246. auroral


Red_and_green_aurorasThe recent engagement with my last few posts has been encouraging. Not in a “look how many comments” kind of way, which would be a silly measure of one’s self-worth and I’m too reflexive for that shit. Rather, it’s because of the reason I started writing in the first place, to hopefully help someone maybe similar to me feel less alone, or understood, and I’ve felt that being accomplished recently.

Looking back, it’s hard to say if that would’ve made a difference to pre-2008, pre-coming out David, if reading about someone else’s struggle to find authenticity might’ve given me the strength and courage to come out earlier.

I have mixed feelings about this.

On the one hand, I’d like to think that he was the same person I am now who (like Dorothy stuck in Oz) always had the power to break free.

… on the other, why didn’t he? We do have more gay people coming out now in 2015, whereas in 2008 it was still a relatively rare thing, something only those who lived in large urban centers with large (and insulated) queer populations, LGBTQ activists who were prepared for violence and bigotry, and the very privileged could do.

Now everyone and their mom is coming out, and it gives people like me who felt conflicted about their duty to God and family the courage to be themselves.

So maybe it simply wasn’t possible for the David of 2008 to come out any sooner.

This is why I don’t play the “what if” game.

On Monday afternoon I read to my therapist an excerpt of the email my dad sent me on July 13th:

… I/we (your family) don’t expect you to be static. We are not static either… It sounds like you think we don’t change, but in small ways we do, all the time. We just want to know who you are regardless of who that is. Sure, we wish things and you were different, but they’re not…

For me/us there does not have to be a shared future. We just want a future with you. From my vantage point, it looks like you’re the one who does not want to be part of our lives… We don’t understand why you feel so intense a need to erase the past or put it behind you. We are all made up, like trees, of who we were, who we are and who we’re becoming. Seems to me that gutting the tree leaves you less a tree and a weak one at that.

He still hasn’t responded to my reply, and at this point it seems unlikely that he will.

She immediately said: “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear the bit about the trees because that’s just so far out there, I don’t even know what to do with it.”

But she echoed my assessment of it being a tone deaf response to genuine concerns I’ve had about my relationship to the family—that he doesn’t see how radically different we are; that our being together is contingent on my self-censoring in ways that they would find persecutory were they asked to do the same; or that the religious upbringing they provided was deeply damaging.

Overall, she thought it was the latest in a series of positive steps forward.

  • Throwing myself a half-birthday party (something I’ve been violently opposed to for the last decade) a few weeks ago and actually having friends enthusiastically show up.
  • Actively rebuilding my community with wonderful, authentic people and getting involved with groups and Sunday Assembly and YogaQuest.
  • Finally going to grad school for something I’m passionate about rather than continue on in dead-end jobs.

Now I’m taking a more active role in setting boundaries with my parents, which at this stage means perhaps permanently distancing myself.

She also reiterated how much I’ve got going on right now, between work, school, and my efforts to rebuild my life and recover from religious trauma. So it’s doubly important to note and to celebrate these accomplishments; that I’m actually making forward-moving progress.

She also noted how many positive things I was saying about myself, compared to the usual mode of beating myself up and only pointing out the negative.

That’s not to say that I’m not experiencing negative thoughts. Maybe it’s depression that amplifies those views, and maybe I’m coming out of a cycle into a more positive mindset. These things tend to go that way. It’s something that’s easy to forget, particularly when things are going well.

The thoughts are still there that my parents and their hateful religion damaged me beyond repair; that if people could really see how broken and fucked up I am that they’d abandon me in an instant; that the repressive and performative environment I grew up in made me incapable of ever truly accepting love and of being in a relationship; that I came out and am effectively starting over too late in life to find someone.

So those ideas are still lurking in the dark corners of my mind, like the Vashta Nerada. Just stay out of the shadows…

Rather, I’m choosing to approach each step forward like a scientific experiment. A few weeks ago, I decided to test the theory that people genuinely like me and would want to celebrate my birthday with me. I sent out Facebook invites, and lo, over two days twenty-four (of forty-two invited) of my friends came to the event.

It’s not conclusive by any means, but the results from that experiment were quite promising.

Fact is, I’ve done plenty of exploration of the negative emotions connected to my past. Now it’s time to start exploring the positive ones—the ones that will allow me to experience and internalize acceptance, love, belonging, and joy. Fear, doubt, and suspicion had their chance and made a mess of it.

Fuck that.

So I’m taking it one experiment at a time, knowing that integration may be as easy to spot as the line between colors on the spectrum.


8 thoughts on “246. auroral

  1. “The thoughts are still there that my parents and their hateful religion damaged me beyond repair; that if people could really see how broken and fucked up I am that they’d abandon me in an instant; that the repressive and performative environment I grew up in made me incapable of ever truly accepting love and of being in a relationship; that I came out and am effectively starting over too late in life to find someone.”

    I didn’t have the experience of fundamentalism (oh so thankfully), and in place of “that I came out” I would place for myself, “I found myself and stopped apologizing for being the wrong kind of woman,” but the idea of that paragraph? You read my mind. You *do* help me feel less alone and understood. I’m glad you write.

    • David

      That’s so good to hear, Manda!! It speaks to the power of authenticity to speak through text and bring people together. This reminds me a bit of the universality of a show like Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Even though I’ve never had a botched sex change operation, I can still relate to the feeling of carrying hurt and scars, feeling malformed and broken, and of longing for acceptance. The world could use more us of who carry our emotions on our sleeves. 🙂

  2. Superb. Oddly enough (or perhaps not) that sounds very similar to my own experiments. I’ll never forget my shock and awe at the notion people might actually think I was worthwhile. As soon as I was outside of the familial hierarchy I realized everything that what had been attributed to me was about the hierarchy and not actually about me.

    This is the point where the chains start falling off. That’s not to say it’s all over- it ever is, but this is the beginning of something very important.

    Where your father is concerned, that’s really up to you. If you think trees are bad, I’ve had waves, sand, clouds- you name the bad metaphor, I’ve had to read it. It happens once a year, usually on my birthday. The subtext is some variety of me being a bad person for refusing to play along with their hierarchy.

    • David

      Do you think that sense of alienation with our families as children is universal, or does it tend to be localized within certain communities or families of a certain (perhaps patriarchal?) mindset? But dealing with that brand of emotional manipulation does not sound pleasant.

      • It’s considerably more intense in patriarchal structures. When my partner and I were first together he thought I’d been exaggerating until he realized I’d actually been minimizing it all because I was embarrassed.

        Being kind of part of his family is when I realized other types of family structures actually existed. I was 22 and had been sure most families were like mine, and just hid it as well as we did. Smiles, kindness, dinner-parties.

  3. Just wanted to add that one of the first people to visit me when I moved to this new house was a cousin. A well-meaning person, but still someone who’s consumed by that familial social structure. The entire visit turned into a competition I hadn’t signed up for.
    “The house may be magnificent, but you’re not outside Paris ‘like us’.”
    “You’re doing well, but we….”
    Everything led back to the re-establishment of a system that comforted that individual’s ego. Unfortunately that’s usually the case because people aren’t at ease with breaking patterns that allow them to feel some measure of superiority.

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