Queer Rock Love

A Family Memoir


queer family

Why I Hoist My Own Tree

Last weekend, I scaled the mountain of musty furniture, bicycles and plastic bins in our garage. When I found what I was looking for—a tattered red duffel bag the size of an average middle schooler—I pulled and heaved and cajoled it down from the heap and into the house. It would have been easier with a second pair of hands, but setting up the Christmas tree has become my personal ritual, something I prefer to do alone.

xmastreeI’m writing by the glow of the tree right now. It’s the same white tree that I wrote about in Queer Rock Love, the one I bought at Target when Katy was so sick from interferon that she could barely get out of bed. After 10 years of service, the old tree is frayed and yellowish, but I can’t part with it.

Before Katy’s illness, I had a tendency to pin my happiness on other people. If I wanted to try something new, I needed more than my partner’s approval—I needed total buy-in. “It was stifling but safe. As long as other people had the power, my desires remained conditional and my failures rested on someone else—this is what I would do, if only…”

When Katy got sick, I was faced with a choice: I could tether myself to her bedside, waiting for her to feel better and meanwhile roiling with resentment that life was passing me by, or I could try to balance caretaking with my own needs for independence. But that meant venturing out on my own, without Katy as my constant cheerleader and companion. It was a prospect that filled me with dread. If you’ve read about the episode with the Christmas tree, then you know the pitfalls I faced trying to disentangle my own desires. I was hyper sensitive to any hint of disapproval, always eager to believe that family responsibilities were too demanding for me to follow my dreams or that I probably wasn’t good enough or strong enough to try.

I’ve been thinking about all this after watching Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, which I enjoyed immensely—until the last two episodes. As a queer person, I don’t have a lot of patience for straight people bemoaning how trapped they feel by heteronormative timetables of career, marriage, parenting and death. Oh, what’s that? You feel like you’ll be stigmatized if you don’t follow the script? Join the club. (Did you notice that Dev’s lesbian friend, Denise, basically dropped out of the last two episodes? I think it’s because the presence of a queer character would have undermined the whole pretense that there’s only one way to do committed relationships.)

I know that being in a relationship is not for everyone, but I’m also skeptical of the idea that marriage equals death. There’s a strain of misogyny in that tired old tune about suffocating domesticity. I’m more interested in thinking about a relationship as a creative crucible. Learning to balance my needs and desires with the needs and desires of another person has forced me to define my dreams and to become purposeful about pursuing them.

Katy’s in the next room now, working on the 5′ x 5′ painting that has consumed her imagination for the last two weeks. The white lights on the Christmas tree lend an iridescent glow to the layers of paint that she builds up and then scrapes down to begin again. I’m inspired by the depth of her concentration and her willingness to try something new. In a little while, I’ll read this blog post to her, and she’ll tell me about her latest experiments in color and form. I’m glad the circle of light is wide enough to hold us when we’re separate and to warm us when we come back together.

The Sun Shines Out of His Behind

When I was eight months pregnant, I watched a documentary about a lesbian couple whose baby was born without an anus.

“Hey,” Katy whispered in the dark. “I’m not sure this is the best thing for you to be watching right now.”

“I’m okay,” I said, “Shh!”

I was perched on the edge of the seat, heavy belly balanced awkwardly on my thighs. I couldn’t shift to a comfortable position until movie baby emerged from successful reconstructive surgery.

Later, I began to obsess on the possibility that our baby would be born with the same condition.

Katy tried in vain to assuage these fears. What was the likelihood, she asked, that another lesbian mom would have a baby with the same rare malady that she’d seen in a movie? But worrying about a baby with no anus was about focusing my energies: instead of worrying a little bit about each of the thousands of things that could go wrong, I worried a lot about one particular thing.

Yes, that is an AC/DC onesie.
Yes, that is an AC/DC onesie.
When the nurse placed Waylon on my chest, my mouth fell open. I should close my mouth, I thought, but a noise like chirping crickets was swelling in my ears, a wall of sound between thought and action.

Finally, a familiar voice distinguished itself from the din. “Paige, he’s beautiful. He’s beautiful, Paige. Paige, he’s beautiful.” Katy’s words were a trail of breadcrumbs; I followed them back to the present.

At that instant, a black lump slid across my belly.

It was meconium, the first shit. I looked at Katy: “He has an anus!” Joy and relief and love washed over me in waves. He was beautiful! And healthy! I was so absorbed that I didn’t see the puzzled looks on the nurses’ faces.

“She saw a documentary, you know, about a baby who was born with no anus,” Katy explained. “She was worried.”

Happy birthday to Waylon who turns 10 this week!
Happy birthday to Waylon who turns 10 this week!

Tech Savvy Senior Moment

Every January, I make a photo calendar with all my favorite family photos from the previous year. (I used to give them as gifts, until I realized that no one really likes to look at us quite as much as we like to look at ourselves.)

Anyway, I was going through my files, and I came across these sweet pics of Dad helping me network my new printer. I thought folks might like to see a stylish senior who bucks the stereotypes about aging and technical agility.

 That’s a baby picture of Dad in the lower right corner. He’s peeking out of an old-fashioned wicker buggy.

“We have to do something about these cords!”

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