Friday, April 11, 2008

Emotional Exhaustion

My parents returned from their mission recently, which meant that I too needed to return to Utah for a familial visit. As always, it was really fun to see all the siblings, the parents, and the nieces/nephews. And, as always, it was exhausting. I have to admit that this visit was especially exhausting – but from an emotional point of view.

I ended up having two separate 90-minute conversations with family members. Both were somewhat intense, though the one was especially intense. The real kicker is that both conversations were spurred by the word “damn.” That’s right. Damn. Damn word. Word damn.

Let me preface a little bit before I go too far. The first conversation was with my brother who is closest to me in age. That convo was fine, and I’ll address that later. The second, more intense conversation was with my oldest brother’s wife. She and I used to be quite close, but since I disclosed my sexuality to her, she has been quite awkward whenever I’m around her. I feel like she’s trying to be normal, but the resulting conversation just feels extremely forced, and she seems to have a pained look on her face and uncomfortable tone in her voice. She’s really one of the sweetest people on the planet, so please don’t misunderstand me on this. She’s always been uber kind to me, and she always will be. She’s a very good person. Nonetheless, out of all my family members, I’d say she’s the one who is the most awkward since I came out to her. She’s likely pained and awkward with me because all she can think about is how much it will suck to see me in the Telestial Kingdom (sorry for the Mormon doctrinal reference, if you don’t understand it). Essentially she’s in pain because she has strong religious beliefs and she loves me.

So the story begins. The uncomfortable sister-in-law, my brother (with whom I had the first convo), my 16-year-old niece, and I were upstairs playing cards, and the rest of the family was watching television in the same room. All of the other nieces and nephews were downstairs. I happened to lose a hand of cards, so I said, “Damnit.” Now, you need to understand that I have always sworn around my family – for at least the past 6 years or so. This is not a new phenomenon for me, and I am far from being the worst swearer in my family. The entire family is fairly laxed with the “damns” and “hells,” and my other brothers are not strangers to worse words, including but not limited to “shit,” “ass,” “bastard,” or even “fuck.” The last word is fairly limited to my one brother, but still it can be heard from time to time.

After I swore, my sister-in-law called me out on it. She said, “GM, you swore!” I was a bit surprised that she was calling me out, but I thought I would joke it off. I replied, “You must have misheard. I didn’t swear.” I thought it was obvious that I was being sarcastic. Apparently it wasn’t. “No, you swore,” was her response. I rolled my eyes, and kept playing the game.

Later that evening after everyone had gone to bed, my one bro and I were chatting. I asked him how offensive my swearing was. He said that the word “damn” isn’t highly offensive per se, but my sister-in-law didn’t want me to swear around my 16-year-old niece. That’s a fair criticism, and I acknowledged that, but I asked why I’ve never seen her call any other brother out on swearing. I’m more than certain that other siblings have sworn in front of the kids, and she hasn’t been quick to jump on them for it. Perhaps I just haven’t noticed. Anyhow, I told my brother that I felt that maybe I was being singled out. It seems that the family is really watching me, looking for validation that my gay lifestyle is leading me down a slippery slope of evilness (which could be a fair assessment from the Mormon perspective – ha!).

My brother disagreed with my assessment (which truly might be off base), but then he said, “GM, you do swear 10 times more now than you did two years ago.” Now that seemed a little ridiculous to me. Certainly I have increased my swearing to some degree since I began working in a very adult, non-Mormon environment two years ago. Also, I don’t spend a lot of time around kids, so my life is very adult oriented. I would agree that I do swear some more, but I feel 10 times may be an exaggeration. It seems the family is really searching for sins or faults to tackle, since it’s not easy to attack my sexuality, which is the main point of contention. It’s much easier to channel the frustration, disappointment, or anger into the little things that offend them. I honestly feel that this is one of their ways of releasing their feelings.

Anyhow, our conversation progressed, and he asked me what I believed, if I believed in the church anymore. I told him that I loved growing up Mormon, that I feel I gained a solid moral foundation, that I learned the importance of being a good person, but that I have fundamental disagreements with the church and its doctrines. I said that I have no hard feelings, but just generally disagree.

He was actually pretty cool throughout our entire conversation. He was really focused on telling me how much I’ve changed in the past few years (which I’m sure is true to a degree, but certainly not to the degree he is describing). He said he feels that everyone is dealt challenges and temptations, and we can’t just act on them. He illustrated his point with this: he might have urges to sleep with other women, but he knows it’s not right in God’s eyes, so he doesn’t. I agreed with him and said that I’m sure I’ll have desires to cheat on my future partner someday, but that I’m going to do my best to resist that temptation because I agree that a commitment should be respected. I think he was disappointed that I wasn’t taking his illustration the way he intended. Ha!

Our discussion was long and involved, and none of it was heated or crazy. It was very nice, in fact, and I felt fine about the whole thing. I did ask at one point if it would be a sin or wrong for the family to stop hoping I change and instead hope that the church changes its stance on homosexuality. He said that I can only expect that from the family if I am willing to accept that homosexuality is not God’s will once they find a medical fix for it. (He said this in more words and less directness.) I told him that I’ve contemplated the “straight pill” scenario. If there were a pill that I could take that would make me straight, would I take it?

My friends and I have discussed this question often. It would certainly be a difficult decision to make, and I can’t honestly know what I would do if I were presented with a “straight pill,” but at this point I don’t think I would take it. I am very happy with who I am, with where I’m at, with my friends, with my life. Why would I want to change it? Again, a disappointing answer for him.

So that was the gist of his and my conversation. The next day, I was in the computer room looking at my niece’s facebook pictures. She was going through her friends with me, and I wanted to show her my friends. I was doing my best to connect with her because she’s in the 16-year-old attitude phase and is kinda too cool for me and the world. Anyhow, I started going through my pictures, and several of them were fairly gay. Very g-rated, but definitely guys with arms around each other, etc. She asked, in a disgusted tone, “Are they gay?!” I told her, “Watch what you say. These are my friends.” Then she said, “Are you gay?”

I asked if it mattered, and she said it didn’t, so I said, “good” and continued the picture browsing. Again, we ran across two friends hugging. She says, again in a disgusted tone, “Are they gay too?!” I said, “Be careful because these are my friends and they’re really great people. You can’t say it in that tone.” She asked again, “So are they gay?” I finally said, “Yes, they are. I have a lot of gay friends, and they’re all amazing people.” She then said, “You’re gay, aren’t you?” I asked if it mattered, and she said it didn’t, so I said, “Yes, I’m gay.” It was a judgment call, and I came to regret that call.

Fast forward to the next day. I decided to call my sister-in-law because the whole swearing thing was still on my mind, and I was generally bugged that our relationship was so strained. I started by explaining how I felt singled out that she called me out. She explained that she just didn’t want me swearing around the kids, and I conceded that I shouldn’t swear around them, and I agreed that I was going to work hard not to. I also told her she was welcome to call me out on it, as long as I’m not being singled out. She assured me that she has called several other brothers out as well, and I can only take her word for it. She mentioned that I swear a LOT more now (which is funny because I’ve only seen or talked to her two or three times in the past year, but whatever). Clearly my “swearing” is a talking point among the siblings.

I told her I felt our relationship was quite strained in the past year, and I was sad about that because she and I used to be so close (which is absolutely true). I told her I just wanted to clear the air because I don’t want us to dread seeing each other, which is exactly where our relationship is headed. She mentioned how hard it has been for her and my brother to deal with my little revelation, and she said it will just take some time to get used to things.

Then she said (and this is my best summary): “Well, I’m glad you called because you really offended me this weekend. I just found out you told my oldest daughter you’re gay. I can’t believe you would do that. I find it highly offensive and inappropriate that you would do that without consulting me first. This is something that I wanted to be there for, and I can’t believe you didn’t come get me so I could be there or deflect the issue to me and your brother. It’s really not your call to decide when to come out to my children. This is not an easy subject for them, and we really need to be a part of it … etc.”

I asked if her daughter had told her the circumstances under which I “came out,” and she said she understood that I was put on the spot, but felt I should have deflected or avoided the situation altogether (i.e., not shown pictures from my facebook, etc.). I told her that it was a judgment call and that I was really sorry I offended her. It certainly wasn’t my intention to make her life as a parent more difficult. I just don’t want her to think that it’s this big secret or a big deal, because it really shouldn’t be blown out of proportion. I am still the same guy, and one of my traits should not be the only defining factor.

She then said, “I’m especially offended because you asked if you could come out to her, and I told her no.” That’s when I got upset.

“What?! When did I ever ask that? I have NEVER nor would I ever ask for permission to come out to your children!”

“Yes, you asked, I remember.”

“Oh really? Because I have NO recollection whatsoever, and I think you’re creating memories. When did I ask? Where? I need details because I think you’re making this up. Do you really think I would want to come out to your kids? Is that something I’m looking forward to? Do you think it’s fun for me?”

“I don’t know, but I remember you asking.”

“Well, I deny it. And I think you must have misheard or misinterpreted. Perhaps I was joking, or perhaps I asked if you had told her, but I certainly had no desire to tell her.”

That’s where we left that portion. Our conversation progressed to a discussion of beliefs. I told her the same things that I told my brother. She then told me how I needed to really re-consider the church and really give it 100% of my effort. How I needed to really focus on finding out that it’s true because she has found out it’s true, and she knows it’s the only way to be truly happy. I told her how I’m happy she’s happy, but she has to believe me when I say I’m happy too. I tried to explain that I just have some very fundamental issues with the church.

I told her, “I know that we’ll probably never see eye to eye on these issues, and I called to see what I can do to make us feel comfortable around each other. I don’t want us to avoid each other or feel burdened to see each other. I want us to have a solid friendship and family relationship. After all, according to Mormon doctrine, we have only this life to enjoy each other, and so I want to make the most of it.”

At this point, she started crying. So did I. We were crying for different reasons, though. She was crying because I won’t be with her and the family for eternity. I was crying because who I am puts so much strain on my family and our relationships. Just sad all around.

She and I really talked for 90 minutes, and I couldn’t possibly summarize it all right now. The saddest part is that I’m not sure the conversation was even productive. I walked away wondering what I had accomplished. I feel even more awkward about talking to her. Ugh. So depressing that religion effs things up so much (by the way, the word “eff” as in “effing” and “effs” is a swearword in my sister-in-law’s book – it’s off limits).

Other items she and I discussed:

1) How I offended them by bringing my best friend with me when I came out to them. My best friend and I were too giggly and laughy apparently. They found it rude and offensive. I had no idea. I really do feel bad about that. My friend and I were trying to lighten the mood with jokes, and I brought her because I really wanted someone with me. It’s so exhausting having these conversations, especially when you’re outnumbered.

2) My sister-in-law thinks I am gay because I looked at male pornography in high school. I tried not to rip her apart on this one, though I was tempted. Who in the hell thinks that? That’s honestly the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, and it’s embarrassing, sad, and upsetting that certain dumbass family members actually believe this shit. Yes, shit. They claim they’ve read “studies” about it … RIIIIIGHT! Who authored those studies? I guarantee for every study that suggests homosexuality is caused by gay porn, there are ten studies that suggest otherwise. Honestly, I remember being attracted to guys as early as 5th grade. When I finally did look at gay porn in 10th grade, I assure you I was seeking it out on my own free will.

3) My brother is in a sort of depression because of me (and another brother). He feels he has lost two of his brothers. That’s really sad to me. I wish I could help him not feel that way.

4) She can’t hope for the church to change its stance because that would likely lead to apostasy. I hate that about the church – disagreeing with anything (no matter how small) means you’re on the fast track to apostasy. So lame, and so wrong. I know plenty of strong Mormon members who think for themselves, but are faithful members.

5) She’s confident we’ll get through this, despite the struggle right now.

I hope so. It’s just too exhausting for me. But I know I need to be patient and loving, and I know I can’t say I’m surprised that this is a tough thing for the family. I knew it would be. I’m certain that we’ll never see things from the same perspective, so I need to figure out how we can maintain positive relationships, despite our differences.

Long post, eh? I am so tired and I was speed typing this, so excuse the errors.

GM

5 Comments:

Blogger Dave said...

Wow, I feel for you, it sounds like you've been through a lot with your family recently. I'm sure most of my siblings feel the same way as yours but I just avoid getting into any deep conversations because I don't think it would necessarily make a difference in what they believe but I admire you for trying. One of my nephews does know I'm gay and I think he was 8 or 9 when he questioned his parents about me and they told him yes. I was so proud of my brother and sister-in-law for that. I wish all my siblings could be like that but to be fair my sister-in-law has a gay cousin with a longtime partner that they see often which I think makes it easier. Well I'll end this really long comment now but I agree with everything else you said in the post! Take care.

5:50 AM  
Blogger playasinmar said...

"My sister-in-law thinks I am gay because I looked at male pornography in high school... Who in the hell thinks that?"

Didn't you think that? I seem to recall your early posts being about how you knew you were made gay.

You addressed the question of the source of your homosexuality in a more recent post and couldn't recall ever thinking that.

I think that suggests believing in the causation of homosexuality is just one of the steps to understanding the person/yourself.

6:18 AM  
Blogger [kɹeɪ̯g̊] said...

I know well how hard it is to deal with family members who can't look at this issue objectively, and who see anything "unmormon" as evidence that satan has led you astray and that you're not really happy, blah blah blah.

Anyway, good luck dealing with all of this. I think that in time, most members of our families will get used to it. It may take a while, but once they see that we're still the same person we always were, and that we're not snorting coke at orgies, they'll come around.

10:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey GM....
It's been a long time since I checked your blog.... Wow. What a tough visit. I had my share of those although it's been 10 years ago and things have gotten better for me.

2 weeks ago I was visting my family in Utah and I had yet another conversation with my sister mostly about church doctrine. The more I read, the more ridiculus it is. Anyway, my sister went on and on about how she knew my being gay was not a choice, etc., but also indicated I should live the pricipals,....even though I have been with my partner for 15 years and they love him also.

Being frustrated with the dis-connect and how she can continue to espouse the doctrine yet accept me and my partner for the most part, I asked:

My sister has beautiful red hair.

"How would you feel if the church turned it's back on all redheads?... being redhead is part of you just as being gay is part of me."

I then told her that if the situation was reversed and the church was alienating her because of something that was not her choice, because of my love for her, I would not stand for it and would begin to look closely at this so-called church.

I basically called her out, because she clearly loves the church more than she loves her own blood and even though she can do this, I couldn't.

We then got into the brain washing and control, fear, guilt, etc of the church and it's attemt to use these to keep order and control in their organization.

I am now in a place where I am and will always be there for my family, but if they choose to alienate me, then so be it.. it is their decision.

Anyway, good luck with them... you are on the right path!

Scott

7:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish you were my brother in law!

4:16 PM  

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