15 December 2010

PE: My Story Part 9- My Family's Reaction

The initial email responses I received from my immediate family were filled with love. My mother and sister assured me that this new information doesn't change a thing. I was still the same son/sibling they loved and they were not angry or disgusted or any negative adjective I might have guessed. If they were angry or disappointed at all, it was only in themselves. Looking back they could see how things that were said might have hurt me and that thought killed them. They were so apologetic. My mom just wanted to protect me from all the negativity and hate that the world dishes out to gay people, just like you would expect a mom to want to do for her children.

I think, in some ways, my mom felt like she failed. Not in the sense that her failure caused my homosexuality, like many parents do. But that somehow, it was her fault that a part of me believed that she would reject me. The part of me that felt the necessity to keep this from her. I think she felt that she failed at showing me how much she loved me and how unconditional that was. She didn't fail. It was my own failure in understanding and accepting that love. When you hate yourself, it is hard to imagine another person loving you.

The thought that I was so close to ending my life was horrifying to everyone. I think part of the pain for them was knowing that I was feeling so horrible that I would plan to take such an action. I don't know if the reaction would have been different if my news wasn't based on the fact that I had been so close to suicide. I would like to think that they would have still been just as accepting. I think it is so sad that parents or families refuse to listen until their son or daughter succeeds in, or attempts ending their life. If you haven't already, watch the Lifetime movie Prayers for Bobby. It's $3.99 I think on iTunes. It is based on a true story of a gay kid growing up in a very conservative Christian home. His mother never had any measure of sympathy or understanding until he took his life.

My Dad also responded with love and made sure that I understood that I was expected to continue to be involved in his and the rest of my family's lives. He said some things that I disagree with, but assured me that he wouldn't judge me from that day forward. My dad tries to identify a reason for everything. In his mind, there had to be a reason I "turned" gay. He thought about the idea that maybe he wasn't involved in my life as much as he could have been. About the idea that perhaps this had something to do with his failure as a father. I assured him that this had nothing to do with his parenting. It is hard to believe that for so many years, even professionals blamed the parents for the homosexuality of a child. I think a lot of the effects of that thinking are still very prevalent today. Anyway, my Dad has his own theories why I might be gay, none of which I agree with. In his mind, this was something that was done to me in some way that altered my "natural" state. But it doesn't change his love for me and I have never felt judgment from him. That is all I could hope for.

My family started reading No More Goodbyes the same night I told them. My mom finished it in a week and sent me a text message one evening after she finished it. This is what it said:
"I finished the book. It was good. It addressed the fear, anger, each of our internal wars, and was hopeful. I loved it and will probably start reading it again. It has a profound message for everyone and insight into our eternal purpose in our life here on earth… this will be a growing time for us and I am not adverse to that. It will make us stronger, but oh how I wish I could protect you from the storm of hurt and betrayal you must feel from religion and people around you. I mean this. If you meet some person gay or not that does not have a family to support them, bring them here. I would like to be their family. No one should have to endure rejection on that level. I'm serious."
After receiving that text message, I was ready to go home. I drove to my apartment, packed my bags, threw them in the car, and drove through the night to go home. I took a nap in my car at some rest stop along the way (and I lived to tell the tale). I didn't want to think about facing them. I was still so worried about what that would be like. So I just drove. When I got there, I sat in my car for a few minutes before slowly making my way to the door. I still felt ashamed to face them in person.

Once I got in the door, however, that was quickly washed away. My dad was the first person I saw and he greeted me with a hug. No awkwardness at all. We had a normal day just hanging out. That night, we had the first discussion about all this in person. For the most part (besides some friendly disagreement with some opinions my father expressed) it was the same amazing love and support I felt from my family's letters.

My Mom had already spoken to my youngest sister who was so sweet. She responded to my mom saying,
"I think Heavenly Father Prepared me for this."
In her mind, it was no big deal. She is a huge fan of Adam Lambert (gay American Idol contestant) and always stuck up for him despite the remarks against his gayness. She saw through that to his talent and didn't let prejudice blind her to the whole person.

Since coming out to my family, we actually did grow together in a lot of ways. We became more open with one another. We started talking about the important problems we face instead of always keeping conversations light and surface-level. We started discussing religion, God, why we believed, what we believed... it was actually a true blue blessing to the family. Weird. It caused them to reevaluate why they believed and maybe even articulate what they believed, but it really made us stronger I think.

Me being gay isn't even an "issue" anymore. I am treated just like my straight siblings. My boyfriend is welcome just like my sister's boyfriend is welcome. They really make it so easy and enjoyable to be fully involved in the family. It is so wonderful! And I think it is the most ideal situation. It is not common by any stretch of the imagination. The church teaches that you shouldn't allow your gay children bring home their significant other... or if you do, to put severe limitations on them and treat them completely different from your straight children. But I have found that it is so much more healthy to be able to stay involved in my family's life. I love that I can come home for Christmas and Thanksgiving and have my significant other come home too. I love that he is treated just like a member of the family and that we can feel completely comfortable. It builds a much healthier relationship than one where families on both sides don't want to have anything to do with the couple. Family is important. And I love mine dearly.


Steven Lester said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven Lester said...

Well, then everything is going well for you, although I wouldn't call your case exactly typical, which is not to wish upon you any additional trouble, of course.

Let's hope that all will work out just fine.

Is it true, though, that, even though you spent all that money and did all of that work, BYU can still keep from you from your diploma if they found out that you were, like, gay and involved? Can they take it back once they issue it? Can they keep your records from being transferred to another college? I mean to say, they are accredited. They agreed to at least a minimum of mutual requirements, or are they exempt because they are a religiously-owned college.

Steven Lester said...

I also suspect that because you come from a California-based family, residing outside of "Zion", and conversant with the uses of Skype even, the reaction that you received from all of your immediate family turned out to be thoughtful and somewhat less emotional than one might expect from a household located in Cedar City, for example. Again, here's to a successful transition into truth, or the light of truth.

Trev said...

Very nice account. I was especially moved by what you wrote about your mother and her reaction and her feeling that she "failed." I'd never thought about the possibility of my own mom feeling that way, but I can kind of see it now that you mention it--very touching.

I'm happy your family grew like that. I hope more people can have similar experiences.

bradcarmack said...

I am so glad for the predominantly positive initial reactions of your family members. Hooray!

Anonymous said...

I am going through this hell right now myself. I was talked into marriage at the age of 35. I care for the woman and she is physically disabled. We are raising her 9 year old grandson. She suspects I may have Same Sex Attraction, because she once said that if I had an affair with a woman she would forgive me, but if I had an affair with a man there would never be forgiveness from her. I respect her and wouldn't do anything to hurt her. (We've been married 15 years) But this is tearing me up inside. I've tried to commit suicide 3 time during my life. Once after we were married. She said she married me was because I didn't act like other men. I agree, don't get married to "fit in" it just makes you miserable.

michael said...

Wow! That was powerful stuff. Your family sound like nice people! So many gay people underestimate their families and spend way too many years in anguish and pain when , if they only came out earlier, they would save themselves a heap of pain. I know we all have to do it in our own time but I certainly regret waiting so long. In mine and the experience of my friends the sooner one comes out, the easier all round. It's society that gives you those doubts and worries but, hey, if family don't like it it's THEIR problem. It's YOUR Life, no-one elses, so why be miserable??
For all your readers here's abook that made my journey of coming out so much smoother than it may have been:
It's cheap on amazon.
It's a step by step guide to coming out and is full of love and support.
On a related note, I have a muslim friend who is Gay and trying to help him has been so hard because his family situation could be life-threatening . With the help of a counsellor we have developed strategies we call "Bringing In" which may help any Muslim readers-who feel coming out may simply be too dangerous- in such a situation.......put simply it means for kids in danger perhaps the appropriate strategy initially is to 'bring in' supportive people to surround them, support them and protect them ,if coming out to their family could endanger their lives. It's certainly not the ideal way of trying to find happiness in Life and coming out is ultimately a wonderful thing on every level, but in such cases it is better than having to deal with it alone. My Mum and Dad are both passed on now and I live my life knowing that when I came out, like your folks, they embraced me and loved me even more. I miss them so much but it would have been terrible never knowing how they would have reacted. Like your Mum and Dad, Jonathan, the only thing that upset them was knowing I had kept it to myself for so much of my life and they were sad that I felt I couldn't bring it to them earlier. They were never ashamed of me and never tried to hide it from their friends. Once my mother even approached this horrible priest who had been cruel to me and she told him he should be ashamed of himself to call himself a Christian. She did it at a church gathering so it was quite a scene! When I heard what she had done I was so proud of her. To all your readers out there, of all faiths and beliefs, I just want to say that when you surround yourselves with loving people you can live your life productively and with kindness to others. One of my favourite sayings is "Difference should not be tolerated. It should be celebrated." And every time I see someone or something that challenges me or makes me feel judgemental I say this to myself and I feel so much better. It just makes you look at everyone differently. Of course I still get angry at bigots and haters of all sorts but I figure, in their own sad way, they challenge us all and give us the option to Love or Hate. I'm thrilled your family chose to love! And how proud they must be to have such a deep thinking and caring son as you. Sometimes ,my friend, it's good to get 'out of your head' though and not think so much about everything....I'm like you in that way and I too have battled in the past with depression and I think being such a deep thinker didn't help me at times! So I have leaned to lighten up when I get too serious about life and I am much happier. I wish you only the happiest of lives and tell your Mum, since she was so incredibly kind to offer support for anyone you knew who had none, I think her gesture was the purest indication that she is indeed one of God's special people! I think we all have lessons to teach the world and you do so with sharing your life's journey in your blog and like many Gay people do, you make the world a better place. xxx michael

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