24 October 2009

Your Chance To Talk To My Dad

As many of you know, I recently came out to my father. He was kind and charitable in many ways, for which I am grateful.

He has also said some things and asked some questions that confirm (1) he still has some serious reservations, and (2) he knows very little about the whole subject.

He's a retired Army officer and has always been very big on taking personal responsibility and initiative. So somehow, even though I never mentioned it, he's gotten stuck on the issue of what he calls "a genetic connection." That ought to be fairly easy to answer, the scientific literature about potential genetic connections is widely available.

He said the last news story he paid any attention to about this whole issue was when "the gay community" tried to have a law passed in California that would have prohibited therapists from talking to clients about "returning to a straight life style because about 80% return." He said if there really were a genetic connection, there would have been no need for any law to stop anyone from talking about that option.

Obviously I need to update him on this issue, and that should be fairly easy. But does anyone recall anything about such legislative efforts by the California "gay community"? I've never heard of this before and am not finding anything about it. If anyone knows what he's talking about, please tell me!

In our correspondence over the last week he has also repeatedly used the phrase "chosen the gay life style." He encouraged me not to "demonize the Brethren and their counsel with regard to this choice you have made." To which I responded "please clarify what you mean by choice and by lifestyle, because being gay is not a choice."

Here's his clarification: " One, the people who I know who have declared themselves to be gay have a significant other of the same sex, they live together, their social life is predominately with people with the same sexual orientation, when they live together they have intimate sexual relations with each other, some in abnormal ways; Two, they spend time with their extended families, however, unlike you, they have not been married in the heterosexual relationship and do not have children. I am sure that some have been married and have kids, but  I would think that most have not; Three, those who have made that choice to come out live the balance of their lives in a pretty typical and normal way as most of the rest of us."

I'm basically going to tell him that there are as many ways to be gay as there are people, but if he took the sexual orientation aspect out of his description he would find that it is exactly the same as what straight people tend to want and seek out in order to have fulfilling lives. So why should any of that disturb him?

And lastly, he asked a crucial question, on which I would welcome any input before I respond, because my answer has to be rock solid and so self-evident that there is no quarreling with it:

"If this life-style is not what you intend, or having a significant other for a companion is not part of what you intend to do, then why did you decide to come out?"

So, everyone, here's your chance to talk to my dad. Feel free to post comments or even send me a direct e-mail, if your thoughts are too long for a comment, and reply to his comments and questions. He is intellectually honest and will respect good faith, solidly grounded input and opinions from others, as well as new information to learn from. How would you respond to him if you were me?


Anonymous said...

While I am not out to everyone, I am out to a few people: family members and friends. And, while I also am choosing to not act on being gay, I came out to them for a few reasons:
1. I needed familial support through the struggles of being a gay member of the Church,
2. I wanted to share parts of my struggles with the people I care most about, and to do that meant revealing this personal part of myself to them, and
3. I have understanding and accepting loved ones. I needed to be able to talk about issues which invole me being a gay member of the Church with people whom I respect and love.

I have never come out to someone simply to "flaunt" a perceived gay lifestyle. The only times I have come out to people are times in my life when I was in need of the support of people whom I love and care about.

With love.

Abelard Enigma said...

The thing about the California legislation to prohibit therapists from talking to their clients about reparative therapy sounds dubious at best. Is there any precedent for such a law? Is there any law that forbids a therapist, or any medical professional for that matter, from talking to their patients about specific topics? That, plus the "because about 80% return" statement makes this smell like more fear mongering from the radical religious right. If there were an effort to get such a law passed - wouldn't there be a bill number or something assigned. Personally, I would take an "innocent until proven guilty" approach and put the onus on him to produce irrefutable evidence of such activity.

Regarding the question about why bother coming out if you aren't planning on living a "gay lifestyle" - I think it will be difficult to come up with a good answer because the question itself is flawed. It's based on a false assumption that being honest about who you are and living a "gay lifestyle" are inexplicably connected.

Plus, the whole "gay lifestyle" thing is another myth perpetrated by the radical religious right. As you pointed out - there are as many ways to live gay as there are to live straight. My "gay lifestyle" includes me being happily married to a woman and attending a homophobic church.

But, on the plus side, at least you and your dad are talking. He may never be OK with it - the best you may be able to hope for is to agree to disagree. Seriously, I believe there are some things about us gay folk that straight people are just not capable of understanding.

ControllerOne said...

Why come out? Because living with a secret like that is not living at all. Refusing to acknowledge the issue was the catalyst that set me down the path that has destroyed my life and significantly harmed others, and I am not being dramatic about it. Openness about the issue with those you care about allows you to leave the dark, lonely places and find warmth and support. I would not even suggest that coming out magically makes like just wonderful because I know there are still many difficult decisions and hard choices. But those decisions and choices can be made openly, in the light of day. Which is always better.

Daniel said...

Did you know your feed is blocked by BYU's Internet filter in my google reader. Odd.

Coming out of the closet, to me, is about two things. Honesty and normalcy.

Being open about your sexuality is about being honest with yourself and others. I think your dad may have reservations about you "coming out" simply because he doesn't really know what coming out entails. Coming out doesn't mean broadcasting your sexuality to the world or shoving it down people's throats. For me it's less about projecting how gay I am to others as it is about not hiding how gay I am to others. That's the difference between me in August 2007 and me today. The first me was always hiding, lying, and deceiving others. I wasn't just withholding information about me, I was actively trying to convince others that I liked women when in fact I do not.

So coming out meant being honest about who I am. It meant not trying to convince people that I am anything but me. That's why it is so cathartic.

It's also why it made me more normal, not less normal. Before I came out, I wasn't living a "normal" life. It was just impossible to have healthy relationships when people's perceptions of me were built around my lies and deceptions. Not that I was being malicious, just that I was afraid of myself. Now that things are out in the open, I have normal, healthy relationships with others. And I do normal things. I go about my life just like anyone else would.

And that happens to also be why it is so important to come out of the closet. Not only will it make your life more healthy and normal, the healthiness and normalcy of it will help others overcome their misconceptions of homosexuality. Everyone loves someone who is gay, but not everyone knows that that someone that they love is gay, and that is why they can hate, stereotype, or fear homosexuals. Shattering the closet door benefits not just individuals, but the whole community.

I'm so glad you have decided to take this step with your dad, even though it must be scary. It must be hard for your dad, who has believed one thing about you that wasn't true for so long. I think that's where the notion that homosexuality is a choice comes from. When we come out of the closet, it seems like we are changing our mind about our sexuality, when really we are just being honest about something that was there before. Maybe your dad would benefit from stories about your attractions from when you were young--tell him how you felt back then. He doesn't need to know why you are coming out now as much as he needs to know why you didn't come out sooner. What were you afraid of? Why aren't you afraid of that anymore?

I think that learning all of this over time will help your dad to come around. Good luck!