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‘Family’

Last week I wrote about my parents' dictatorship of the normal. Yesterday I woke up in the morning with a very strange dream in which my brother and sister featured, ignoring my growing despair. I will not go into detail about this dream, but I read it as an invitation to reflect on my brother and sister. At present I have no contact with either of them.

I have a brother a year older, almost exactly. I really have few memories of our relationship. I guess we played together when we were younger, but I don't remember anything. We always shared a room, but that didn't necessarily mean we shared much more. When my brother started going to high school - in Germany at the age of ten - he went to a school further away, in another neighbourhood. A year later I started going to high school too, but to another high school closer to home that included the option of doing the university entrance exam. I think that from that moment on we shared less and less and had lives of our own and friendships of our own.

Although my brother is a year older, as a teenager I was the one who fought the most with my parents; because of my long hair (my father threatened to take me to the hairdresser's), because of conscientious objection to compulsory military service. Once I won my fights, my older brother also let his hair grow, and chose conscientious objection. But it was no longer necessary to fight for this.

My brother left the house before me, and from this moment on we had less and less contact. I am sure he also understood it as a liberation, as an escape from an emotional prison, but we never talked about it. Then he left Duisburg, and little by little our contact was reduced to zero. He called me a few times, but we didn't really have anything to say or tell each other. During my last years in London he sometimes (twice?) sent me an email that he would be in London for a few days for a job and if we could meet, but in the end we never really matched up. The only time when I was in London at the same time in the end his work ended earlier than planned and instead of meeting me he went back to Germany earlier - so much interest in meeting! I didn't care about it at all, and I really feared a reunion, I had no idea what to expect from a meeting, and what to talk about. He called me the last time just before my bike trip through Latin America, probably more because of our parents' insistence. We didn't have much to say to each other either.

I also have a younger sister. She's a year and a half younger. As my father wrote to me, "my troubles began when my little sister was born." Oh, shit! I also have no memory of our relationship when we were younger. She always had her own room, as she was the only girl.

We also went to different high schools, and had friends of our own. I think I remember that for a while we played together more, when I had a more feminine play phase, and we played with dolls.

Later, when I was an apprentice electrician in a multinational company and I really had a good friend (with no sexual attraction), she finally hooked up with him, thus taking away my then best friend (now her husband). It hurt at the time. At the same time I had already started to enter more activist, environmentalist circles, in a world of my own more suitable for me. I also understand that it was her strategy to escape from our parents' house.

I left Duisburg to study, and our contact was also quite reduced, as I visited our parents little, and my sister little. I don't remember if we called each other during these years on the phone (landline! I am talking about the second half of the 1980s, and long distance calls were expensive). When I went from legal conscientious objection to insumisión (in Germany) and had to go to court in Duisburg sometimes, I always stayed with my sister, though. She also put us up when we arrived with several people for an action. Having won the last trial for insumisión and having finished my studies, I went to Oldenburg, in the northwest of Germany, and I remember that we regularly called each other by phone. But, I also remember that I often listened more to her stories, commented on something, but shared little of my life. On the one hand this was my pattern of my trauma, not sharing almost anything about myself, but on the other hand when I told something about my life, about activism, etc, many times her comment was just "I don't understand anything about this". Why should I have an idea of the life of a heteronormative family, of raising children, and she not of my activist, queer life? "I don't understand anything about the gender issue," she once told me. Was she really interested in who I was, who I am? What moves me?

I cut off contact with my parents, and I went to London. We called each other less, and we saw each other even less. For years I never went to Germany, and when I did, I went to visit friends or to go to meetings, and not to visit my sister, much less our parents. I don't know when, but at one point I started visiting my sister, and we got back in touch a little bit, but no change in patterns. Little by little my sister "convinced" me to allow our parents to be present, although I didn't like it at all. Then it became a habit to go out for lunch once with our parents when I visited my sister. I never resumed direct contact with our parents, and I think it was a big mistake to allow this resumption of contact, even though it was very limited.

Four years ago, when I went into a brutal crisis because of my complex trauma and cut off contact with our parents again, my sister stood by my parents. It hurt. It hurt a lot. I also decided to cut off contact with my sister, and since then we have had no contact, at least no direct contact. Twice I asked my sister through a friend for pictures of my childhood, and both times I received pictures through my friend. I appreciate that, but it doesn't change my decision.

I have no desire to reconnect with my sister. I also don't want her to act as an intermediary between my parents and me. I don't want my parents to know about me, my life, beyond what they can read on my blog. I don't want to reconnect with my 'family', as it brings me nothing and costs me a lot on an emotional level. A 'family' where nobody really wants to see me as who I am. Although there are different degrees of 'tolerance' of my way of life, nobody is interested in seeing me, in understanding me. I wouldn't stay with friends who don't want to see me, who don't want to understand me (although I understand that sometimes it may not be so easy), so why stay with the family? It hurts me, and I want them far away. Very far away.

Maybe with all this it's not surprising that for me the concept of 'family' has nothing positive - it's just bullshit. There is no need to take it to the political arena, to the family as the nucleus of patriarchy. My own traumatic experience with my 'family' has been more than enough to rid me of the idea of family forever. It no longer works for me to try to give this word another meaning. It's a dirty word, one I don't want to reappropriate.

I am looking for community. But please leave me alone with family. And, for my family: "Just leave me alone!"

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Article | by Dr. Radut