02 December 2009

The Talk With Dad, Part Two

The conversation continues. Dad's in regular font, I'm in italics.

I don't know if I ever told you, but when I was a kid, I always had this idea that divorce would be the ultimate personal disaster. And I don't know where that came from.

I saw that on the day your marriage blew up. When you came with us and you laid on the floor in the fetal position and just cried. That told me you saw this as a huge failure on your part.

But you know dad the lesson I learned from all of that and since then? It's that what may seem to be a terrible disaster can in fact turn into a tremendous blessing. Because I never would have pulled the plug. But I'm so glad, looking back, that she did. Because it's made possible a lot of things for me that never would have happened otherwise. Things I've been able to do, to learn, experiences I've had, relationships I've formed, never would have been possible if I'd stayed there.

What contribution did you make to the divorce?

I think in part she started to figure out I was gay.

Yes, I'm sure of that.

And maybe the marriage never should have happened in the first place. But the church said that's what you have to do, nothing else is acceptable. And I wanted to be a faithful church member.

And that was the expectation of your family too.


Yeah, whatever your proclivities were, I think she felt that, she knew it. You know, when your mom was in her final illness, she couldn't do many simple things for herself anymore. She'd drop things, she needed help in the bathroom. And there was a time in my life when I would have gotten really upset with her. You know, "Why can't you do the simplest things?" But then I had an epiphany of sorts, I guess. And I realized she really honestly couldn't do these things, that she had zero control over them. And it was really a huge wake-up call in terms of me understanding myself. And since that time I've had lots of little epiphanies about myself. So I think it's important that a guy that's as socially in tune as you should know his contribution to why he got divorced. I do think it was the fact that she knew you were gay. So my heart has softened some toward her.

You know what, mine has too. And you know what did it? Coming out.

Well, . . .

Let me explain. When I finally did that, I started having my own series of epiphanies as you say. Because I'd finally reached a point where I felt courageous enough to say "I'm not going to continue going along with all the opprobrium, the criticism and stigmatization that I've been stuffed with for most of my life about this. I'm not going to go along with that anymore." And after that, I started noticing that I had much more ability to be genuinely empathetic with other people than I ever did before. I think that's because I finally chose to embrace this part of myself that I knew other people would see as a challenge or a trial or a curse, even, and I knew what I was in for as far as public treatment from now on. So I have become much more emphathetic with others' difficulties and struggles, even with her, despite the fact that she will always treat me like crap. I understand more where she is, how she must hurt, and I don't blame her as much as I used to.

Did you know that the church used to excommunicate people just for saying they were gay?

I didn't know about that.

Yes. It's true, I've seen the records and history. That was the doing of Spencer Kimball and Mark Peterson.

Yes I know they were very harsh.

They preached that just being gay was a choice, that people could be recruited into doing it, and that it was "curable." All of those perspectives have now been not only rejected by the entire medical and psychological professions, but the church itself has reversed course on that. It now acknowledges that this is a "core characteristic," those are the words of Lance Wickman of the 70, . . .


Lance Wickman, sitting with Dallin Oaks, giving an interview about this subject. It is a "core characteristic" that may not be changeable in this life.

May not.

Because they don't know. The Church no longer excommunicates people for being gay. So there's been a significant shift in what's been taught as doctrine about this issue by the church.

Like blacks and the priesthood.

Right. So the source of the epiphany for me was finally saying "No, I'm not going to take that anymore." Whatever the reasons, whatever the sources, they really don't matter, because this is how I've been since I realized it at age 13. It has never gone away. I worked and sweated and prayed and tried for a lot of years to do every single thing the church said I should do to "keep it at bay" or "make it go away." And it was absolutely, totally ineffective.

Only when I faced it squarely and said "This is who I am, this is the way I was made, this is what comes naturally to me, it may be abnormal on a curve, but this is what comes naturally to me," only then was I able to say to her "I'm so sorry, I was doing what I thought was the right thing. I was trying to be faithful, I was trying to live according to what I'd been taught was the right thing to do by the church leaders that I trusted. It was in good faith, and I loved you the best I possibly could. I'm so sorry for the damage, please forgive me, and at least we have these beautiful children."

I have absolute faith and confidence in the Atonement, and if anything, I've found my faith in that to be much stronger since coming out than it ever was before. I found my capacity to understand the things you understand about Mom far greater than before. My ability to treat everyone with respect and Christian charity far more than before, with none of the judgment and the pretense of being fair but privately inside my heart still being just as judgmental as ever, I don't do that anymore. It's much easier now for me to see everyone as a child of God, with struggles and pains and difficulties that if I expect forgiveness for, I need to extend charity and help and hope and tolerance for as well. That's much easier now than it ever was before. So having acknowledged this, I say to myself "how can I best put this to use for the same kind of benefit to others, the same sharing of the pure love of Christ that I always wanted to share anyway, but maybe in just a different way now?"


J G-W said...

I love this... Beautifully written (said).

TGD said...

LOL! I had to look up the word "opprobrium". What a wonderful way of putting it. I wished I knew that word before.

Naturally your dad is still hoping that you can change. I can empathize with that. I wouldn't expect anything different after all I was hoping for change for 25 odd years.

True and honest empathy can literally explode from within when we finally accept ourselves.

boskers said...

Loved it. Thanks, Alan.

Urban Koda said...

WOW!! I can sense a change in attitude from your Dad in this part of the discussion - very cool!