Not My Father’s Son, Alan Cumming’s new book, has been making the rounds through the Xtra office. In case our cover wasn’t a dead giveaway, we love the book — and not just because we’re all fans of Cumming. (Though frankly, with an IMDb catalogue that includes Spice World and Sex and the City, how could you not love the man?) His relationship with his father is heartbreaking, and it made me reflect on my own families.
Like many gay men from strict religious backgrounds, I got a less-than-thrilled reaction from my parents when I came out. My dad eventually softened in his disapproval. He passed away before we could ever come to a full understanding of each other, but it opened the door for my mom and I to have honest conversations about my life. I think my brother was only worried that I’d be unemployed and playing video games for the rest of my life.
But I say families, plural, because I can’t just count my immediate family in the equation. Throughout the years, I’ve been lucky enough to meet people, exceptional people, whom I consider a part of my family. And like any good family, we craft our own traditions. They might be a little less orthodox than what I’d share with my mother (as fun as she is, I don’t think she’d appreciate spending Valentine’s Day drunk off her ass in a bingo hall), but they’re just as important to me. We celebrate our successes and mourn our losses. We don’t always get to see each other as often as we’d like, and some of us may be living closer than others now, but our bonds are what keep us tied.
It’s going to sound lame — corny, even — but the people I work with here at Xtra are just as much my family, too. We can be a little dysfunctional, like any group of strangers thrown together, but we have strong traditions of our own. Getting the paper out and keeping the Daily Xtra website running is a tradition, I suppose, but we make the time to bond with each other beyond our working tasks.
We all look forward to the RuPaul’s Drag Race premiere — we even have an office pool going — as feverishly as the most ardent Leafs’ fans look toward a game. A surprising number of us are particularly gifted in the kitchen: treats and goodies often find their way into the office like dancing sugar plums, mysterious and delightful. The more cultured members of our little clan host wine-tasting events and cheese-platter afternoons in an effort to refine our beer-and-chips sensibilities; the rest of us decorate the office walls with Madonna calendars and pictures of burly-chested men.
We even take turns being the drunken uncle during office parties. I’ve been guilty of that one more than I care to admit.
Our family extends beyond the four corners of the Toronto office: we have our Vancouver and Ottawa teams, freelance writers from around the world, and the people and groups in our community. We’ve celebrated Woody’s 25th anniversary with readers, cheered on drag queens weekly at Crews and applauded the unveiling of Sky Gilbert Lane behind Buddies.
It can be easy to become insular when you’re surrounded by a core group of people, but unlike Drake, we love new friends. Meeting the people who make our community as colourful and eventful as it is, whether they’re fighting for social rights or throwing a fabulous party, is paramount to who we are. With New Year’s Eve freshly behind us, we look forward with anticipation to what else our community creates.
Remember your chosen families this year — they define us just as much as our DNA does — and, if you’re the touchy-feely type, remind them that they mean the world to you. And if you happen to see any of us from the Xtra team out on the town, feel free to stop us and say hello. We’re not all huggers, but we don’t bite.