My maternal grandmother, bless her, is almost 73 though despite being an ardent Catholic and her age and hailing from a mining village in northern Europe, she’s remarkably worldly-wise and tech savvy; she owns a blackberry, which yes she does know how to use, and is on Facebook, and even has the two things set up so that any time one of her 19 grandchildren post something on Facebook, she gets a text telling her about it (I’m exaggerating slightly; there are indeed 19 of us grandchildren on that side of the family but not all of us are on Facebook). Today, though, I took the unusual step of deleting my own grandmother from my friends list on Facebook. Let me explain why.
Though her opinions on non-heterosexual, non-cis people seemed to have undergone something of a metamorphosis since mum outed me to her two years ago (hint to any parents of LGBT* people out there, don’t out your kids to the rest of the family, it’s not your story to tell and it’s hugely disrespectful). She even recently took the unusual step of trying to set me up with her friend’s gay grandson, though with a five year age difference and 500-plus kilometre distance between us that was never really going to work out now, was it? (We do talk though, and as he is now single as of yesterday we’ve established that the next time I’m home we’re probably going to hook up.) I thought, perhaps naïvely, that the “gay people can never lead a normal life” grandmother I remembered from my high school days had been replaced with a more open-minded version. I’m starting to think I was wrong.
As my flight back to my university town (I’m on the plane just now, I seem to be composing a lot of blogs late at night on large modes of transport these days) lands quite late and, as I’ve said before, the airport isn’t in my city, I’m staying at my boyfriend’s tonight, also because I haven’t seen him in 9 days and could really use a cuddle right now. Two days ago she asked me if I would be able to get back to my city so late at night; I replied that I can’t, and that I’d be staying at my boyfriends because he lives closer to the airport. She stopped talking. And today she asked me if I was still planning on “staying at your friend’s tonight?” to which I replied, that yes, I am, and that he’s my boyfriend, “I told you the other day.” “I know, I remember” (and since facebook displays for all the world to see, I’m in a relationship with him). No apology, no correcting herself, nothing of the sort. Conversation just stopped. So, I deleted her from facebook, because I’m quite annoyed, and I think I’m right to be. Deleting someone from Facebook, of course, isn’t exactly a terrible thing to do to someone, but the message that”you are not someone I want to have information about my private life” I find appropriate here.
If she doesn’t condone relationships which don’t fit her religious ideal, that’s not great but it’s vaguely understandable, yet my oldest cousin has a live-in girlfriend which doesn’t fit the Catholic ideal and she refers to her as his girlfriend even though she dislikes her intensely; my brother and his partner aren’t married, but his girlfriend is afforded the same respect of being acknowledged as being so, and their newborn baby is acknowledged as her great granddaughter. My younger cousins’ three-week long relationships get to use the title of girlfriend or boyfriend too; so why won’t she acknowledge my boyfriend as being such?
The only explanation for it I can see is that she doesn’t seem to think that a relationship between two people of the same sex is as valid as one between two people not of the same sex. I’m aware that this is a fairly common perception among people, though I doubt it makes up the majority opinion in my country any more, but I don’t associate with people I know think like that if I can at all help it. And so I’m choosing to take a step back from her as well. I don’t get on with most of my extended family and rarely see them but my gran is one of the few relatives I feel particularly close to and so knowing that she thinks of me, rightly or wrongly, as somehow being worth less than the rest of her family or the general population – since my choice of partner isn’t afforded the same respect as everyone else’s – is extremely hurtful. If she’d met my boyfriend and decided she didn’t like him at would be one thing (though as I’ve said she does call opposite-sex partners she dislikes by their proper title) but that’s not the case. I find this insulting and hurtful and I’m sorry, no. If you don’t think my private life and relationships should be afforded the same basic fucking respects you pay everyone else’s, then you can’t be privy to it or part of it.
Part of me feels like I’m being really harsh here but most of me is angry, upset and, having decided to cut out a close relative from the bulk of my private life, I also feel a bit bereaved. What do you guys think? Am I being petulant? Is my anger justified? What about my actions? Feel free to leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to get a dialogue going on this.