02 January 2011

Where Do I Go From Here?

A wonderful time over the last week with family and friends, despite a three day snowstorm--the three days we were there, of course. Naturally it cleared up the morning we left, and once I got out of the blizzard I felt a lot better. Now back to civilized weather, safe and sound.

On the way home I found a book on the shelf at parents' home, called "So You Want To Raise A Boy?" by the inimitable Cleon Skousen (first published in 1962, and again in 1995). It contains the following:

"18. Aren't some people born homosexuals?

This is so rare that whenever a case occurs it is considered a medical phenomenon. In practically all cases, homosexuality is cultivated [emphasis in original]. Individuals who get into abnormal sex habits during early youth can develop them into such a fixed pattern that they soon think these deviations are perfectly normal. When homosexuals are arrested, they try to excuse their conduct by saying "I guess I'm just made this way." [end of quote]

While visiting there I also learned the following, which I will relate strictly on the facts without editorializing.

Everyone in my family of origin has read this blog and knows of my statements early last year about giving them roughly a year or so to adjust to my coming out, that after that time, I would expect any significant other or partner of mine to be treated the same as any boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse of any of my siblings, and that we would be a package deal.

I was informed that I could do what I wanted with my own life and no one in the family would try to interfere. I was also asked to respect the feelings of everyone else in the family by never mentioning any such personal relationships with any of them, and by not bringing any significant other or partner to any family gatherings. Doing so would make everyone "extremely uncomfortable". If I chose to do so anyway, any display of affection such as holding hands or a kiss would be unacceptable.

Such relationships are abnormal, I was told, and make everyone in the family "feel icky." Normal is a male/female monogamous marriage and sexual relations, nothing else.

I asked the reasons for this feeling. None was given, and I was told none was needed because feelings are feelings and should be respected as such. Had anyone read the materials I offered from www.ldsfamilyfellowship.org written by members of extended families of other gay LDS men and women, material I thought would be particularly relevant to my own family given the same frame of reference, in order to promote understanding and communication? No, the material had not been read; it appeared to take an apologetic stance and the family was not interested in that perspective.

I was told that this request to "respect others' feelings" was not in fact an effort to push me back into the closet and did not represent any homophobia. I pointed out that everyone else in the family was allowed to freely discuss the central personal relationship of their life and have their significant other or spouse welcomed by the family, but I was not, and apparently I must be silent as regards that part of my life if I wished to maintain harmonious relationships with other family members. I said that I simply wanted to be treated like everyone else, and asked why it was fair to single me out for treatment given to no one else in the family. It was acknowledged that this was not fair, but "life is not fair." The family did not wish to see, discuss or be reminded of an abnormal relationship.

I love my family and this conversation made me very sad. And now I have some thinking to do.


Kiley said...

I am sorry that you find yourself in this situation. This is heartbreaking. I don't even pretend to have advice.

There is still a chance that given time and exposure to a significant other they might change. It sounds like if you did show up with someone they would not kick him out. It might be uncomfortable but it would be one way to test the waters.


FindingMyWay said...

Wow. How sad for you. I haven't come out to my family yet and I fear that very thing. I have a copy of that book on my shelf as well but I've never looked through it. Interesting.

Wishing you peace...

MoHoHawaii said...

Ah, the ick factor. :- ) I'm speaking, of course, of my reaction to your family's inflexible, anti-gay attitudes. Ick.

It's pretty clear that if and when you have a significant other there's going to be yet another transition with your family. How they feel now may not be how they feel then. When it comes time to put theory into practice your family may surprise you. People do change.

Lisa said...

The ignorance of some people is absolutely astounding.

I am so sorry your family are being such assholes about this. The sad thing is that you could explain it 'till you're red in the face, but it won't change the lot of them. Hopefully one or two eventually, but alas the mindset is rather strong.


Drew said...

This sounds very familiar to me. ;)

Rob, I love you and want you to be happy. The demands that your family is placing on you are simply unacceptable.

The costs of complying with these demands?

- Your self-respect
- Your happiness
- A loving relationship that can
be fully experienced and
- Further disappointment and drama

I know I should be the last person to give advice on some things. However, I know that you will not be happy if you comply with these demands.

It comes down to two things: priorities and the question, "Is it worth it?" The question applies both ways: "Are complying with these demands worth it?" and "Is pursuing a relationship worth losing my family?"

I can't believe that they are forcing you to make this decision.

TGD said...

If they were my family, I would go ahead and let them feel extremely uncomfortable and icky. I already do that now. Most of them got over it, but then most of them didn't have as far to go.

I continue as I am, open and out about it and let the remaining feel extremely uncomfortable.

I can't continue living my life in full joy if I'm worried about acceptance from some of my family members. That's their battle to overcome, not mine.

I have the benefit of many friends who support me unconditionally and are out and open about their lives because I've been out and open.

Hang in there and have courage, you may just have to let them go permanently. Be OK with that. Let them go to live their lives so that you can live yours.

J G-W said...

Your family will of course react negatively to the idea of a same-sex significant other. Mine did too.

My whole family dynamic changed dramatically when a real-life, flesh-and-blood, actual significant other entered the picture.

I think it's not helpful to make ultimatums when this is still in the abstract... It will just turn into a situation that no one can win. As long as there is no actual boyfriend in the picture, I would continue to cultivate relationships with the family. Don't push this issue in the abstract any more, as it will probably just cause people to entrench. If and when a real boyfriend enters the picture, warmly invite your family to continue to be a part of your life (think Ebeneezer Scrooge's nephew in A Christmas Carol).

Perhaps the combination of your willingness to temporarily set aside differences for the sake of the relationships plus the desire of the closest members of your family not to lose you will open some doors (or at least a piano window or two) once you actually have a significant other...

Once my parents actually met Göran, and realized what an incredible person he was and saw how happy he made me, it transformed a lot of the dynamics. It gave my parents (and eventually other, more extended family members) concrete data that helped them reevaluate other previously inflexible positions...

Rob said...

Thanks for all the expressions of support.

Just so we're clear, I don't have a significant other at the moment and until I did, I had no intention of even mentioning this issue, I knew it'd be unnecessary before then. It was the rest of the family that brought it up on Saturday.

I wasn't totally surprised at their desire to avoid this issue. I _was_ surprised and extremely disappointed that they were unwilling to even listen to the voices and experiences of other LDS families who'd been in their situation. I have some theories on why my family, normally so intellectually curious, would stop their eyes and ears like that about this topic, but I have no evidence yet for any of them so it wouldn't be fair to discuss here.

They see me as being on a crusade to pressure them to accept abnormality (that's an almost direct quote) and, by extension, immorality. The idea that I could be doing anything else threatens other paradigms in ways I'm sure they find frightening, even if only subliminally. So the easiest thing is just don't even go there.

I hope JGW is right and an actual test will yield better results.

TGD said...

It was my final understanding of the concepts of normality and acceptance of normality that prompted me to write my latest blog post. It's probably not really a helpful post, J G-W's comment was more helpful, but it was a catharsis for what had been bothering me about what it means to be normal, abnormal, different and if it all really matters.

JonJon said...

Wow, I remember that same book being on the bookshelf at my parents' house growing up. I had no idea it was by Cleon Skousen. Or probably more accurately, I had no idea who Cleon Skousen was at the time.

Sorry about the difficulties with family. I guess I've been taking the route suggested by John. I'm not really going to push the issue until/unless I have a significant other to introduce them to. When it comes up in conversations with my mom and siblings though, I usually make reference to the idea that just because I'm not currently in a relationship, doesn't necessarily mean it's not going to happen.

surakmn said...

So everyone's feelings matter except yours. That's just peachy.

JGW is right, it's all hypothetical now. You'll have to put your foot down sometime, but that time isn't today. Having a real live boyfriend and a productive, happy, joyful life will go a long way toward opening hearts and minds.

miamigay said...

My dear sweet and tormented gay man:

I am not religious, but I know the difference between a religion and a cult. A cult separates families by demanding unreasonable allegiance to doctrines which are totally unacceptable to fundamental drives. It seems that your religion is obsessed with matters of sex as it applies to marriage, heaven and even to family ties. It is not you. It is your religion. Unfortunately you are born into it. Do what they want - they have the obsession. Don't bring you boyfriend ever near them. Norm