08 November 2009

Next Letter to Dad

Here's the next letter to Dad. I'm pretty settled on this text but will entertain comments if anybody thinks I'm seriously off base anywhere.

Dear Dad:

In our recent correspondence you stated your definition of "the gay lifestyle" and then asked whether I intended to pursue it, and if not, why I had come out. That's a very good question and I've been thinking about it ever since. And now I'm ready to answer, because there are several reasons.

First and simplest is to say yes, the type of relationship you described is what I want: a committed, loving relationship, a marriage. I don't want to be alone for the rest of my life any more than you did after Mom died. But I haven't taken this decision because I've suddenly decided to abandon all previous standards or to give in to physical impulses. Ever since I was a teenager I have always wanted that kind of relationship with another of God's sons, the kind David and Jonathan had, and more. But I was just too scared and intimidated by the surrounding society, culture and church to say so. And it seemed quite impossible anyway. But think about it, Dad. Re-read your description of that "lifestyle," remove the issue of orientation from it, and you'll find that you have described what almost everyone wants in their life: steady, reliable intimacy and companionship, love, caring, and giving all that to someone else in return. Gay or straight, doesn't matter, everybody wants all of that and the resulting fulfillment.

You are a bright, perceptive, intelligent guy, Dad; I hope you will be able to see past the myth so many have that the "gay lifestyle" is one of hedonistic self-indulgence that assumes impermanence and isn't interested in fidelity. Certainly there are gay people like that, but there are a lot more straight people like that. Personal irresponsibility isn't a function of orientation. The growing energy in the fight for marriage equality should tell you that a huge number of gay people want exactly the same stable, loving relationships in their lives that straight people do. You and Mom had a wonderful marriage. And that's exactly what I want: all of the love and support and companionship and caring and everything else you two had. The idea that this is possible for two guys may startle you, but I assure you that it's not only possible, it's been done countless times already and there are thousands of such couples all around you right now.

Second reason for coming out is that I could no longer endure the increasing difficulty of hiding my true self from the family and friends I cared about. Imagine spending most of your life in love with Mom and feeling like you had to hide that from everyone, worried that if anyone found out about your feelings or about her you would be ostracized from your entire network of support, from your church, your family, your friends. Imagine being raised to believe in the teachings of a church that told you that if you ever lifted a finger to act on that love for her, you could be excommunicated and cut off from your own family not only for this life but for eternity. Imagine the deception you would be forced to adopt in order to preserve what love and stability you already had, and which you knew you couldn't survive without. Could you sustain all that? For years? Imagine what torture that would be.

That's what it was like, Dad. Every day of every month of every year, I felt like I had to deceive you, mom, all my siblings, extended family and friends as to who I really was and what I really wanted, out of fear that you would reject me, ostracize me, that the church would kick me out, all because of something I never chose and can't change. Thank God I finally mustered the courage to say "No more." I am so grateful for your reassurances and your efforts to understand. I have friends whose parents have not been nearly so Christlike as you have been, and I realize even more now how lucky I am that you're my dad. I know this is not easy for you. I know that in many ways throughout my life I have pursued things that are different from what you would have chosen and in some cases what you advised me to do. No doubt some of this has been puzzling for you, and I'm afraid I've ended up saving the most puzzling thing of all for last. But I am so grateful for your consistent support through it all.

My third reason for coming out is that I realized I had a responsibility to speak out not only for my own peace of mind and heart, but also to use whatever voice and skills I had to make sure that those around me and who come after me don't have to endure what I did. John Donne said no man is an island, and you know that when you have kids all perspectives change. You stop thinking of yourself as an independent, free-standing entity, and you start to realize that you are actually a link in a chain that stretches far back in time and will continue on far into the future. I believe each of us has a responsibility to live so as to improve the lives of those we love and all those around us whom our influence can reach. This extends beyond our own family and circle of friends. I am nobody famous or special, but like everyone else I do have a small measure of skill in certain things, and I have a responsibility to use those skills for the benefit of those around me. You always said that despite my surface cynicism I had Mom's loving heart, and you were right. And it's because of that, because in the last year I have come to love and care for so many whom I've met as a result of coming out, that I can no longer sit idly by, fearful in my own closet, without protesting and doing my best to fight the prejudice, ignorance, harmful myth-mongering, and discrimination I grew up with, so that my gay brethren and sisters in the future will not have to endure what I did.

You've talked about the legacy of alcoholism in our family down the generations and how at some point somebody has to stand up and say "I'll take the hit, I'll bear the brunt of this, but it has got to stop with me. No future generations will be hurt by this in the way I was." And that's exactly what I've decided to do with this issue, Dad. Not just with our immediate family, but for everyone else whose lives I can reach and in every social circle I touch. This includes the Church. I am no longer silently acquiescing to the hurt and shame and misery that ignorance (often innocent, but ignorance nonetheless) perpetuates. I'm going to spend the rest of my life speaking out, advocating, fighting for understanding and tolerance and acceptance because I believe the Savior would have me do nothing less.

As I said before, I retain my faith in the principles of the gospel. But if we are to judge things by their fruits as the Savior said, then in all good conscience I can't go along with the Church's efforts to deny to so many all of the benefits of marriage purely because of this one unchangeable characteristic I share with them. By seeking to prohibit that option, the Church perpetuates all the pathologies it preaches against, and not only for its own members but for everyone else. The Church makes it impossible for God's gay children to adhere to the very standards of morality that it then condemns them for violating. How is this fair, or Christian? The Church's fight against marriage equality seems directly repugnant to the Doctrine & Covenants' affirmation that we do not believe it is right to mingle religious influence with civil government. As such, I cannot accept that these efforts by the Church are inspired. There is ample precedent in Church history for change and even revelation to come as a result of efforts and advocacy and questions and debates and discussions from within the membership. This is where I see myself serving in the Church for the rest of my life, so that future Davids and Brians and Scotts and Michaels and Troys and Drews and Christophers and Jacobs and Steves and Bens and Austins and Todds and Daniels and more like them will not have to go through what all of us have. Yes, those are all real people, all priceless friends who grew up like I did and who share my perspectives.

Coming out was one of the most frightening things I've ever done. But now, 14 months later, I still can hardly believe how much happier I am. How much more peaceful. The hurricane inside is gone, my heart is calm and quiet. I'm no longer two mortal enemies struggling silently inside and ripping my spirit apart in the process, suffering completely alone in fear of my own family and friends. I am just me, one unified, contented, honest boy who has faced squarely who and what he is, and has found a new level of courage and purpose. It is a miracle that for most of my life I never thought possible. I hope you can be happy for me, Dad, like I said before, you and mom always just wanted us to be happy, and with me at least, you've got your wish.

Your son


Chris said...

That is truly great. It made me want to be better just by reading it. Well said.

Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful, extremely well written, well thought out, insightful, and compassion-filled letter. I applaud you for its contents and for the messages of what you want and need for your life.

And, you have shared these things with great love, with your papa. Good on you.

I would love to be able to send such a letter to my father. But, I rather value living- and, as he and my mother would rather have a dead child than a gay child, I will not be sharing with them. I am so happy for you, though, that you can and do.

Thank you for allowing us the privlege of reading this very personal letter.

Anonymous said...

very nice; maybe you've covered it elsewhere, but have u brought up your inevitable separation--even excommunication--from the church? As a parent of adult children i know that i carry a lot of guilt for not being a perfect parent. when he laments your leaving the church (better put, the church leaving you), he may be as much concerned about his guilt as about your spiritual welfare.

shaantvis said...

Good letter! I wish I had the confidence to tell my dad similar things. How has your dad reacted to this letter?

Good to be Free said...

Great letter Alan. I'm glad you got into the personal aspect. I was afraid from your previous letters that your discussion with him would wander too far into the abstract and nothing would be resolved.

Thanks for sharing your conversations with him. There is a lot to learn from you and him here.

David Baker-@DB389 said...

Great Letter Alan. I might include a little bit more about David & Jonathon. Here is what I wrote during a debate on Facebook:

I think that the above answers the first half of your question as for Jonathan and David.
I recommend you read the highlighted verses (well the whole story actually, but the highlighted verses in any case)
a. http://scriptures.lds.org/en/1_sam/18/1-4#1
b. http://scriptures.lds.org/en/1_sam/20/30-31#30 ... Read More
c. http://scriptures.lds.org/en/1_sam/20/40-42#40
d. http://scriptures.lds.org/en/2_sam/1/23-27#23

Now read it again, this time substitute the name Jonathan for Annie. Does that not sound like a story of true love rather than a story of "brothers" like in the hood as suggested by someone above (forgive me I forget who)

Now read it again with Jonathan and David. Take A and ponder this: When was the last time you saw a heterosexual man, swept away by brotherly love, offer another man his most precious possessions in their first encounter? Suppose the bishop, upon meeting another man for the first time, stripped himself of his suit and gave it to the other. Suppose in that same encounter he also offered his most precious possessions — perhaps a family Bible, a wristwatch with an inscription from his parents, and his beloved four-wheel drive pickup truck. Wouldn’t this strike you as more than just a little “queer”? Isn't that what just took place in A?

Take B. Saul is essentially saying “Can’t you see how you’re shaming the whole family? Do you even care what this will do to your career? You’ll never amount to anything until you give up this foolishness!” In the biblical text, the arguments are the same. And, even more significantly, Saul’s reference to shaming Jonathan’s mother’s nakedness carries a sexual connotation. Uncovering the nakedness of a family member was a euphemism for incest in the holiness codes of the Old Testament, and Saul would not have used this phrase lightly. Would Saul be as upset if David were not Jonathan's lover?

Take C. They certainly knew their love was doomed. And Jonathan reminded David of their *covenant* with each other. He reminded him that even if they could not be together, they had made a pledge and the bond between them would last through all generations. All their children and grandchildren would be like one family, bound by their love for each other. Later, after taking the throne, David would remember this covenant and adopt Jonathan’s only son as his own — something completely unheard of in a time when kings were expected to kill anyone with any connection to a previous, rival king. Does that not sound like the sealing of a family together?

Take D. Here it is in black and white. David states the love he shared with Jonathan was greater than what he had experienced with women. Have you ever heard a straight man say he loved his guy friend more than his wife? This goes well beyond deep friendship between two heterosexual men.

Sean said...

An excellent letter indeed! Beautiful!

boskers said...

Your letter touched me. Thanks for posting it.