05 January 2011

An Apology

Dear Family:

I owe you an apology.

Over the last year or so I have thrown a serious wrench into your expectations and your image of who and what I am. This has been new territory for all of us.

I have had more lead time than you for study, thought, wrestling, debating, and all of that as I've come to terms with being gay and how my life should proceed from here on. It hasn't been my whole life, since for most of my life I was absolutely convinced this was something I must try to kill off and ignore. It's only been in the last couple of years that I've accepted it and planned the rest of life with it in mind. You haven't had quite that long, I know.

And I know it's not fair of me to expect that such a conservative LDS family as ours will be able to change thoughts or opinions on this issue overnight. You all will need time, just as I needed time. So for now, please don't worry about what I said before as far as how I would want a significant other in my life to be treated by the rest of you; there's no such person right now and I don't know when there will be. I never planned to force the issue when it was purely theoretical anyway. Events may play out such that by the time I find him, you all may find your perspectives have actually changed. I think my friend JGW's comment on the prior post is a good one: theory is one thing, but real life experience may prove to be quite different. I hope so.

Meantime, I promise to be more patient. I apologize if I acted badly the other day. I was not prepared for what you said and did not respond in the best way. I recognize that you are all trying to live according to what you believe is right, and I know I must respect that.

I do have one favor to ask. Please, please, please don't refuse to read or listen or learn any more about this topic. The apostle Paul said "prove all things"; that is, investigate, learn, test everything. No exceptions! Please, please, please take his advice, especially about this issue which is now proving to be so crucial to our family unity. Would you at least be willing to talk to a couple of my friends who have been in your exact position? I truly think it would help you feel better.

If there's one thing I learned as I watched Mom battle her illness and slowly slip away from us, it's that the testing and the challenges of life never stop until the very last breath. We really are temporary actors in a play that started long before we stepped onto the stage and which will go on long after we leave. We must each do our best in the role we're given. I know that my coming out has been a challenge for the rest of you and probably will continue to be. But please, please, please don't refuse to learn and investigate and listen to those who've been through this experience.

Growth and change is really hard sometimes. Believe me, I know. I know you are worried, concerned, even fearful of challenges to your beliefs. But remember what Eleanor Roosevelt said: "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face. Do the thing you think you cannot do."



J G-W said...

Rob - this is heartbreaking. I hope your family will hear this plea to at least be open to learning more. It seems like so little to ask.

If it's any comfort to you... When I came out to my grandmother, I was astonished when she told me about how she knew a young man in her ward in Pittsburgh in the 1930s who came out as gay, and eventually left for San Francisco when he found little acceptance in his ward. She said she hoped that things had changed since then, and that I would find more acceptance than he did. (My heart started dancing!)

Then she said that she would never, ever accept the idea of gay marriage. (My heart sank.)

Shortly after Göran and I entered into a relationship, my grandmother called me just before a family reunion. She said it was OK for Göran to come to the family reunion, but we would have to lie about the nature of our relationship. We wouldn't be allowed to speak openly about the fact that we were partners and we were to tell the family that we were just roommates. (My heart sank.) I told my grandmother that under those conditions, neither of us could attend the family reunion. She said OK and hung up. (Heart is breaking.)

Five minutes later, my grandmother called back. She was in tears. She apologized for asking me to lie. She told me to come to the family reunion with my partner, no strings attached. She said the family would just have to deal. (Heart is rejoicing!)

A few years later, when Göran and I decided to tie the knot in a formal commitment ceremony, my grandmother flew from Fresno to Minneapolis so that she could be present. I'm not sure she was completely OK with every aspect of it, and she asked a couple of awkward questions (like, "When you two are in bed, which one of you is the man and which one is the woman?" God bless her!). But we were so grateful for her presence. In fact, we were in awe of grandma.

When she died a few years back, I cherished a close relationship with her, and some beautiful memories. She set an incredible example for the rest of the family...

Right now, you get to be in the place of heartbreak and feeling lonely and wondering if your family will ever be the same to you again... I don't envy you. But you are also in a sacred place right now. Treasure the possibilities for growth that are ahead of you...

this duck author said...

Your letter is perfect. And, so is John's comment.

Sending good and loving energy your way.

surakmn said...

Well done. Some of your family will come around in time, it is rare that no softening of hearts occurs.

Clive Durham said...

Thanks for your letter. If you don't mind, I'm going to plagiarize parts of it in a letter to my family. (It sounds like we have had similar experiences recently.) Despite the current stretch of rough water, I have confidence that all will eventually be well. Faith and patience are the keys.

PS: It was good meeting you at Scott's. I wish I would have taken more of an opportunity to visit with you. Maybe next time.

Madame Curie said...

Heart-wrenching. Hang in there. Know that your friends are cheering for you, even if you are having a rough time with family.