01 April 2010

Back At The Bro

Correspondence with my brother continues. Here's my latest in response to a number of questions he asked.

Hey Bro, thanks for your note.

I wish everyone in the family had responded to me as you have, with tolerant acceptance and support and good faith questions. I like these kinds of questions because they force me to think and focus and condense and clarify for myself too. I'm going to answer in a different order than you presented but I promise I'll hit them all.

What does this mean for you?

It means I'm no longer torn apart inside. I'd long since resigned myself to a life of secret, silent, miserable pretending, going through the motions of being straight but inside seesawing between fighting what my heart really wanted and daydreaming of how wonderful it would be to have it. It was never safe to be authentic with anyone; I had to watch every word I said, every movement, every action, every interest, every opinion. The self-censorship was 24/7 for years. Imagine the stress. I could never open my heart or feel safe with anyone. I endured years of mockery and homophobia, even from our own family, never daring to speak up. Imagine the loneliness. Even when--or, perhaps, especially when--I was married.

Coming out means all of that is gone, thank God. The hurricane in my heart is only a memory, replaced by peace beyond what I ever thought possible. I no longer have two halves of my soul inside, silently but constantly at each other's throats. I'm just a single, unified, peaceful, contented Rob, happy with the way I was made. It's such a relief I can't tell you. For several days after I first came out, I would spontaneously burst into laughter from sheer relief and happiness. And I still feel that way! I only wish Dad and the sisters would be willing to actually believe that. [One sister] doesn't even want to hear, let alone talk about it at this point. Being gay and Mormon is no picnic, but in many ways I am happier, healthier, in a better place now than ever before in my life.

How have you changed?

I asked the kids how they'd answer this. They said "You're not frustrated all the time anymore. Before, you were always tense and stressed, We could see it in everything you did and even your relationships with other people." Now, they say, that's disappeared. I'm relaxed, calm, more tolerant and accepting of others, I'm much more easy-going and I'm a lot happier all the time.

They're right. I can feel it too. I'm all of that, plus more patient with myself and others. Before coming out, I went through the motions of being a Christian, but inside I remained a self-centered judgmental hypocrite. But since coming out, I seem to have really adopted and internalized all those Christian virtues I used to just pay lip service to. I don't judge others anymore. It's easier to be patient and forgiving. I'm far less pretentious. I don't care about material things so much. Every day seems like a wonderful gift and I feel such gratitude for everything I have, for kids, family and friends, for my health and skills and the fact that I finally found the courage to be honest about who I've always been.

It has been such an amazing journey. I've acquired so many priceless friends who I love and who have welcomed me into their lives with open arms and trust and confidence, and I've been able to do so many wonderful things, all because I came out. Yet Dad and the sisters just can't or won't see it as anything but me spitting on the Iron Rod and running headlong toward the Great & Spacious Building. That makes me so sad. Their prejudices are unfounded and unnecessary and I could give them a lot of comfort if they'd just be willing to listen. But I know everybody has to take their own time to deal with this.

I want to know how my big brother will change because of this choice. If at all. What next? Will it change your lifestyle? Does coming out mean that you are now free to act on all of the feelings you have? 

Well, I've changed significantly already, in all the ways I've already mentioned. And let me just clarify something. "The gay lifestyle" is a media-driven myth. There's no such thing, which is why I never use that word (it drives me nuts, in fact). There are as many ways to be gay as there are gay people. My "gay lifestyle" is going to look a lot like my "straight lifestyle" has. The only difference will be that when I talk about who I'm attracted to, date, love or marry, I'll be talking about a guy. And when I actually do any of those things, it'll be with a guy. Other than that, I'll be the same person acting the same way you've always known.

Another change, though, is that I've been forced to re-examine my relationship with the Church. While I'm grateful for some sparks of effort to try to reach out, they've been inconsistent and half-hearted, and overall the LDS Church remains deeply, profoundly anti-gay. According to its theology, the very concept of homosexuality should not exist. The LDS Scriptures can't explain it, so current leaders flail about with their own personal theories which the rank & file latch onto as though they were revealed truth. But no president of the church--the only one authorized to state doctrine--has ever said anything about it in his official capacity other than simply repeating what the Bible says. And there's solid Biblical scholarship which persuades me that the six verses in the Bible that mention homosexuality are not the condemnations most people think. So IMHO the LDS Church offers no more guidance than any other Christian sect confused about this subject. And that means I have not only the right but the responsibility to seek personal, individual revelation & inspiration for my own life's decisions.

I think Proposition 8 was a mistake the Church will continue to pay dearly for. The twins agree with me; before I ever came out to them and after hearing only my brief explanation of Prop 8, they both said everyone should be able to marry who they wanted and the Church was wrong to oppose marriage equality. Theirs is the mindset of an increasing number of voters and Latter-day Saints who will eventually make the policies and change the rules. In fact, the twins have been pushing me for some time to find the person they call their "other dad."

Coming out by itself doesn't "mean that I am now free to act on all of the feelings." I wrestled with that for a long time when I first came out, because I had no idea what I was going to do as far as that issue. Now, 18 months later, I've resolved it. God was right to say It's not good for man to be alone, and I have no intention of voluntarily remaining a Mormon monk for the rest of my life. The Church says I should but it can't tell me why, other than to say if I do, then after this life I'll be changed into a happy straight guy and get a wife then. Well, sorry, that's no incentive. I don't want to be straight, I'm delighted with the way I am thank you very much. So I've told Dad and the girls that they had better be prepared for the possibility of me finding someone. I don't know if it'll ever happen. I hope it does. But if I find him, I'm going to want to marry him. And the family will simply have to deal with it. I'm not going to suddenly abandon my standards. But I do want what all the rest of them take for granted, a happy marriage. Only this time I'll do it the way I always really wanted to all along. I understand I can't do it the way the Church says is the only way to Celestial Kingdom Top Floor. And at this point I say that's fine, it's better to be honest about what I can and can't do, what I want and what I can't go through again. I'll let God sort things out later. He knows the true and righteous desires of my heart far better than any leaders of the LDS organization who are trying to guess what He thinks about me.

In fact, I'll tell you this before I tell the rest of the family. I'm going to give everybody about a year to make their peace with my coming out and to decide what relationship they want with me and with my partner/husband going forward. If by that time I'm with someone, or if I find him thereafter, we will be a package deal. If other members of the family want me in their lives, they're going to have to accept him too, on the same equal footing as they would any spouse who marries into the family. If they're not willing to do that, then they'll have to accept that I won't be part of their lives either. It'll be their choice.

I know you don't expect to see any quick changes in Dad's or our sisters' points of view on the topic nor in the church's stand on the issue. I think a year is plenty of time for our family members to figure out whether they're going to choose love and family or judgment & condemnation. As to the Church, well, I have become a bit of an activist for this cause I guess. But I think the Church needs people like me to push it forward and demand that it walk its own talk. This is how it happened in the run-up to finally getting rid of Brigham Young's racist ban on blacks and the priesthood. I think the same process will be necessary for God's gay children to find a place at the table. And I want to spend the rest of my life working for that, so that my gay brothers & sisters younger than me don't have to endure what I did.

I would like to know what you feel has been accomplished by coming out.

I've found a degree of personal peace and happiness that I never thought possible. I feel whole, happy, authentic, honest. That's a very healthy thing. My kids like me better. I'm a better friend and a truer Christian. From here on out, my life will be far happier than it ever could have been otherwise. Every personal result of coming out has been wonderful, marvelous, miraculous.

I've also ended up throwing a nuclear bomb into the family's complacency and forcing several of them to confront a prejudice they'd do almost anything to preserve. But I'm not going to let them drift along anymore. If I have to bear the brunt of their anger and panic and horrified tirades about What Would Your Mother Think If She Were Still Alive, if that's the price of ultimately getting them past their homophobia, then I'm willing to be the target. Growth can be difficult but it's always worth it. And our family is capable of being better than they've been about this. I think I have more faith in them than they may have in themselves.

Sorry if this was longer than you expected, but hey, you asked the questions!



LDS Brother said...

You have guts, Rob. Putting your whole out there with your family with such a high risk of being shunned is something not many people are willing to do.

Tim Trent said...

I think you have taken a well calculated risk with your family. The worst that can happen is the current status, so there is no extra loss. You state your firm moral convictions well, so there can only be gain or status quo.

You have the moral high ground and I think they will know that.

J G-W said...

The whole family acceptance thing reminds me of the first family reunion I attended with my husband.

Shortly before the family reunion, my grandmother called me and told me that some members of the family would prefer it if I didn't refer to Göran as my partner or spouse. I should refer to him only as a "friend" or as a "roommate."

I told my grandmother that if we couldn't be open about who we were, then we wouldn't be showing at the family reunion.

My grandmother called me back. She tearfully apologized for asking me to lie about the nature of our relationship. She said that of course we could come as we are and be open about our relationship -- just like everyone else. The family members who were uncomfortable with it would just have to deal.

This was difficult for everybody... But time has proven that it was worth it to insist on openness and truth...

MoHoHawaii said...

This letter's a keeper. Great job!