“I always knew you were gay, ever since you were four or five. I guess I wasn’t happy with it but over time I came to terms with it – I guess it’s just like me being attracted to black women”. Stunned into silence, I looked into my father’s blue eyes, pale skin and flaxen hair and realised my disconnect from him stemmed not just from our physical disparity, but a complete absence of shared experiences.
It’s a strange feeling knowing that my existence came about through fetishisation as well as love
It’s a strange feeling knowing that my existence came about through fetishisation as well as love. It’s equally strange to me that my father has used this fetishisation as a means to find common ground with me, as a means to repair our relationship. This is something I take now to be a tacit acknowledgement that he sees being attracted to black women as being unusual and deviant in the wake of how he has spoken about LGBTQ people in the past, despite how accepting he is trying to be now.
Recently, while texting two different men saved in my phone as daddy, I realised I had gone two months without speaking to my father. I think this sums up my relationship with my dad pretty well: we may not be particularly close at this point but it’s clear he has shaped my sexual relationships more than any other male figure. I spent far too much time fucking older men solely as proxy for his approval, spent far too much time dating white men who wet their lips while describing me using words synonymous with exotic, spent too long objectifying myself on the basis of my race and sexuality because I thought that was all I could do. These things take time to unlearn, but remembering that children do not bear responsibility for the sins of their fathers helps me acknowledge that my disgust with my dad’s attitude is valid.
I guess I’m dealing with my dad’s attitudes towards race and sexuality through acknowledging they are dialectical: they are not my opinions and feelings, but nevertheless have shaped me in that I have had to fight against a lot of self-loathing stemming from being made to feel like an aberration, or a tool for my dad to prove he’s down. Writing this has been another step coming to terms with these attitudes, but every step raises more questions. Now I’m left wondering why I am comfortable discussing these things with anyone but my dad, to the point that I can write paragraphs detailing intimacies and resentments to share with the world but I cannot say to him: “this hurts me”. I no longer believe that this comes from a desire for his respect: instead I have learned from experience that this kind of argument with white men is generally futile, that any point you make is seldom applied within the winder context of inequality. It is applied only to an individual’s hurt. Maybe this is the true lesson I have learned from my father, one that I can only assume he never mastered from his reaction to my sexuality: the power of silence.