08 April 2010

Letter To My Family, Revised

No first draft is ever worth anything, so an important document like this letter requires lots of thought and revision. I've done some polishing (and a little cribbing from Andrew's ideas) and present the result here for everyone's thoughts. No, I don't know when I'll send this. Things are very quiet at present; except for my brother, I haven't talked to anyone in the family for over two weeks, or to my dad for nearly four. I'm okay with that. When they're ready to talk again, they'll reach out, and I'll be able to judge the best time to send this letter.



Dear Family:

Now you all know. Each one of you reacted as I expected. Now I'd like to talk to everyone together.

Most of you wish I'd never come out. You've gotten angry with me for "causing discord in the family" by telling you I was gay. I've been told I would be "selfish" if I didn't keep silent. I've been called an "activist" trying to "pressure you" into "accepting an abnormal lifestyle" because I tried to share information you didn't have. You've assumed I've done something that justifies excommunication. None of that is true and I'm sad you've worried yourself by thinking unnecessary things.

We've always been a close-knit group. I've been there for you, you've been there for me. No family is perfect, but I've always felt very lucky to be part of this one.

But now it sounds like I'll continue to be accepted only if I conform to everyone else's templates and never talk about my friends, who I love, or anything else that hints at this thing that so agitates some of you. You've already told me all that is off limits. You want me to continue pretending as the price of remaining in the group. That's conditional love and it tells me you want me back in the closet. Dear family, that has to stop. I'm out of the closet and I'm not going back. I'll be judicious like always but I won't self-censor and I won't wear a mask. That's not "pushing an agenda," it's simple equality of action and treatment. I'm not hiding my head in the sand anymore and you can't either.

I don't get the "selfish" thing. I told a simple truth. I'm the same person you knew before. The only change is you know me better now. Everyone yearns to be understood and appreciated by those they love. You too. How it's "selfish" for me to want that I don't know, unless you all assume agitation and anger over my coming out is normal so I must be inflicting them deliberately and that's selfish, is that it? But doesn't that just show your attitudes toward being gay, rather than my motives? How is it not "selfish" of you to tell me "It's not about you!" when I'm the one who's endured the years of slurs and homophobic jokes and hurtful attitudes, and suddenly when you realize it's me you've been talking about all this time, it's clear you can't get away with that anymore?

Dear family, my coming out isn't selfish, it's just getting rid of a charade that served none of us well. All your hurt and anger and fear is so unnecessary. I wish you'd listen to me explain why. Other LDS families have rallied round their gay kids and said "We had no idea you wrestled with this for so long, we're so sorry you felt like you had to face it alone, it must have been awful for you, and we're sorry if we said or did anything to keep you in the closet. Thanks for telling us." How I wish that had been your approach.

I know I've challenged your paradigms and I don't expect you to change opinions overnight. But you'll stay stuck in hurt and misunderstanding if you refuse to talk or try to learn more about this thing you clearly know so little of. I won't be hurt if you refuse, but you'll hurt yourself by not learning and growing. I have lots of information that will help you get past your fears, but you have to do what St. Paul said: investigate, search, don't be afraid to question a status quo, to learn something new, to question the bases for your own beliefs. Joseph Smith wasn't. If what you believe is true, then it can withstand examination. Don't be afraid to talk and learn about this.

It will actually be very important that you do that. Here's why. God was right to say it's not good for man to be alone, and I'm not going to be a monk for the rest of my life. The Church says I must lock my heart and starve my soul and refuse to do what it says is the price of heaven for everyone else. But it can't explain why, and trust me, I've studied the question exhaustively. Some in the church claim that after this life I'll be changed into a happy straight guy and get a wife then. That's like saying "condemn yourself to lonely isolation in this life and your eternal reward will be to change to something you never wanted in the first place." Now there's an incentive. Sorry. I don't want to be straight. I'm delighted with the way God made me and I don't want it changed, ever.

I also want what you take for granted: a happy marriage. So understand this: I'm going to try to have one again. I don't know if it'll ever happen. I hope it does. I won't abandon personal standards in the process. But if I find him, I'm going to want to be with him and marry him. Then the choice will be yours how to react. I know I can't do it the way the Church currently claims is the only way. 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 LDS leaders who are trying to guess what He thinks about me. My faith and beliefs are not in or with them, and I trust the 9th Article of Faith which tells us that we don't yet know everything about God's plan, including this subject.

I think a year is plenty of time for everyone to think, ponder, read, pray, learn, investigate, discuss, and make your peace with where I'm at and where I'm going, to decide what relationship you all want with me and with my partner/husband going forward (if I find him). So if by Easter 2011 I'm with someone, or if I find him thereafter, we will from then on be a package deal. I will expect him to be accepted just as any other boyfriend or spouse of any of you, with no euphemisms, no pretending, no divided holidays, no requests that it just be me. It will be both of us or neither of us. That will be non-negotiable. I hope you will forgo judgment and condemnation and instead choose love and acceptance. Other LDS families have managed this and ours can too. Mom and Dad always said the only thing they wanted for each of us is to be happy. Well, this will do it for me. I hope you will respect that and that I can continue to be part of your lives for as long as we're all around.

I'm grateful for your desires that I be happy in this life and the next. I ask that you respect that I know what will make me that way, better than anyone else. My heart has greater peace now than ever before. I'm confident that this is how God made me, that He knows what will make me happiest. I believe He wants that for me like He wants it for each of His children, and that He'll be pleased as I try to reach that goal. I'm confident that He approves of who and what I am; that was made very clear to me as I prayed sincerely to know.

I know this may throw a huge wrench into many of your beliefs. I also know that it's your duty as a Christian to judge based on the fruits of others' decisions, not by what you personally might have preferred or chosen if you'd been in their shoes. And as I said before, every fruit of my decision to come out has so far been wonderful, and I expect that to continue. If you honestly look at everything you've always known me to be, and try to understand the intents of my heart, you'll be able to comprehend and share the same comfort I've received. There is so much for you to learn and I hope you'll be willing to explore it. A great place to start is www.ldsfamilyfellowship.org. And there's more. Just ask and I'll be happy to share.

I love you all as much as ever and wish only the best for each of you. Please stop worrying about me, there's no reason for it. I hope someday you can be as happy for me as I have become for myself.

Love
Rob

11 comments:

Brody said...

"...I've been called an "activist" trying to "pressure you" into "accepting an abnormal lifestyle"..."

What's more vexing and disheartening in my perceptions of situations like this rob, is that the families involved keeping constructing a circular argument that ultimately defines itself as; "You're being Gay is a choice! Something you decided you wanted for yourself."

I cringe as I even type those words remembering that having them practically yelled at me by my Mum & Da being the final impetus for my exile from home & family in Ontario, 31 years ago next month when I flew from Toronto to San Francisco.

I have 4 brothers I haven't seen nor spoken to since. Plus parents now gone, and countless other Levesques' that I'll never know, well save for one.

Out of the blue last summer, I received a phone call from an earnest young man who wanted to know if I was the Brody Levesque who grew up near a town in Ontario, Canada he mentioned and to protect his privacy I'll just let it go at that.

When I replied in affirmation, to my shock, he started crying-hard.
I was gob-smacked, no bloody clue what was wrong.
As it turns out Rob & those of you reading this- He is the 17 year old son of my oldest brother's son. Making him my, hmm I guess grand-nephew?

Anyway, The family lore was that I had disappeared into America & had died.
I assured the young man that I most certainly wasn't dead although on certain days that scenario looked attractive.

He also said that my being Gay was evil blah blah blah according to his father and grandfather, which came as no surprise as I had heard my brother's opinion quite loudly expressed all those years ago.

Then he said something that absolutely floored me, "Uncle Brody? I'm Gay."

The rest of the story? Well lets just say I handled it just as I had when my own son Sean came out to me the summer of his 14th year.

Now, since then the young man has kept in irregular contact as adolescents are prone to doing, but I know that he's gonna be okay. Why? Because he now understands in his own way how to resolve that "choice" question.

He's still in the closet sadly-but is making progress that he is comfortable with to become his own person.

Rob? I have him reading this blog, because in my great nephew's very Catholic world & family, there are too many parallels to yours.

Keep writing, thinking, and dissecting the ins & outs of this counselor, you are helping more than just yourself with resolutions to the heart-rendering trauma that is our lot.

Cheers eh?

Brody

Joe Conflict said...

Good improvements Rob. You may want to divide this into two letters. The first part is excellent at asking a challenging question about conditional vs unconditional love. Good....... You could even remind them of Elder Uchdorf's talk (sorry, can't remember how to spell it)

So when are you going to come visit us in Utah?

Tim Trent said...

This letter has everything the previous draft missed. In this letter you have the moral high ground. It's powerful without being combative. You assert your position with no aggression and, while I'm sure arguments can be picked with you, it does not provoke them.

Most important it suggests that they think. If they are anything like you, whether they appear to be thinking or not, they will think.

Mister Curie said...

Nice letter. I would suggest removing the reference to giving them a year. I think it might give the wrong impression. You should still give them a year in your own mind and hope they come around. If after a year they don't, then tell them that you've given them a year, now they have to accept you as a package deal.

Gay LDS Actor said...

I, too, would remove the time limit of a year. While that may be an acceptable time limit for you, they may need more time. Pressuring them with a time limit doesn't seem very useful and is more apt to put them on the defense, I think. Good letter overall.

El Genio said...

Part of me wishes you could start by mentioning your true love for your family, and explaining how much recent events have hurt you. If you can make some kind of attempt to get them on the same page, or to sympathize with you at the beginning, there might be a greater chance of them swallowing the rest of the letter.

Ned said...

Rob, I see your letter as three punches in the gut of those who love you for who they thought you were.

1. I'm not going back in the closet.
"The Rob we knew really is gone for good."

2. I'm going to seek to get married.
"He really is an activist."

3. I'm putting you on deadline.
"His agenda includes a timeline that he thinks he can impose on us."

I'd stick with punch number 1 and see if you can't get some dialog going based on that alone.

Of course you can get to the other points too, but perhaps in the give and take of dialog rather than in the harshness of the unforgiving written word.

Just my opinion. Good luck in what ever you do.

MoHoHawaii said...

Hi Rob,

I debated whether or not to leave a comment. I hope it will help.

I think you are way too close to this. Your letter oozes the hurt you feel. I think you need to pull back from that if you want to get through to your family. I really believe that you need to keep the message to your family positive at this point.

I took the liberty of doing an edit pass for you. I removed anything that used negative nouns or adjectives. Anyway here's a draft. I'm not saying you should use it, but maybe you can see where I was going with this and glean some ideas.

--
Dear Family:

Now that you all know I'd like to talk to everyone together.

We've always been a close-knit group. I've been there for you, you've been there for me. No family is perfect, but I've always felt very lucky to be part of this one. You guys are great.

You know, the only change from a few months ago is that you know me better now. That's it. Everyone yearns to be understood and appreciated by those they love. You too. I've endured years of slurs and homophobic jokes and hurtful attitudes. I've felt isolated and alone. I don't want that anymore. I just want my family. I just want you to rally around me and say "We had no idea you wrestled with this for so long, we're so sorry you felt like you had to face it alone." I know this isn't the way you feel right now, but it's my dream.

Please don't assume I've done something that justifies excommunication. That's not true and I'm sad if you've worried unnecessarily. But what is true is that I'm out of the closet and I'm not going back. I'll be judicious like always but I won't self-censor, and I won't wear a mask. It's not about pushing an agenda, it's about surviving and maybe even, for the first time in my life, thriving. I'm not hiding my head in the sand anymore.

St. Paul said: investigate, search, don't be afraid to question a status quo, to learn something new, to question the bases for your own beliefs. Joseph Smith followed this advice. If what you believe is true, then it can withstand examination. I hope you won't be afraid to talk and learn about what being gay means to me. Ask me any question you want. Anything. I'll try my best to answer.

(con't below)

MoHoHawaii said...

(con't from above)

God said that it's not good for man to be alone. I'm not going to be a monk for the rest of my life. I value what you value: a happy marriage. I'm going to try to have one again. I don't know if it'll ever happen. I hope it does. I won't abandon personal standards in the process. But if I find him, I'm going to want to be with him and marry him. I know I can't do it the way the Church wants. 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. I trust the 9th Article of Faith which tells us that we don't yet know everything about God's plan, including this subject.

I'm grateful for your desires that I be happy in this life and the next. I ask that you respect that I know what will make me that way, better than anyone else. My heart has greater peace now than ever before. I'm confident that this is how God made me, that He knows what will make me happiest. I believe He wants that for me like He wants it for each of His children, and that He'll be pleased as I try to reach that goal. I'm confident that He approves of who and what I am; that was made very clear to me as I prayed sincerely to know.

I know this whole situation is throwing a huge wrench into the works. I just ask you to judge this by its fruits. And as I've said before, every fruit of my decision to come out has so far been wonderful, and I expect that to continue. I hope you'll to understand things from my point of view, even if you can't fully share that point of view. A great place to start is www.ldsfamilyfellowship.org. And there's more. Just ask and I'll be happy to share.

Please don't worry about me. I love you all as much as ever and wish only the best for each of you.

Love,
Rob

Daniel said...

I'm with MohoHawaii on this one. When I read that letter, I felt like it was written by someone who was really hurt by his family and wanted them to "take back" what they'd said and accept him. Of course we can relate to that, and it resonates with us, but I am worried it is the wrong message for your family. With all due respect, it places you in the position of the rebellious teenager trying to justify his actions. You don't have to justify your choices, and you don't need your family to validate you. I'm worried that if you play that role, your family will assume the parental role, and that will backfire on you. They've already been leaning in that direction by making rules for you to follow and making punitive statements.

I thinking writing letters like this is therapeutic for you, but I don't think you need to send any letters to your family. You don't need their approval. You don't need to assert your motives. I just fear any letter--no matter how well crafted or true your points are--will hurt more than it will help.

I love you, and I do hope your family does come around and accept you, but what I admire about you is how strong you are despite them.

Scott said...

It's a well-written letter. Whether or not you should send it depends on what you want to accomplish...

You do a great job of being strong and firm and assertive. That's definitely a good thing, and there's definitely a time for it...

But at the moment all of this is still relatively fresh and new to your family. Your assertiveness could easily be interpreted as stubbornness, or as evidence of the "selfishness" that they've already accused you of.

I get where you're coming from with the "one year" thing--I think it's Dan Savage who recommends giving conservative religious family members a year to be as bitchy as they want. But I think that the idea is to actually give them that year. By telling them right now that there's a deadline by which they need to accept you, and by giving them what amounts to an ultimatum (accept me or never see me again), you're demanding change now (or at least as soon as possible), without allowing them time to come to terms with things in their own way.

IMHO, it'd be best to just give them space and time, without any demands or expectations. Be open to discussion (without allowing them to verbally abuse you) and let them come to you.

Next March, look to see where they are and how far they've come. If, at that point, they're still being closed-minded and refusing to accept you, then you send a letter like this, and let them know that they've had time to deal with the situation and that they have a choice to make: their prejudices, or their son/brother.

But it might be that by next year they'll have made huge strides, and even if they're not where you want them to be, they might be moving quickly enough in that direction that you won't need to send this letter at all.