When you think of family, the bloodline of your parents or siblings may come to mind. As members of the LGBT community, we are often forced to broaden that definition to those who love and accept us for who we are. As a society we are expanding the definition of family to those who take care of you and who you take care of. I credit the sudden death of Prince last week for inspiring me to see family as those who are there for you through the ups and downs of your life, and based on that definition, Prince was a member of my family.

I was 12 years old when the album “1999” was released, and I was very excited to receive my vinyl copy of the iconic work. My older sister was visiting and instead of being excited at the new gem I had to show her, she was appalled. By what? The phallic “1” in the title on the cover. As a blossoming lesbian just entering into puberty, I had no idea or interest in what that was or meant. However, my sister was so protective of my virgin mind she immediately took nail polish from the bathroom and painted over the graphic symbol. I still have that album, gold painted penis and all.

I was 16 when I experienced my first sexual relationship, and the song I would sing to my love was Prince’s newly-released single “Kiss.” So distracted was I by that song and who it made me think of, I locked my keys in my car right in front of my high school one morning. Singing it loud and proud as I pulled into Central High School, I parked the car and gleefully got out and locked it up. What I failed to realize that in my romantic bliss I had not only left the keys in the car but the radio blaring as well. Since this was before cell phones I had to make the walk of shame into the school office to call the cops to come help unlock my car. I’m sure my classmates got a kick out of watching me through the classroom window as I stood next to the officer who jimmied my door open, all while the radio is still blasting. My door’s lock never worked right after that.

When my girlfriend broke up with me the next school year, leaving me for a guy, Prince’s movie “Under the Cherry Moon” was released. I remember sitting outside my friend Robin’s house, not quite ready to take my heartbreak into her house to socialize, instead pining in my car to the title track, “I Wonder U,” and “Sometimes It Snows in April.” How could she do that to me? Prince was there to help ease that pain.

That’s just the beginning of a lifetime of memories triggered by Prince lyrics and melodies. I’m sure much of your life’s soundtrack was provided by Prince as well, and that is why so many online profiles were changed to purple rain in the last week. You just always assume that a family member, who has been part of your world for your entire life, will always be there. I never realized how prophetic Prince was when he sang:

Sometimes it snows in April, Sometimes I feel so bad
Sometimes I wish life was never ending, And all good things, they say, never last

Shame.

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