April 14, 2012

Deconstructing Family

Last night I went to see Deconstruction of a Drag Queen, a play put on by Circle Circle dot dot, a San Diego theatre company owned by my boyfriend's friends. It was an incredibly moving piece that detailed the life of a popular San Diego drag queen, Grace Towers, and her struggling to come to terms with who she was as well as getting her family to accept her lifestyle. Although most people do not have to go through what Grace did, it still resonates because most people have at one point or another disappointed their parents.

The play starred a boy named Michael (or Mike) who grew up in a religious, conservative household with a mother who wanted her only son to be a successful doctor or lawyer or something respectable with a giant income. Unfortunately, ever since Mike was a little kid he was attracted to his older sister's dresses, her make up box, organizing musical skits for town performances with his friends, and dancing, none of which his mother approved of. She called him every horrible name in the book and forced him to ignore who he was for who she wanted him to be. It wasn't until he started at UCSD under a pre-med program (arguably one of the hardest in the country) that he discovered a little bit of freedom, thanks to his new friends. The rest of the play was about him embracing being gay, discovering a passion for drag, and ultimately losing his family because they could not accept his choices. And that last part is what resonates so clearly.

It was easy to feel the audience experience shock, anger, empathy and joy for the characters on stage, especially knowing that the play is based on a real person and her real experiences. More than I expected I found myself getting emotional... although I never had to work to get anyone to accept my lifestyle and was never called those names or anything even remotely similar, I too had to deal with disappointment and feeling not good enough. On stage, Mike makes a phone call to his mother telling her he's switching his major and asks that she still love him; she hangs up on him. Their last conversation ends with his mother telling him he's no longer part of the family because of his choices. It was powerful watching a person, even an actor, go through that. There was a time I was not allowed in a parent's house and have felt like I lost both parents... one of whom has gone out of his way to make me feel unloved, unwanted and unimportant. For what?

Last weekend at Easter I spent a good amount of time in my hometown with my family, and although I do miss them and do wish I could see them more often, I feel like the burden is always on me to make the effort when no one else will, and my feeling that I don't belong in that town is reinforced with every return. Watching this play after spending a lot (= less than 3 days) of time up there reminded me of how different I am, but it also made me realize how perceptions change with time, and how truths get twisted... these are things I can't talk about with the people I should be talking about them with because doing so could severely damage relationships that are often already hanging by a thread. I made the decision that it's not worth bringing up, which means I have to live knowing people believe things that just aren't true about me, and that hurts.

Fortunately, the inspiration for Deconstruction of a Drag Queen, Grace Towers, found her niche and seems happy and well accepted among her surrogate family. We all need a surrogate family sometimes... we can't choose who we're related to and that can make it near impossible to get along with our family members. Hopefully people can keep in mind that it always hurts to feel like you've disappointed a parent just for being who you are, no matter how old you get.

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