Thursday, March 15, 2012
On Love, Religion and Heartache
Meet my father.
Okay not really. He doesn't look anything like that, but he probably has that sign posted in his living room.
I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me start over.
Although I am not Christian or religious, I was raised in a very strict LDS household and my family still maintains those beliefs. Rigidly. We were the kind of Mormon family that you read about in church magazines, the kind who had scripture study and family prayer every morning, who went to church every Sunday, even on vacation. My dad was bishop. My mom was gospel doctrine teacher. We were all perfect little children sitting neatly in a row (ok...this part is an exaggeration. We were never neatly in any rows. Eight children sitting still all at the same time? Probably not.) Religion is and always has been a huge deal, both in my immediate and extended families. Every family gathering revolved around religion. We prayed at ever meal. We shared testimonies and had devotionals together. We sang hymns at home and had family night every week. Religion was my life. It was how I related to my world and my family. It is what tied us together and gave us something to talk about.
And then the bombs started to fall.
Leaving the church wasn't enough. I had to go off and be gay, too! I was terrified to come out to them. Previous to coming out I had separated myself from the church, cutting that "bond" and dissolving that "common ground." I knew that, according to their beliefs, my being gay was considered evil, sinful, and something that could be cured with therapy, but my desire to share my life with them and to be honest about myself outweighed my desire to stay on "safe" ground and to maintain those relationships on false pretenses. I needed to be me. I didn't want to hide anymore. So out I came!
I told my favorite brother and my mom first. My mom passed the "news" on to one of my sisters and my dad. My dad (bless his stupid heart), felt the need to write me an epistle (not joking. It was 9 pages, single-spaced) detailing the effects of sin and how homosexuality was one of the worst of such sins. He included, at length, descriptions of how homosexuals were possessed by evil spirits of the opposite gender, explaining that that was the reason for their same-sex attraction (my evil spirit is named Brad, if you must know. I'm rather fond of him), and that repentance and turning away from evil are the only cures.
Well, dad, thanks for that.
My mom was a little different. When I said, "Mom, I'm gay," she responded with, "are you?" The kind of "are you?" that you would say after someone just told you they were sick, or that they didn't make the soccer team. It was that tone of voice. I can hardly blame her though. That's a hard topic to dump on someone and expect them to give a good reaction. Although I can tell that my mom is trying, it's not particularly easy with her either. She has asked that I not talk to my siblings about my being gay so that she might educate them "as they mature and have questions." "I will share with the others as I feel they are ready to consider such adult topics," she says. Adult topics? Is loving and adoring someone such an adult topic that kids can't hear about it? My other siblings get to bring their significant others around and can even touch them around the family (which is something I have specifically been asked not to do).
I try not to get angry. I know that this will be a process for my family just as it was a process for me, but where do I draw the line between respecting my mother and respecting myself? I'm not going to sit my siblings down and tell them about gay sex. I'm not going to try to "convert" them to the gay side. It doesn't work that way, I'm afraid. I don't want to fill their heads with "evil" ideas and thoughts. All I want, my only desire, is to be able to share my life with them. I want to tell them how excited I am, how I finally feel at home in my own skin. I want to tell them about how I found love, about how wonderful she is, how much fun we have together. I want to involve them in my life. I want them to be a part of it all. That's it. And the fact that I can't do that has caused a lot of heartache.
Without meaning to, my mom has isolated me, in a way. She is saying that my life, my love is too "adult" for the kids, too evil for them to know about. She has to protect them from me. I can talk about school and the weather and Nintendo games, but not my life. I feel like by restricting what I can share with the kids she is teaching them, without them even knowing it, that my love for another woman is wrong, that I am bad, evil (which, for all I know, is what she believes, so maybe that is her intention.) Wouldn't it be so much easier (for everyone) if she just told them that I love my girl just as my brother loves his girlfriend? Why can't they just grow up with the idea that love is love is love?
I find it a little strange that family is where it seems to be the hardest. Isn't that where the love is "unconditional?" Why, then, do all of my friends support me 100% and love me wholeheartedly while my family struggles? My mom is trying though. I think. She will invite me and my girl to lunch, to family parties (as long as we don't touch each other). She is starting to acknowledge that my girl is not going anywhere, that she is a part of my life. We've even laughed about it a few times. I have appreciated her efforts. They have not gone unnoticed. But I do dream of the day when it will be "normal" to them, when I will be able to show up to a family event with the girl I love and not feel like I have to walk on eggshells. I don't feel comfortable around my family. I don't feel at ease. I watch how the kids play and I LOVE how they love me. To them, I am still just Jo. I am still just their sister, the one they love to play with. They don't care. What does it matter if I'm gay? Will it really change anything for them? All they do is love. And it feels good. But will that change when my mom finally allows me to be myself around them??
I know they are trying (well...some of them), and I know they will have their own process with it all, just like I did, but sometimes I just wish I could tell them to get out of their little "religion" boxes long enough to see that I'm still me. I'm still the daughter/sister/cousin that they adored and loved growing up.
Strange how the thing that used to tie us together, that used to be our common ground, has become the thing that separates us and makes us different.
I can see both sides of this one. Maybe it's because I was raised in the religion that is now causing me to be an "other" to my family? I don't know. I'm sure it will get easier with time (I hope.) I so much want my relationship with my mom back. We used to be best friends. We used to tell each other everything, to confide in each other, to share our lives with each other. Now it feels like I am just another weight on her shoulders, a "problem" that she vents about to her friends.
Of all the relationships that I've lost over the years, I miss that one the most.
This has turned into an unorganized ramble, but I've needed to start writing about it. Forgive the length. Many of the people that read and post on this blog come from similar backgrounds. How is it for you? Share if you want. I'd love to hear your stories and thoughts.