Stonewalling

2 min
at 11:43 PM

On the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, Vin Traverso struggles to cope with a kind of stonewalling in his own family.

“Want to go fishing on Friday?” he asked. I hadn’t spoken to my father in weeks, the latest bout of silent treatment toward a man who has refused to accept, discuss, or even acknowledge his son’s homosexuality. “I’m not sure I can BS that long,” I countered, stonewalling him.

Years after coming out, our retrenched détente of “don’t ask, don’t tell” became unworkable. I poked: talking about my dating life in common company, he would bristle and quickly change the subject. I prodded: bringing provocatively named bottles of wine – like “Château Haut Gay” – to dinners, he would get up and silently go about the dishes. If accept, discuss, acknowledge were off the table, perhaps I could coax him into reject, inveigh, or belittle.

At least they’re reactions to contend with; better to hit walls than spin wheels. But nothing worked. He was stonewalling me… obstructing debate, delaying progress. So, I returned his roaring silence with a vindictive embargo. Want to chat? Say it: “My gay son.”

It seemed brave to force the issue. Isn’t that what they did with marriage equality? And during the AIDS crisis? And at Stonewall?

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No, it wasn’t. They weren’t silent. They rioted in the streets, they shouted in the courts, they made their voices heard. For five decades… the most courageous did, and we are grateful. We. Those just brave enough to simply come out, to whisper hard words among friends and families who accept or reject, celebrate or castigate, acknowledge or ignore.

That last might be the most insidious, for shame echoes in silence. Only sustained engagement, iterations of collectively raised fists, loud and proud, and individually outstretched hands, quiet and compassionate, can chip at such estrangement. Roars or whispers, but never silence.

On Father’s Day, I begrudgingly accepted dad’s help repairing an old canoe. It forced us to talk, if only in mumbles. Yesterday I asked him, “Would you like to go fishing this Friday?” He surely doesn’t realize that it is the 50th anniversary of Stonewall.

We’ll see what he says.

With a Perspective, this is Vin Traverso

Vin Traverso is a winemaker in Napa & pub owner in Oakland.

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