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.