road trip, come up to Denver February 9th for my birthday party. Lots of love and good vegan food!

    2. Thanks Dan, for the pep talk, and the party invite! I might surprise myself and just show up! ;o) Hope to see you at VidaVeganCon in May for sure. Yay Portland!

    3. Kim! For sure! I am driving to VVC from Denver, leaving the Wednesday before and stopping in SLC for one night. Headed back that Monday. Just an FYI. I am super psyched.