24 March 2010

Shredded

Well, my fears weren't justified after all. It was far worse than I imagined.

Recently my father tearfully begged me not to come out to anyone else in the family, especially the one sister I hadn't yet spoken with. "Family cohesion" was at stake, he said. Out of respect for him and his opinion, I agreed to defer, though this was against my own better judgment. I warned him that if she found out some other way, she would be even angrier than if I'd told her personally. It wouldn't be hard to discern this from my Facebook page, I told him, and she's the type who would actually read at that level of detail and figure it out. Then you'd better take all that stuff off your Facebook page, he said. And that I wasn't going to do, because it would have meant basically dismantling the whole page, un-friending dozens of people I care a lot about. I'm done with the fear-filled self-censorship.

And guess what. Sure enough, she did exactly as I predicted. Yesterday she called, I couldn't pick up. This afternoon I called her back.

I couldn't possibly recreate here the hour-long torrent of anger that gushed through that phone at me. It was a fire hydrant on full blast. I knew she would have a difficult time but I had no idea it would be this bad. Condensed version as follows, quoting her.

"I am so angry with you that I'm shaking [and I could hear it in her voice]. How dare you? You have stabbed me in the back by making me the last to know. You should never have said anything to anyone about this and I wish you never had. You are tearing this family apart with your selfish publicizing of this thing. This is not about you. You have betrayed my trust. You have become an activist for immorality with your pro-gay posts on Facebook and you are going down a sinful path that will take you right out of the Church. I can't imagine what your mother would think of what you're doing if she were still alive. I think homosexuality is disgusting, and don't preach to me what President Hinckley said about accepting gay people in the Church, I could preach right back to you. Your support for so-called same-sex marriage is wrong, it is apostate. Go ahead and call me an ignorant homophobe if you want, but I refuse to listen to anything you say, I will not read anything you send me, I will not entertain any attempt by you to twist the Scriptures or the words of the prophets to justify your immoral lifestyle choices."

There were many variations of course but these were the central themes, and many of them were almost verbatim from my dad so I'm confident they have talked. I didn't try to argue with her; it was clear that logic or reason wasn't going to penetrate such vehement hostility. I stayed calm, and let her talk as much as she wanted. I told her I was very sad that a sister I cared so much about would refuse to listen and seemed to be afraid to learn something new. But nothing I said seemed to make any difference. This was raw, powerful rage in full force. Like a flash flood, the only thing I could do was get out of its way. So I ended the call as calmly as I began it, by saying how sad I was to have heard all this, and that she should let me know when she was ready to talk again.

If she were here, and calm, and willing to engage in rational discourse after all these negative emotions were spent, I would ask some simple questions, as follows.

1. Why is it selfish of me to want to share this sensitive, vulnerable part of my heart with the family I should be able to rely on for unconditional love and understanding?

2. You built your life around the spouse you love, your kids, and all that has flowed from that. Your entire life centers on that relationship. You refer to it, think about it all day, every day. You talk about it constantly to others. Why is it fair for you to angrily insist that I never speak of my own life in the same terms, of my own aspirations to find someone to love and build a life with exactly as you have, just because you get icky feelings when you imagine what we might do behind closed doors? Are you truly incapable of understanding that it's not about sex, it's about love and connection and companionship for me just as much as it is for you? Is my heart not entitled to the same love and happiness you take for granted? Why do you think you have the right to try to prevent that?

3. Why is it okay for you to furiously accuse me of propagandizing activism and promotion of "the gay lifestyle" just because you notice that some of my Facebook friends are gay, and then to demand that I go back into the closet when I finally object to the years of my own family's homophobic jokes and cheap shots at fags who are allegedly out to destroy the family and civilization?


4. Why do you insist that it's only about your comfort and avoidance of what you think is a difficult subject, while you ignore my suffering for years in silence at bigoted, homophobic mockery by my own family and the church they raised me in?

5. Do you think I enjoy all this drama and rejection? Can you possibly believe I'd willingly subject myself to this kind of ostracism by my own family just because I think it's fun to go through this?

6. Why won't you just listen to me, please?

It's one thing to have your heart broken in a romantic relationship. It's quite another to have it broken by family members you've loved all your life and relied on for support and understanding no matter what, only to discover that their love is actually conditional. I never thought this would happen to me. But I guess I am loved and accepted within my own family only as long as I toe the official Mormon line. Isn't it sad that this family-focused, family-centered, family-obsessed church creates a culture in which so many families are so willing to angrily evict some of their own for simply talking about things that make the others uncomfortable. The only thing I can do now is just back off and give them all time to calm down and perhaps come to their senses. Fortunately my kids are solidly with me and we are a happy family ourselves. The rest will just have to get on without us for a while until they are ready to re-engage on a more civil basis. Today was not the time to say such things, but at some point I will tell them the kind of words and treatment and assumptions I'm no longer going to accept.

I'm feeling very beat up tonight. Very sad, very abandoned. Thanks to those of you who've shared your time on the phone with me today, I can't tell you how much it's meant just to be able to talk about all this with you. I guess that's why we call ourselves family, because we're there for each other when our natural families--who should be--aren't. Even with all this dreck to wade through, I'm still very blessed in so many ways, and I will never go back into the closet though the entire extended family may fume and rage and try to push me there. If they want me to remain in the group, they're just going to have to learn to deal, and to give me some respect. Because I won't sacrifice my integrity for anyone's temporary comfort.

I'm sure the soap opera isn't over.

13 comments:

Tim Trent said...

You were stuck in an impossible situation. You would either face the wrath of your father or of your sister. That doesn't make it any easier to face either set of wrath.

I dont expect you want to hear any comments about your family right now. Even so I suspect they are only angry because they love you and fear for you.

That doesn't mean they will accept that you are gay. "All" that happens now is that you have shed a great burden, though it feels as though you have shouldered one. It means that you can now live your life wholly as yourself.

Anthony said...

I feel for you. I never dared come out to my parents or my brother (thought I would now - they are all dead).

I agree with you completely that they are being quite unreasonable and unbalanced to consider their purity is defiled by you. I hope most people would consider disloyalty much worse thanrefusing to associate with a sinner (and I don't consider you to be a sinner).

But I was lucky and was not brought up to believe in any religion and so didn't have any struggle to be myself and overcome such teachings.

Beck said...

I can't help but believe, even as impossible as it seems right now, that in time you will be able to have that calm and understanding conversation you seek. In time, as they see you have not changed and are still the wonderful son and brother you are, the anger will pass.

I certainly hope so.

Big hugs!

LDS Brother said...

Yeah, that is basically gonna happen if those in my family that I haven't already informed of my sexuality and my advocacy of a point of view different than what LDS, inc. says is truth find out what I'm all about. I'm already internally isolated from most of my family family, so I dunno how being externally isolated will help.

ldsbrother.blogspot.com

Sean said...

Oh Rob... wow. It's not too far off the mark with what happened when I told my sister. In my case it was diffused a little more when I first started by being rather public about my leaving the church and all of the why's I didn't believe in it. The fireworks sure went off when I publicized my beliefs in those notes on my facebook. When I eventually came out to her, it was a "well I'm not surprised" sort of response. Naturally we haven't talked since then.

It's sad that the attitude that it's "all your fault" is one the church subscribes to. Never mind the flaws of the church that foster those attitudes. What a shame that people in the "so called one true church" aren't very good at being genuine Christians in moments when they know how they should be acting.

Hugs friend...

Romulus said...

Isn't it sad that this family-focused, family-centered, family-obsessed church creates a culture in which so many families are so willing to angrily evict some of their own for simply talking about things that make the others uncomfortable.

This. Love each other, but only if they do exactly what we (the Church) say.

Max Power said...

*hugs*

I'm sorry that it has turned out this way. I know far too many people that are in this same boat, and it makes me ill.

I think it's wise to suspend contact with them for a while so that they can get their heads together and realize that they are they ones destroying the family by excluding the real you, rather than the other way around.

Joe Conflict said...

Rob,

I'm sorry for the pain. This is perhaps exactly why I don't tell all of my family and come out in the open. I just don't have the courage.

Your father shouldn't have asked you to do this. She's probably more mad because she was last than mad at the real issues.

My father recently chewed me out for him being the last to know my marriage had ended.

My very best wishes.

Tim Trent said...

There is a theme here, one of something that seems to be owed to parents by children, be that loyalty or silence or whatever.

You owe your parents nothing.

Their decision to have a kid was 100% selfish. They enjoyed your childhood, they loved parading you in front of friends and relations. They were proud to be fertile. This was their show. You were their show.

This isn't even a gay or straight thing. This is emotional blackmail because they know you want their approval still. The gay part just gives them an obvious reason to blackmail you. That's the plural you, not just Rob who's bravely acting as a focus for this by living his life in public.

I have a friend who has lived her life waiting for her parents to approve of her. Her mother died without a kind word. Her father said to her "One fuck and shit came out," meaning her. He died without giving her a kind word. And your parents are treating you like this because you let them.

It's hellish hard to recognise this and harder still to get out form under. Your religion, something I separate from your faith, makes this harder. But the hardest thing was to admit to yourself, yourselves, that you are gay. All else is simply learning what is important in your life.

Love your family still, but interact with them on your terms, not theirs. Be the best YOU that you can be, not heat they planned for you. You are not a china doll on show at an exhibition, you are a normal, ordinary, flawed, exciting, fresh human being. And part of that is that you happen also to be gay.

Ok, I'm preaching. I'll shut up now.

I am Landmark said...

How sad for your family that they'll miss out on the experience of knowing the real and authentic you. How frightened they must be of light and knowledge. Truth can be a scary thing, especially to those steeped in tradition. I know that's small comfort to you, but I'm confident your courage and completeness will see you through this crisis.
Rest assured -- your siblings may never mature enough to accept you, but your nieces and nephews will be more accepting of you and ultimately disappointed in their parents. It takes generations to unmask and neuter bigotry, but it does happen. Your courage is planting a seed that can never be uprooted and will never cease to grow. Be patient. Your good works will reveal as much about you as their mean-spiritedness will reveal about them.

Troy said...

Oh Rob, my heart goes out to you. You have grown so much since you began blogging. HUGS.

MoHoHawaii said...

First of all, I'm sorry to hear about this. It sounds like you were on the receiving end of emotional violence. This kind of stuff is very, very painful.

You've heard me say before, but it bears repeating, that you should give your family a full year to be complete jerks and babies about this. They are enmeshed in a completely homophobic religious environment. Having a gay relative is public humiliation for them. It shames them in their culture. Bottom line: they are still in the freak out stage of the acceptance process.

Just be as understanding, loving and forgiving as you can during the next year. Humor them and do what you can to build bridges. If after that year they still can't accord you basic respect, then you'll have some difficult decisions to make about the role they will play in the lives of you and your children. I hope it doesn't come to that. In the meantime, you're in my thoughts.

jduersch said...

Unfortunately, this is something that will just take time to heal, years perhaps. But you'd be surprised how much things can change if you're patient and you plant good seeds now. The most effective thing you can do at this point is to try to understand how hard this is for them - and *tell* them that you understand. For the time being, don't try to change their views.