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“When are you getting married, already?
Any prospects?” my cousin prods
the August heat of a family reunion.
Nearly thirty years old, I say,
“I am gay.”
Speaking the words
to my favorite cousin,
hesitantly exploring the waters
of my Mormon family.

My cousin, who when a stranger
cuts her off in traffic excuses,
“he probably just got the call,
his wife is in the hospital
having his first son.”

She and I shared
summers sorting cherries
on her father’s farm and running
free around my European home,
Nights dreaming in sleeping bags
out on the grass watching shooting stars.
Together riding farm cows
and Belgian street cars.
A childhood full of memories,
never imagining a future
split open like ripe red farm tomatoes
by the revelation, “I am gay.”

The deep waters of Lake Powell cool
our shoulders. Safe for cliff jumping, water skiing.
trying to save my life in these waters.
I have been with a woman for five years.
My cousin wants ME to know
“I am here for you, if you want to repent,
return to the faith of our fathers.”
My cousin wants to know,
“Are you attracted to me? To my sisters?”
Ewww, strong taboos.
Will I survive without the love
of my family, my community?

“Do you wish you were a man?”
I look at her, loving
a woman is not the same
as wanting to be a man.

She wants to know,
“Why are you gay?”
She hopes acts with causes are
avoidable, curable.
She is a mother
concerned for her children,
for the way they will grow up.
in a world where, “I am gay.”

Our relationship is never the same.
Years pass, before I venture out, again
in a letter to my parents.

– Kimberly Burnham