“Are you gay?” I asked my sixteen year-old daughter last October.
“No,” she answered but I wasn’t sure. She didn’t seem gay (whatever that means), she’d only ever had boyfriends, but as co-president of her high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club, she would use words like “us” and “we.”
“What about Alice*?” I asked about her best friend and co-president.
“She’s pansexual,” Marley told me.
“What’s that?” I asked her.
“It’s where you fall in love with a person, no matter what their gender is.”
“Isn’t that bi-sexual?”
“No, because you can love someone who is trans or doesn’t even identify as a gender. You just fall in love with a person.” she told me.
“What about you? Are you pansexual?” I asked.
She shrugged and looked me in the eye. “Yes.”
“So you would date a woman or a trans person?” I asked her.
“Why wouldn’t I?” she asked sounding as nonchalant as if I’d asked her if she was sure she’d like extra cheese on her pizza.
Just so whoever you love treats you well, that’s all that matters,” I said, meaning it.
My husband and I have always told our kids that love is love, that we will love them no matter who they love and it’s true. While I’m proud of the fact that my daughter is very evolved, if I’m honest I’ll tell you it’s not what I’d hoped or planned for. I mean, life is already so damned hard.
The day after the election she posted this on her Facebook wall:
Hey guys. I need to tell you something. This isn’t shocking at all (i hope), but i wanna officially come out as pansexual. if you don’t know what that means, there are a few definitions to explain it, but mine is a very popular one. basically, I’m attracted to people based off of their intellectual ability and personality. I mean by that is, I don’t really care about what a person sexes or the person’s gender is or whatever they are on the outside. I care about who they are as a person and how they make me feel and how I make them feel and how we just are together I find that more important and much better than how somebody looks over they are on the inside.
I have to admit, I wasn’t quite ready for that. The lack of capitalization. “Sexes” instead of “sex is.” And that last sentence is just a run-on jumbled mess. What were people going to think about me after reading that? I’m a writer.
All kidding aside, I was a little worried. I hadn’t told my mother yet or anyone else in my family. I didn’t know how the kids at school would react. I like to think that it’s the 21st century and nobody cares, but a man who thinks you can “pray the gay away” just got voted into office as our vice president and that’s scary as shit.
Then I noticed my mom “liked” the post, as did my brother, all her cousins, and a bunch of her friends. The post was peppered with comments like “Speak your truth” and “You go, girl.” I went back to worrying about the grammar.
The Sunday after the election I got together with three of my girlfriends to commiserate the results. My friend Lisa suggested we find a protest to go to. I told them about Marley coming out on Facebook, that she contacted the LA LGBTQ center, and was planning a protest against Trump and Pence in Hollywood on December 10th.
“How does that make you feel? Marley being pansexual?” my friend Lisa asked me. Lisa’s a therapist and likes to get to the truth.
“Honestly,” I told her. “I don’t know. It would be a lie to say I don’t care. We’ve always told our kids we’ll love them just the same whether they’re gay or straight and it’s true, but it’s not exactly what you wish for. I want Marley to live her truth, but I also want her life to be easy.”
But if there’s one truth we all know by this time in our lives it’s that life can be so many things – wonderful, terrible, usually something in-between, but if there’s one thing life never ever is, it’s easy.
If there’s one truth about Marley it’s that if there is a hard path and an easy path she’ll pick the hard path. Every Single Time.
“Do you think this protest will actually happen?” Lisa asked me.
I shrugged. “Who knows. I admire her passion and intensity, but she’s passionate and intense about everything and not particularly famous for her follow through.”
But the protest did happen. Marley posted it as a Facebook event and it was shared with over five thousand people. Trolls started posting terrible things and at one point Marley had an anxiety attack when she realized she had no idea what she was doing, but there was no backing out. Fortunately a seasoned protester reached out to her and helped her immensely. The police contacted her and provided protection. This was a great relief to me and my husband as even though Marley stressed this was a peaceful protest, there was an uptick in hate crimes after the election and protests can turn ugly. We really didn’t know what to expect.
In the end approximately two hundred people showed up – both gay and straight, including a family with a fourteen year-old lesbian daughter who was so grateful to Marley for organizing a march that spoke to them. There were roadblocks -literal ones, as her march was the same day as the Rogue One premiere and we had to take a different route; and figurative ones as there was a pro-Trump rally being held on his Walk of Fame star, where our march was ending. Marley was encouraged to give a speech, which she hadn’t planned, but she spoke from her heart. We marched from Hollywood and Vine to Hollywood and Highland holding signs, chanting chants, speaking our truth.
The truth is this wonderful-terrible-somewhere-in-between life is hard no matter who you love. But loving Marley is easy.
*Alice is not her friend’s real name. I only out my own kid on the internet.
Charlene Ross is the author of Frosted Cowboy. You can find her at charleneaross.com.