Monday, February 02, 2009

Motherly Troubles

This one's gonna be a long one. I can feel it. Since I last blogged nearly a year ago, I have told everyone in my family. The only person left to tell was my mother, and I tackled that task last August. What a disaster. To be fair, it wasn’t an entire disaster, but I’ve been so frustrated with her ever since I told her – even more frustrated than I was prior to telling her.

It’s not that she has handled the news too poorly. It was difficult for her, but she has held up pretty well. The issue is with my expectations.

My mother has always been extremely close to me. The family always used to (note the past tense) joke that I was my mother’s favorite. A few years ago, that was very true. Now we have an extremely strained relationship that I consistently consider abandoning altogether. Clearly entertaining that thought is immature, but it’s something that goes through my head regularly.

Let me give a few details about my “coming out” to my mother. It started with an email from her:

Hi GM,

It was good to talk to you the other night and hear about your sky diving escapade. Glad you are safe cause it scares me to death to think of jumping out of an airplane even with an instructor or parachute!! I'll leave that stuff to you!!

Last night as I lay awake in bed not able to sleep, I got thinking about you and how much I love you. One time, when we were on our mission, I remember you telling me that my job as your mother was to love you unconditionally. That is not my job, that comes naturally as your mother. From the moment I gave birth to you and held you in my arms, I have had that natural love for you. You were born perfect and whole, every little finger, toe, eyes, ears & nose and perfect little body. You don't know how many times I thanked Heavenly Father for that and still do. I'm so grateful to have you for a son. I have felt a special closeness to you thru all the fun projects we did in your youth and high school. But I realize that my job as your mother was to teach you to love your Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ so that you can return to him someday. I'm not sure I did that. I realize now that I didn't express my love & testimony to you of the Savior & Heavenly Father like I should have and how important the Gospel and family are in my life. The most important thing in my life is my family and having an eternal family by living the gospel. It took a mission for me to really understand the truthfulness of the Gospel. I was able to receive my personal witness of all the things I had believed all my life. I know that you once had a testimony of the Book of Mormon and gospel principles. I felt it as you returned home from your Mission. You have so much talent to be a great force in teaching and helping others. I hope you will use that talent in doing good and in living the way you should.

I hope you know I love you, GM, with all my heart, but my heart is broken over your choice to live the way of the world. I hope you will come back, just as you asked if Tim was coming back. That is so important to me. In the Book of Mormon, Alma was always counseling his sons to "Remember, Remember". In Alma 37:35-37, he gave some very wise counsel on remembering and I hope you will read it because it is wise counsel for us all. I hope you will remember where your blessings have come from all your life. You once wrote in letters that you couldn't believe how blessed you were. GM, you have had more opportunities and blessings than any of your siblings. Remember where they came from. You have had so many blessings come to you thru your Heavenly Father, don't forget them! I hope you will know that I write this because I love you and want you as my son now and thru all eternity. I love you.

Love,
Your Mom

My response to her email:

Dear Mom,

I love you so much. I am so grateful that I have you as my mother. I do not know a kinder, more patient, more humble human being on God's great Earth, and I can only hope to become half the person you are. You're an absolute angel, and I think that's why I've always been such a mama's boy -- I simply love being around angels. Plus, not only are you sweet, but you're also fun. Many of my fondest memories are of you and me laughing together. I, too, have always felt especially close to you, and because of your love I've always striven to make you proud.

But I've failed on one front. And I know that your heart is broken over me. I want you to know that you've been a perfect mother in the Gospel. I know that God smiles down on you for the job you've done as a parent. You taught me the Gospel, and I've always known how you feel about Heavenly Father, the Savior, and your family. You didn't fail to teach me these things -- on the contrary, you taught them every day in word and in deed. You simply could not have done more to teach me these things. I hope and pray you find peace in this because you're a wonderful mother -- always have been and still are.

But, at some point, your children will make decisions you disagree with or dislike. I've made unpopular decisions, and I want you to know that leaving the church wasn't an easy decision for me. I have very fond feelings for the church and for the principles it espouses. But, mom, there are reasons why I am no longer active. For years I was internally conflicted, trying to reconcile my emotions with church doctrine. Because of you and the family, I stayed in the church and on the Mormon path; however, after much thought and prayer, I made a decision to go with my feelings. I know it's hard for you, but I feel good about my decision. I feel peace. I actually feel that God is OK with my decision.

Unfortunately, you've never asked for the reasons. I've always felt that you know why, but that you're afraid to confront it. Perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps you sincerely have no idea why I might choose to walk a different path. Either way, I think we should discuss these reasons sometime very soon. I want to be completely candid and honest with you about my life. I've always feared that your heart's not strong enough to handle it; otherwise, I would have talked to you long ago.

In any case, this is a conversation that would be better suited for the phone. Let me know when you're ready to talk -- hopefully sooner than later.

I love you.
GM


A few days later, she and I connected on the phone. The conversation needed little preface. I told her that I wanted to discuss why I am no longer active in the church, and then I proceeded to tell her about my sexuality. She listened, and I asked her if she had known. She said my father told her about 6 months prior.

Our conversation was a little intense at one point. She was suggesting (as my family has all suggested) that my sexuality was caused by gay porn. I was enraged at this un-crushable rumor, so I told her to never suggest that to me ever again. I even threatened to cut ties all together if I heard such an insult repeated.

One other highlight: She wanted to make sure I was still saying my prayers, going to church, abstaining from alcohol, etc. I told her, “Mom, you’re missing the central issue here: I have physical relationships with men. All that other stuff is not keeping from being a good member of the church. My sexuality prevents me from being a good Mormon. Let’s focus on the core issue.” Turns out, the phrase “physical relationships” was too descriptive (story to come).

Overall, our conversation went fine. We both walked away a bit sad and frustrated with the situation, but our talk was pretty cordial and smooth. She was certainly still clinging to hope that I would abandon my sexuality, decide to abstain from intimacy all together, and return to the church. It’s amazing how activity in the church trumps all. My parents would be MUCH happier if I were living a dual life – wife and kids on the outside, male encounters on the side. So long as they didn’t have to know about it. (That might be an unfair assessment, but that’s how it seems to me.)

Fast forward to Thanksgiving. I return home, but I had to work a ton (because of meetings the following week), so I didn’t spend much quality time with them. Found out later they perceived me as “distancing myself.” Sigh. Besides that, the week went fine. At the end, I did get annoyed that my brothers wouldn’t play games with the rest of the family, so I took off without saying goodbye to those three brothers. An immature move, for sure. Chalk that up to my list of regrets relative to my family.

Then comes Christmas. I went home again. This time I had tons of time with my parents. The other sibs couldn’t make it to my hometown, except for one brother. The night before Sunday, my mother asks if I am going to church. I tell her that I wouldn’t be able to go. I explained that I was profoundly disappointed and frustrated with the church’s involvement in Prop 8, and this was my small way of protesting its actions. Very very small way.

She immediately launched into a defense for the church. Absolutely no sympathy shown to me. None. But she sure had a ton to say on behalf of the church. I remained civil and disagreed with her on every point. We moved on to other topics, which were equally frustrating, and then we returned to Prop 8.

At this time, my brother comes up stairs and says, “What’s going on? Is GM blaming the church for Prop 8? You should blame the blacks and Mexicans for losing Prop 8 – not the church.”

I was already pretty worked up because of the nature of this conversation, but my brother’s comment made my blood boil within a split second. I lost it.

“Are you kidding me? Seriously. That’s what you have to say to me right now? Go to fucking bed! This is precisely the reason I hate coming home, because I have to deal with asshole comments like that. I’m done with this.” And I left the room.

My mother ran after me, apologizing for my brother. “You know he means well. He loves you. Blah blah blah.” She was doing her motherly duty, again. But, again, it comes across as my mother seeing everyone’s side but mine. I explained why his comments were completely inappropriate, and then I addressed the main issue I’ve been having over the past year.

I resent my mother. And I told her that. I love her, but I absolutely resent her. This woman, who loves me so much, and whom I love so dearly, is incapable of showing empathy. That’s clearly a biased statement and untrue, but that’s how I perceive it.

I told her, “Mom, I resent you because you know me so well, you care for me, you worry for me, yet you have never said to me, ‘wow, that must be hard’ or ‘I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through this’ or ‘I’ve never thought about it from that perspective.’”

All I hear is her defending the church, my family, and the whole Mormon perspective. I just want her to acknowledge that I am a reasonable person who makes logical decisions. I want her to recognize that I took more than a decade to make this decision. I want her to acknowledge that the struggle was very difficult for me. I want to hear from her that she can’t understand how I feel (because she can’t), and that she is sympathetic to my situation. That’s what I want to hear.

Her reaction: “You can’t expect me to accept this.” What does that even mean? I have no idea. (She even repeated that statement numerous times throughout our conversation.) I’m not asking for her to carry rainbow flags in parades. I’m simply asking for empathy, and I don’t feel any from her. Does that mean she hasn’t shown me empathy? No. But perception is reality, and I do not perceive any empathy.

When I put it to her that way, she gave me the courtesy “I do feel bad for you” talk. Of course, she’s quick to follow up with the “you know where I stand” talk, which nullifies everything she said previously. She even went so far as to ask if I would start reading the scriptures again and going to church and living the church's teachings.

That’s the whole problem. I know where she stands and what she believes. I don’t need her constant reminding. I don’t need her perspective on homosexuality or the church. I know it. I lived it. I’m over it.

She then launches into her big “it’s my fault your gay” talk. Again, back to my mother. It’s so ridiculous how my sexuality always comes back to her. I have told her countless times that she was a perfect mother and taught me everything perfectly. She did. She was a perfect mother growing up. But now she blames herself for all her children’s faults and alleged “sins.”

I explained that she needed counseling. I insisted that she needed counseling. I offered to pay for said counseling. She refused. “I’m fine. I don’t need counseling. I’m fine.” That was her mantra for the night. I told her I needed counseling, too. My expectations with my family are clearly overboard. I want too much and I expect too much. It’s not fair to them. All I ever think about is abandoning them. I know that’s a ridiculous thought, and I don’t really want to do that, but that’s what I think about all the time.

Who knew I would get to this point. I was discussing my situation with friends, and I realized that I’m lucky. I live in this beautiful bubble called “San Francisco.” In this bubble, being gay is no big deal. People don’t think about it. It’s completely normal. It’s just another trait to describe a person. Then I leave the bubble and go to another bubble called “Utah.” (It’s not fair to clump all of Utah together, but it fits the analogy, so I’m keeping it.) In Utah, being gay is weird. It’s different. It’s sinful. It’s a really hard thing for my family to deal with. I’m not used to people treating it that way, so I immediately get annoyed with people and situations. I end up in emotionally intense conversations with family members. It’s just not pretty. I need counseling.

I suggested to my mother that she and I take a “break” ... avoid each other for a few months to figure things out. That suggestion was apparently the worst thing I could suggest. She lost it. She started crying so intensely that I immediately backpedalled on the suggestion. She “couldn’t handle” that. It was frightening to see her react that way.

I walked away from the conversation feeling the same way I usually feel after a conversation with my family – questioning whether the convo did more good than harm. It’s so hard to tell.

Before I forget, during the convo, I asked my mom if we’d ever get to a point where she could ask who I’m dating. She said maybe eventually, but she doesn’t want to hear about my sex life. I was caught off guard entirely.

“Huh? Why would I tell you about my sex life? Who do you think I am? Don’t you know me better than that?” Those were my immediate questions.

“Last time we spoke about this, you told me too many details about your sex life,” she responds.

Because I was very cautious with my words in our previous conversation, I knew exactly what she was referring to.

“Mother. I told you that I had ‘physical relationships’ with other men," I said matter of factly. "Nothing about that phrase is detailed or graphic. I simply used it to make a point, and apparently it worked.”

She felt it was too much information. I agreed to never mention it again. Sometimes I feel that I’m demanding too much; other times I feel like I make far too many concessions. That’s so ridiculous that I can’t even hint to the reality that I have sexual relationships with men. I have no plans on giving details. Sheesh.

Anyhow, I do feel a little better now that I’ve gotten this down in writing. The truth is I don’t know what to do. I think I do need therapy to figure this out. It’s just not working for me. I am actually beginning to avoid conversations and interactions with my family members, and I hate that I am doing that. Clearly I have let my feelings build up to an unhealthy state. My goal for 2009 is to find a way to have positive relationships with my family. I have to figure it out. I’m pretty sure I will, and the answer might be time. Time heals all, right?

14 Comments:

Anonymous Debs said...

Hi GM :)
My heart goes out to you greatly, instead of just one conflicting turmoil to deal with you have two! I hope that in some way you find peace in your heart and mind. I hope your family do too. Most of all, I hope that no matter what you keep the Lord close to you all your thoughts, feelings and actions...and by that I mean, let Him still be there for you. He wont take away your free agency but I know He will help you all you allow Him to.
I have a young friend, he too is gay and has been for a long time. He converted to the church, digressed to live the gay life for a while then went back to the church. He is still struggling day after day now and just a week ago his mum died. My heart aches for him as it does for you. Yes i'm an active Lds, no i'm not struggling with gay feelings (sorry for being candid but lets face it, its often the best way to be?) and I have a cousin gay too. I'm far far from preachy on the subject!
However, I just want to be a stranger in the crowd that tells you that you sound like a decent person, you sound like you are mature, you know yourself well, good and bad and the fact you are trying so hard to be compassionate with your family who dont understand you just yet, makes you to be an amazing person.
I have no wise words of wisdom but i just wanted to send you some love and say 'dont give up on your family, all will be revealed in time, but for now, let them come round in their way and somehow the Lord will take care of things for you all'.
Good luck GM, keep smiing and keep knowing you are still a son of God and He STILL loves you!! ;)

Debs

4:19 AM  
Blogger MoHoHawaii said...

I wish the LDS Church had just stayed out of Prop. 8. It is causing so much division and strife within families. (I have recent blog post about my own trip to Utah.)

My advice is to let your mom be her and let you be you. In other words, don't expect much change from her, but at the same time be very true to who you are when you speak to her. If you let go of the need for her to act in any particular way, you free yourself. It frees her to process her feelings as well. Stop the tug of war.

I have a lot of compassion for your mother. You've had a lot more time to get adjusted to your situation than she has had. She clearly loves you a lot, but her religious beliefs tell her that you are committing unspeakable acts. This causes tremendous cognitive dissonance, since you don't seem like an ax murderer. More importantly, it is socially embarrassing in Mormon culture to have a gay child. Her peers at church may well be using this against her. Unless she is unusually independent minded, she will care very much what the neighbors and extended family think. There's a social shame factor going on here. It's no wonder she's distraught. Plus, reading between the lines, it seems as if she may be dealing with her own sexual repression (this accounts for the extreme squeamishness about what you may or may not do in bed).

This is a tough situation and who knows how long it will go on. No matter what happens, remember that you are only responsible for your half of this relationship.

Anyway, that's my two cents worth, viewing this situation from the outside.

6:35 AM  
Blogger El Genio said...

This is a really tough situation. I can imagine my parents reacting in a similar way when they find out. I'm 100% positive I'll get the return to righteousness letter, and I often wonder if things will ever be the same. *sigh* I hope things work out for you.

9:37 PM  
Anonymous Scott said...

WOW.. sorry you went through all this. I am surprised your siblings aren't more accepting. It was my siblings who got my mother over the hump through many conversations about who I am. I am lucky now because she knows I didn't make this gay decision nor did she cause it. (both of these were mantras for awhile) She still believes the church is perfect but some of the leaders are misguided regarding this issue. We mostly don't speak about it anymore. Good luck to you... you are in a much better place than you were 6 months ago!

4:43 PM  
Blogger David said...

The Velvet Rage, by Alan Downs.

Read. It.

Hope you are well.

10:36 PM  
Anonymous Pete said...

GM,

Mom's do tend to take the blame... and not want to hear 'details.' It's funny how much of my coming out details came back. My mom was a 60's hippie, with lots of gay friends and all the things you normally associate with hippies. When I came out she cried - and I was like "are you kidding?" Well, about a year later, We're talking while she's visiting and I mention a boyfriend or something and she became VERY uncomfortable. I said to her "You've had gay friends since High School, what's the big deal?" and her reply was "they never talked about it."
It seems to me part of denial is generational. Each generation thinks the next is too loose and liberal. Also, just as we don't generally like to think of our parents having sex, they don't want to think about us having it either. And even my mom, who comes from a generation of "free love," can't handle hearing me talk.. weird. (side note - she's over all that, came to my wedding and LOVED IT! but that took over 10 years.)
Hope it helps.

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

GM, I am struggling with homosexuality and am LDS. i actually was searching for gay mormons, and your blog came up. I was actually led to an old blog post. it was about your abstinence from masturbation and pornography. i felt so much joy in that post. i have the same feelings that you had. i try and fall and try and fall. but i dont fail, because i never give up. Sometimes I question God, "Why me?". and i get an answer. we fall so we can learn to pick ourselves up.

I just read this depressing post. You gave up on what, before, you felt so strongly of. I'm 15. I just read your blog, and realized that i have the same feelings and hopes, and struggles as you. I wonder to myself if things will ever be better. i say to myself that life would be better if i just gave in. to be honest, i did for a while, it felt good, but it always felt a bit bad.

I know that God doesnt want me to give in. I am a son of God. I know that the greatest joy I've had was when I kept God's laws and commandments.

Sometimes I doubt the church. I think that God is okay with me choosing to live a gay lifestyle. But what gives me strength is my Patriarchal Blessing. It clears my doubts. It reaffirms that God loves me personally, He cares for me, He knows my struggles and sorrow, and Christ atoned for my falts, struggles and temptation. I think of how a random man, the Patriarch, could know me so well. Things in my blessing only could've been from God. I know it with my whole. heart.

I understand how you feel. Living the way you want feels good. It feels good. But deep inside, YOU know it doesnt really. It's a fake good.
You might hate my "preachy" post, but I do have empathy. I am struggling. I felt a strong prompting to post this. I just hope whatever you do, pray always. If you find yourself not praying daily, recommit and pray.
You're a stranger, but I will be praying for you. You ARE a son of God.

12:08 AM  
Blogger J.T. said...

While this sounds quite similar to my mother, I must admit that she was at least more patient with you than mine was in regard to the counseling idea. Utah mormons are actually not as strict as the ones in the mission field...I'm sure there are good reasons for that.

A little of my background. I am an inactive mormon from the mission field of the south. My parents converted in the 1960's against the wishes of their own families. My brother, who is straight and married, has shown no interest in the mormons for years. I do not consider myself a mormon anymore nor do I believe the church is true, but the lingering doubts and what ifs still torture me. My parents are now older and very active. I did not come out myself until I was 26.

With mine, if I had argued the point like that she would have blown a fuse. Things actually stayed nasty for a long time, and my boyfriend blames my mother for all the problems I have today. My mother and your mother are similar in their except mine has a vicious temper, and the first 3 years of trying to come out was pretty much war.

I have been in a 3 year relationship with the same guy, and because of my parents being TBM with a hostile, extra intolerant southern twist, I keep him a secret from them calling him just a "friend".

What's funny is that he's not mormon himself, but is going through much of the same with his parents who are baptists (of course, also going to a church well-known for an anti-mormon program lol).

For me, coming from a convert family in the mission field, I didn't click as well into the mormon culture. Nevertheless, I tried...really tried...for about 10 years after I first told them. The emotional trauma it put me through was just not worth it, and I am still in need of years of counseling from the stress and misery it has caused me. It feels like I lost/wasted what should have been the best years of my life. Just try to be strong and not off yourself...God only knows what we go through with this, and I am trying myself to separate religion and Christianity so that I don't end up losing all hope.

3:40 AM  
Blogger MoHoHawaii said...

Hey, it's been a while. How about a follow-up blog post?

1:53 AM  
Anonymous Natasha said...

I completely understand your expectations of empathy. Only seems natural and proper. However, I keep learning throughout my life that expectations make me miserable. I think you touched on this, too, in your post. I was very impressed with your self-insight and honesty. I think you're trying very hard to see where you can do better and very hard to see where your family is doing right. That's so mature and I think probably rare.

I have heard a few times on blogs, different people say that they feel at peace leaving the church and "giving in" to their gay "lifestyle". (Blah. Hate that word "lifestyle".) I think that peace? It's God's love. I absolutely believe it's there, even though I do believe the church is true. I absolutely believe that God is okay with where we're at when we've tried as hard as we can. And he loves us perfectly no matter what (even if we're not trying at all, of course). Even more than our angel mothers do.

Abandoning the church doesn't necessitate abandoning God and I hope you won't do that. Just because he's nice to have around, what with all that unconditional love and all.

I do have an actual piece of advice. It sounds like you're trying to figure out how to get peace about your family, you want to abandon them but you don't, you want to not have expectations but you seem unable to do so because they seem like such logical, reasonable expectations.... Try reading The Mastery of Love by don Miguel Ruiz. I've become a bit of a missionary for it lately. Life changing. Amazing book. And you sound like just the type of person who would appreciate it.

Sorry if my first comment ever here seemed too forward or too disorganised. It's 3:12 am and I'm only up because I am having swine flu sweats.

Bottom line is that I agree: excruciating to be gay and Mormon. I just know that forgiveness will be greater than what most Mormons think. That's the God I know.

Damn. I feel like this comment sucked. Didn't really express what I wanted to.

1:17 AM  
Anonymous Richard said...

Hey,
Not sure if you'll get this, but it was the only way I saw to contact you.

First of all ... I'm an LCMS Lutheran and what you've described about your mother is almost the same thing I'm going through at the moment.

Secondly, and the reason I'm reaching out to you is that I'm working on a fiction book right now and my main character is going to be a gay Mormon. I was wondering if you might be able to answer some questions for me.

I would be happy to give you my email address so we can connect.

Thanks in advance ...

Best,
Richard

6:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, this made me so sad. Your story is all too familiar. I just want to give you a hug and introduce you to my family. I am Mormon, and gay... I came out to my family recently and they have been SO supportive and so empathetic. My mom even told me to bring anyone who has been rejected by their loved ones gay or straight home and that she would be their family.

I am also a filmmaker and am currently beginning some projects to hopefully spread understanding about this whole issue. I hope that one day your family will come around and you can rebuild broken relationships.

jda.moose@gmail.com

4:49 PM  
Blogger Daibhidh said...

I'm not sure how I managed to find myself here but I need to tell you I'm grateful I read this post. It really transcends issues of sexuality and morality and speaks directly to the intimate challenges of family. Thank you for sharing.

11:22 AM  
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1:39 AM  

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