25 July 2010

What I Might Say If I Re-Engaged

About four months ago I reached a point where I could simply no longer deal with the escalating drama that had erupted in my family when I came out. I told my dad that I needed to take some time away, that he shouldn't worry because I would come back at some point, but I just had to have some peace and quiet and respite from the criticism and the resistance and the insinuations of what I was doing to destroy everybody else's family unity. Take that last one for what it's worth.

So I haven't talked to my dad or any of my siblings for about that long now. To their credit, they've respected my wishes and have left me alone. My intent in backing off was not only to give myself some peace, but also to give them time away from dealing with me, in hopes that they'd be able to calm down, reflect, let passions cool, ponder priorities. I don't know to what extent they've done that, but it seems to me that four months is long enough to at least start.

I don't expect my conservative traditional Mormon family to suddenly switch to full support of their gay son instantaneously. It took me a long time to wrestle with this myself and to finally gather the courage to face it and embrace it and learn to be proud of the way God made me. I can't expect them to turn immediately away from assumptions and attitudes they've held their whole lives and never been forced to really examine on the merits.

On the other hand, the impact of homosexuality on them is far different than it is on me. To them it's collateral. To me, it's essential, as in "part of the essence." One could reasonably think, therefore, that they might not need as much time as I did to process it. So I've been thinking about what I would say to them if I resumed contact. I'm still sorting that out, and I'm not 100% ready to actually reach out yet. But I've thought about what I might want to say, and it'd go something like this.

Dear family, I love you all so much. There's so much I want to say to you, so much I want to share. Facets of me that you've never known about through all these years. I and the kids want to be part of your lives. If you would just be willing to listen and consider, I truly believe I could make most if not all of your angst go away. But when three out of five of you tell me explicitly that you don't want to hear another word about it, or you tell me flat-out that you will refuse to listen to anything I say and you accuse me of shaming our mother and trying to destroy family unity, well, that's not a very good recipe for us getting along is it.

I know I've challenged your paradigms and I don't expect you to change your opinions overnight; God knows it took me long enough to come to terms with this myself. But please don't refuse even to talk about it. Please try to set aside your fear and anger and suspicion. I really do think I have the answers that will help you do that. But you must be willing to listen, to do what St. Paul said: investigate, search, don't be afraid to question a status quo. Don't be afraid to learn something new or to question the bases for your own beliefs. Joseph Smith wasn't. If what you believe about this issue is true, then it can easily withstand examination. Don't be afraid. Please learn from my experience; I let myself stay afraid for far too long and I suffered needlessly for it.

I'm not selfish as some of you have accused me of being. I'm just tired of a charade and want you to know who I really am. I still don't understand why wanting to share this most vulnerable part of myself with the ones I should be able to rely on the most is "selfish." All of your hurt and anger and fear is so unnecessary. Please try to calm down, and above all else, please be willing to talk to me and listen to what I say in good faith. Not just hear the sounds, but give honest, full consideration to the content. Other LDS families have done just fine after one of their kids came out, please listen to me and I'll tell you how. And how coming out made me a better Christian than I ever was before.

If we can't at least talk and give good faith consideration to each others' opinions and beliefs, then what's the point of anything else?

5 comments:

Tim Trent said...

When I considered this question it seemed that writing it down made it appear trivial. Please do not take it as trivial. I've wanted to ask you this for some time.

Is the reason you retain your LDS faith the fact that your family are an LDS family?

It may not seem it, but the answer is directly relevant to your re-engaging with them, not 'if', not 'when', but 'how'.

Rob said...

@Tim:

The answer to your question is no.

I need to address this question with them within an LDS context because I know they are and will always be incapable of seeing it from any other perspective. So regardless of my own beliefs, if I am to maintain good relations with them, I must be able to deal with it from that view.

J G-W said...

Rob - I know you're already aware of this fact... But it just takes time.

The fact that your conversations have run into the kind of brick wall they ran into 4 months ago is simply because everybody's said everything that possibly can be said about this.

I went through this with my family. At some point I simply assumed that my relationship with my family was over. That if I wanted any kind of family, I'd have to start over building a "family of choice." Fortunately, I was wrong.

You're a step ahead of me because you understand this... But at this point, as the saying goes, a "watched pot never boils." There's nothing really to do but make allowance for the fact that there's disagreement between you and your family, and to find some way to set differences aside for a while and keep the communications lines open.

Things will get better!

Daniel said...

My advice if you re-engage your family is to do it with each family member individually, not with everyone at once.

It doesn't sound like you have any intention of sending this particular letter, but I'm sure it helped to write it!

One thing that struck me about the letter was that you speak to your family about things exactly as you last left them. It's been four months, and I wonder if things have changed. Even if they haven't, whenever it is time to re-engage with your family, it is probably best not to address the concerns and arguments and hurt feelings of when you last spoke. It's time to turn a new leaf! (I hope that made sense)

I'm rooting for some reconciliation in the future!

Pablo said...

First off: (((hug)))

Real awareness of what's important comes at a different pace for all of us. I hope that your family doesn't prolong that process. In the meantime, I think you're wise to give them (and yourself) both time and space to reframe your relationships. You're the same person, but they see you in a different light. They're the same people, but your experiencing aspects of who they are that you might not have otherwise.

One of the most difficult aspects of this is that while you can understand their devoted LDS perspective, they will have a hard time understanding your perspective as a gay man. So it makes sense that you address things with them within an LDS context. But they also need to see things outside the tunnel vision of conventional Mormondom. It may bring discomfort, but challening assumptions is important. It makes me think of some Star Wars wisdom from Obi-Wan Kenobi: "Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view." Hopefully, your family will eventually accept how true that really is.