Of course, he had decided to take the highway. There was no traffic on the highway, so there was no stopping. He must’ve known that if there was an opportunity to jump out of the car, I would’ve taken it.
I slumped down further in the passenger seat, my arms crossed over my body protectively as his words sliced through my skin. He said we were having this conversation because he loves me, but I wasn’t feeling loved at all. It wasn’t even a conversation; it was a lecture. A lecture about me. About what’s wrong with me.
I focused on the trees that blurred passed, trying not to cry. This was humiliating and degrading.
“Victoria, there’s no grey. Life is either black or white.”
“What’s so funny?” he demanded.
“That’s completely untrue.”
He began to refute my statement, but I tuned it out. It’s ironic how he’s making this argument when the reason I’m sitting in the car, against my will with him, is because I’ve decided to stop hiding part of my grey life.
He wanted me to break up with her, so that’s what I told him I did. All he cared about was if I could find a nice man to fall in love with one day. I told him I was unsure, and being unsure was just too much greyness for him to handle.
Don’t you know what type of sexual activity you want to have? Have you ever considered that before? Although you’re not supposed to think about sex too much because that’s sinful, it ultimately all comes down to sex, Victoria. Sex is important. Sex is about reproduction! Forget about the fact that we’ve never had a conversation about sex or even puberty before, but now that you’re quite possibly gay, we must have this conversation.
No, I must get out of this car.
Then he somehow brought my grandparents into the discussion. It was something about how they immigrated to the United States to make a better, easier life. How I’m making my life difficult, like my uncle who died from lung cancer. Being in love with a woman is like being addicted to nicotine: it’s a bad habit you have to quit.
Life is black and white, Victoria. There’s right, and there’s wrong.
I regret not telling him why he’s wrong. How even his own life is soaked in greyness. How falling in love with a Latina was considered wrong in his family’s church, so he had to find a different pastor to marry them. How his children are a product of this wrongness, and how my sister and I struggle to navigate through these contradicting identities. How we’re not Latina enough, we’re not Ukrainian enough. How we’re a conglomerate of identities, aside from race as well. We’re 100% grey.
So, not everything is black and white, dad. I’m unsure if anything is.
© 2016 Vic Romero
I wrote this yesterday and read it aloud today in one of my women’s and gender studies classes. It was a powerful last class of the semester because everyone was sharing personal poems, songs, or stories. It felt like we were all united and our personal experiences opened up the discussion for a larger discussion on the systems that marginalize us and cause us to have these experiences.
This story happened two years ago now, and it’s fascinating to see how much my relationship with my parents has changed since then. That year of my life was difficult, and it only improved when I was packing up for college because they were going to miss me. It’s like when you’re alive, no one cares about you that much but when you’re dead, you suddenly mean so much to them. I don’t know if their negative attitude regarding my sexuality has changed or not. We just stopped arguing about it. The dynamics of our relationship has changed mostly because I’ve grown up a bit and I no longer live at home twelve months a year.
This experience was one of the first times I began to think more deeply about intersectionality without having a name for it, until I came to college and read Audre Lorde. She helped me realize that people are not simply one thing or the other, they are a hodgepodge of identities, and that is perfectly okay. Lorde writes, “As a Black lesbian mother in an interracial marriage, there was usually some part of me guaranteed to offend everybody’s comfortable prejudices of who I should be” (Sister Outsider: Speeches and Essays). Lorde’s identities challenge the heteronormative, patriarchal systems that govern most societies. Additionally, her identities also contradict prejudices such as how black women are married to black men, not to white women, and lesbians cannot get married nor can they have children. Lorde refutes the systems and prejudices, causing discomfort among many people. I have felt this way to some capacity because of the identities that I hold as well, however, similarly to Lorde, I will continue to be who I am, not who I should be.