Friday, October 28, 2011

It got worse

On October 11, 2011 I came out as gay on facebook. It was National Coming Out Day This was my message.

Dear Family and Friends,
I’m gay. Surprise. Some of you already know. Some of you aren’t surprised. But many of you are probably confused. I know a lot of you won’t understand this, and I wish I had the time to sit down one on one with you and explain this and teach you about many of misconceptions that you’ve grown up with about homosexuality. Trust me, I know a lot about this. I’m divorced now and I’m starting a new life. And I hope you’ll be part of it, supporting me and accepting what I’ve come to accept as an important part of me. I hope you can appreciate how difficult this journey has been, but also how exciting it is to share this with you now.

The public response to my coming out was incredibly positive. Friends I hadn't talked to in years either messaged me or wrote on my wall to talk about how proud they were of me and happy for me. And my friends, my brother, my cousins, so many people publicly congratulated me. I felt elated.

I still turn to that every time I get down or discouraged. I couldn't have predicted how much that would help me to know that so many people I love about care about me, and love me, and support me publicly.

But there's an unfortunate aspect to the story too. There are people who didn't say anything, like most of my siblings, or some of my aunts and cousins. They are still too afraid to talk to me. And my Grandparents were upset that I'd do such a bold thing. This is a private thing. Alex isn't that gay. He was married after all. What will we say to people? All of these are things they haven't had the courage to say to me directly, but behind closed doors and whispers.

Then there's my Mom. I went home to visit the week after, another bold thing, and one that I partially regret. I went to my High School reunion, met up with my best friend growing up, and played rock music and had a great time. Until the next day, when everything came crashing down.

It started simple enough. I slept in through church. I ate dinner with my family, I started playing the piano, and my Mom and I started talking.

"Make sure you don't tell your little brother about you know what."
"It's on facebook Mom. He probably already knows."

My mother had asked me to not tell my brothers and sisters. She asked why I disobeyed her. I'm 28. I respected her wishes for a while, but at this point I feel the need to be open and honest with my family about my life and who I am. My Mom and I proceeded out side to continue talking and things continued their downward spiral.

She wanted to protect my brother's innocence. I told him at 11 he probably knew what gay is, and knew a lot more about sex than she suspects. I explained that I just wanted it to be normal so that we could move past it, and quick treating it like it was some big secret, and shaming me into silence. She asked how I could expect her to think it was normal. Did I want to bring a boyfriend over and cuddle? That would never happen. I said, I wasn't talking about that, just some basic respect. We talked about the facebook post and about how she thought that was private. I agreed that facebook wasn't the ideal format, possibly email or individual calls, but it suited my needs coming out and telling people very well.

"I understand that going to church is hard for you because you are gay, but why are you throwing your soul away?"

I didn't know what to say. I was upset. I was shocked that my Mom would say this to me.

Should I have been? I came out to her when I was 17 and she told me I was going to die of AIDS, displease her and Heavenly Father. Me, her son who has for his whole life tried to be the best kid possible, to be kind to others, treat them with love and respect, was now throwing his soul away simply because he's gay.

It hurts. I try to empathize, but I can't wrap my head around this kind of prejudice. It doesn't matter that my whole life I've lived a decent and honest life, that I was honest with my wife when I started being honest with myself, that I did the best I could to make things the best for her. That I've been the oldest kid and taken care of my family. Suddenly the fact that I was gay was more important than all of that.

I don't believe a just and loving God would do that, to anyone. Either he didn't and I'm not gay, or I am gay. But I am gay, homosexuality does exist, and so what does that mean? That leaves two options. Either there is no God, or God doesn't agree with what the church and my Mother believe about it.

I choose to believe that there is a God. That he loves me. And he loves my Mom. But she's lost and confused.

The irony of this situation is that my 10 year old brother already knew. He asked me what we talked about and he said he probably knew. He said, "Is it about you coming out of the closet?" "Yep. What did you think about that." "I didn't really care that much."

There's hope. But unfortunately the actions and reactions of my Mom make it likely that there will still be some in the next generation who react negatively and with fear to news about gay family members or continue to act out of fear of gays, homophobia. But likely many of them will reject what they were taught, the bad example of their elders, and choose to love and to accept rather than to fear and to hate.

I'm 28. I know better now than to depend on my parent's approval for my life, but their strong disapproval is difficult. I know that my Mom doesn't hate me, but the attitude she have scares me and it hurts. But the basic lack of respect and understanding and empathy is what's so difficult. I believe it's because of the Mormon Wall, the ideology of homophobia that is reinforced by culture, practice and doctrine. It's a thick wall to scale and climb. There is the wall of homophobia, and then there are the many Mormons who do not have that kind of attitude. But unfortunately, there are so many that do. I'm not the only one who's been treated like this, even by family.

I'm grateful to each and every one of the people who wrote me and supported me, Mormon and otherwise, telling me they supported my honesty and candor, and my choices. I need to honor them. Honor the people who are too afraid to come out, because they have Moms like mine, or a brother like mine, or grandparents like mine. I have to remind myself, and them, that it does get better. That I have to focus on the positive. And take the negative one step at a time, little by little. I've come to accept that my Mother will probably never change, and my Grandparents certainly never will. It's their loss, people tell me. And it is. But it's a tragedy that I should have to lose at least a lot of my relationship with them over something outside of my control. But if that's the price I have to pay to be true to myself, true to what I believe, and true to whatever future family I may have, then it's one that I'll pay.


  1. Since, according to your mom, you have thrown away your soul you would make a great zombie for Halloween! LOL!

    Hard to be patient. I have a totally homophobic family, which is why I stay in the closet. It gets old at times...

  2. What a wonderfully honest post. I'm sorry that your mother refuses to accept that you can be BOTH gay AND a really good person at the same time; that being gay doesn't automatically disqualify you from goodness. It's hard when the people you love and want in your life just don't have enough respect for you to accept that their life decisions aren't yours. As for "disobeying" your mom, well one of the two of you needs to do some growing up there, and it certainly isn't you.

    Hang in there my friend. Stay close to the part of the family that does accept you. And stay true to yourself. Being miserable just so other people will love you doesn't work - ever. I spent a lot of years trying so I hve a good basis for that conclusion.

    My best thoughts are being sent your way. You are a brave and honorable man. I admire you.

  3. Neal, I like your sense of humor. I guess I'm a zombie now:D

  4. Controller, Thank you. I wish those things weren't exclusive in my Mom's mind, or anyone's else. It's like, well you're an incredible person, just don't be gay.

    You speak wise words. I have come to the same conclusion, that I can't live my life being what other people being who other people want me to be or doing what they want me to do. It doesn't work and it doesn't lead to happiness.

  5. My dad and most of my siblings are the same way. They refuse to talk about "that issue", refuse to read anything about it that might challenge their prejudices, and one sister in particular recently visited my area with her husband and children but never said a word to us about it. My dad says she believes she has a responsibility to "shield her children from that lifestyle and from any contact with anyone who chooses it." Her kids range from 16 to 10. I told him she's got her head in the sand and it won't work anyway, they probably know more about the subject already than she does and are likely to be far more liberal about it. Not to mention that one of her boys already shows signs of possibly being gay himself. Wouldn't that be great karma.

    Anyway, bottom line: I totally understand how you feel. It is their loss. But you live your own life, with integrity and honesty.

  6. Hugs! I'm sad for your mom's reaction, and hopeful for the many other reactions.

  7. Unfortunately, I think the Mormon wall is harder to climb as an adult, not because adults are incapable, but because there's certain expectations in "adult conversation."

    When I came out in my teens to my mom (who is LDS), I remember being vocal about it, all the time, to the point of harassing her. Eventually her main argument was that I didn't seem capable about talking about anything else, that I was letting my sexuality be my main characteristic, that I was obsessed and so on. I remember answering, "No, Mom, it only seems that way to you because this is all I talk about with you because of the way you treat me." And she would ask, annoyed, like an adult to a child, "And how I am treating you?" and I would struggle to articulate general heterosexism, the fact that she assumes certain roles just automatically apply to me just because she believes they should. Really, the whole process was like a calf weaning from its mother, but at the same time negotiating a continued relationship. There was anger and misunderstanding between us, and it became clear to her that I wouldn't be going to church anymore. She tried to guilt me about not being able to be sealed to her, and I was like, "That's not my fault. That's the Church's fault." She would tell me to not talk about this stuff in front of my brother, and I'd hit her with a lecture about how gayness is not contagious, but intolerance is.

    In hindsight, now that I'm nearly 28, I feel like all the belligerence paid off. She's respectful to me and my partner. I feel like I can't change her beliefs any more than she can change my sexuality; there's underlying issues that don't hurt because we've already hashed through them together. I don't mean this to say that it's too late for you and your mom, but IMO, grinding through these differences later in life is harder.

  8. sorry that your mom reacted that way! maybe in time she'll see that you are the same great kid and realize the error of her thinking; there's hope anyway right?! I'm glad you understand that of course there is a God and He loves all people. He is pretty amazing!!