268. deliquesce


birthday-cake-on-fire-fire-and-ice-the-birthday-hepivk-clipartThis past Sunday was my mother’s birthday.

Her 65th birthday, to be exact.

Unlike many gay men, I don’t have a particularly close relationship with my mother. Ironically, of all our immediate family members we’re probably the most alike (aside from my youngest sister), so naturally there was often a lot of conflict between us.

The last interaction I had with her was in May of 2014, just after I’d purchased a new pair of glasses thanks to the reforms of the ACA (a.k.a., “Obamacare”). She commented on them one evening, and when I told her how I’d managed to procure them, she made a snide, “joking” remark to the effect of: “You’re welcome since my hard-earned tax dollars paid for your socialist health insurance glasses.”

This is the same woman who once went on an extended rant about how Michelle Obama is conspiring with companies like FitBit and Nike to collect our private health data so that the government can dictate to us what we can and can’t eat, how we should exercise, etc.

I don’t think I’ve ever told my mother to fuck off, but I came close that evening.

Last night I was going through some PDFs in my Downloads folder and came across a document containing the email exchange that took place the night that I was outed to my family. Reading through those messages brought back some intense memories.

Because there are still days when I wonder whether or not I’m being the unreasonable one in deciding to cut my parents out entirely. They do love me, in their own way, and no doubt they miss me.

Then I re-read those emails and was reminded of exactly why they’re not in my life.

For new readers, I came out in August of 2008, and was outed to my parents on 16 November 2009 via an anonymous email, which turned out to be from a friend of my first boyfriend who was furious with me for having broken up with him in October.

What followed in the hours after their receiving it was a series of replies (that, I admit, grew increasingly hysterical on my part) concerning who sent the email, who they’ve told, who knows, etc.

This was a big deal at the time because I was actively involved in the music program at the church we attended, and I was also teaching piano lessons at a Christian music academy, so my employment could’ve been jeopardized.

In one email, my mother commented:

We are sad that you have chosen to go against God’s design, but we love YOU. This isn’t any different than your anger or any other sin—sin is just choosing your own way rather than God’s. Does He love you any less? No—you are His creation. Do we love you any less? No. … In fact, it kind of feels as if you’ve spent your life trying to do something to make us not love you. We’ll be here when you’re ready to talk.

This is what makes it difficult to parse the emotions here. On the one hand, they aren’t spewing hate speech, which is good. However, there are so many dog whistles in that one paragraph: homosexuality is a choice, it’s a sin (like murder or drug addiction), God intended you to be heterosexual.

Also, you’re to blame for feeling alienated from us.

I wrote in one reply:

… [One] of the biggest reasons why I’m [angry much of the time is] that I can’t be myself around you all and be accepted, and [I’ve always cared about that]… [it bothers me that you seem to be] assuming the worst about me… that [you’d automatically think] I’m living like the rest of the world…

I’m angry because I’ve had to hide all these years and keep walls up to keep you all from [finding out and] attacking me.

In another exchange of messages, my mother expressed dismay at my stating that I’d felt uncomfortable before talking to them about my sexuality, that online dating is “SO very dangerous, so we are concerned for your safety” (because gay men are sexual predators, riddled with AIDS/all STIs), and that I should be talking to a “godly counselor.”

Here’s another part of how she responded the next day:

I can understand why you wouldn’t like women—I don’t like the woman I was when you were younger either. But you can’t let the Enemy keep you in that place so that you see all women that way, you know? … Do you think that you’ve allowed your emotions to control your thinking, rather than letting the Word influence you thinking so your thinking could influence your emotions?

So the reason I’m homosexual is because she presented such a terrible model of femininity that it turned me off to women completely? That I was lured into this “sinful lifestyle” by secular, Satanic notions of, what, moral anarchy?

In another email she suggested that gay Christians who write about revised scriptural interpretations on homosexuality have fallen victim to “Satan’s counterfeit of God’s Truth”and that “it depends on whether you want to know what God thinks or to feel better about the path you’re on.”

There were a lot of words sent back and forth during those two days, and there’s also family history that complicates things further.

Bottom line is that, to this day, my parents refuse to revise their views on my sexuality. It’s easier to put that safely away in a box, pretending that my sexuality is somehow detachable, unlike theirs, which is integrated.

It’s not so much the blatant ignoring of my sexuality that is bothersome. It’s the stolid, willful exclusion of all my sexuality represents: finding a partner, introducing him to my family, our parents meeting, getting married, navigating the choppy waters of where we’ll spend holidays.

These parts of myself are not disjunct. They can’t pick and choose which ones they’ll interact with.

It’s sad but clear which path they’ve chosen.

One that doesn’t include me.

15 thoughts on “268. deliquesce

  1. “This is what makes it difficult to parse the emotions here. On the one hand, they aren’t spewing hate speech, which is good.”
    Well, that really depends on interpretation. What your mother is doing is borrowing from that Oh So Ridiculous (religious) philosophical trope: Love the sinner, hate the sin. Utter garbage which was carefully crafted for no reason other than to make a proponent of discrimination, marginalization or hate itself, shield themselves (and their religion) from being labelled hateful.
    That’s married to a rather salient passive aggressiveness. She sets up the dynamic of your interaction in a way which implies not only that you’re substandard, but also that she/they are superior to you. Interestingly that’s also borrowed from religion. If you do something well, it’s to the credit of god/church/parents, if you do something they consider “bad”, then that’s exclusively your responsibility. That mindset underpins the worldview of those who share in it. In essence that means that treating you differently (better) would automatically call into question her life choices. How likely is that at 65?

    • David

      You’ve decoded the language perfectly. It took me years to be able to see through the mental games my parents and those in their community play. You’re exactly right–she and my father have both set themselves up as the superior, spiritual Christians. They don’t see it that way, of course. They see it as having had their eyes opened by God, that they’re “spirit controlled” and therefore qualified to arbiter and diagnose. It’s arrogance though, masquerading as benevolent altruism. How many people were tortured this way in the Middle Ages “for their own good”?

  2. Violet

    Parents said: “In fact, it kind of feels as if you’ve spent your life trying to do something to make us not love you.”

    Interesting how you didn’t address the sentence above, which struck me as the most harmful. Those words pack so much blame onto you, but it clears themselves entirely of wrongdoing. This is not a mutual, mature relationship where each party is considering how they contributed to the dysfunction between you. God has exonerated them and Satan has control of you; I can’t see how you could possibly build a healthy relationship under such a setup. How typical of the religiously devout…but then God commands they chose Him over their family. And they did. 😦

    • David

      That’s the sense that’s been building over the last couple of years. It’s not so much an actual relationship that I long for with them as it is the idea of one, of what that bond between parent and child is supposedly supposed to look like. It’s always been abusive though, as long as I can remember. They didn’t see their first responsibility as being to us. Like Abraham, they put God ahead of the well-being of their children: or rather, their beliefs about God, humanity, life, death, sin, etc. Hell, they saw Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering as example, as something to admire, a foundation on which to pattern their parenting. And, of course, we didn’t see that as abusive or toxic, because after all, “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20), where Christ will wipe away all of our tears (Revelation 21:4). It’s amazing what horrors you can justify by buying into that construct.

  3. Paul Douglas

    I would still be very upset about those email exchanges, if there had been no movement towards growth on their part in the last 8 years.
    You may have seen this and may not find it applicable, but I’ve always loved this video from Dan Savage:

    • David

      I love that Dan Savage video. It’s actually what got me thinking about setting a timeframe for my parents in the first place. I basically gave them two years, starting from November 2009. There was actually a long stretch from December 2011-March 2013 where we had no contact at all. My then boyfriend (we’d started seeing each other in June of 2012) had been encouraging me to reconnect with them, and it wasn’t until he and I broke up in February of 2013 that I reached out to them again. But it was immediately apparent how different my parents and I were, in virtually every way. Our visits became increasingly infrequent, and in June of last year I decided to cut off contact for good. The most they’ve moved in all this time is to acknowledge that maybe homosexuality isn’t a choice, that it’s something you’re born with–but homosexuals are still expected to be celibate their entire lives if they don’t want to burn in hell for all eternity.

      Nearly seven years and that’s how far they’ve moved. Glaciers move faster than that.

      At this point those email exchanges have become historical artifacts from what feels like the distant past. They’re reminders of how belief twisted my parents’ love for their children.

  4. David

    Yeah, it’s real upsetting. I’m starting to think that maybe dissociation is my superpower. You’ve probably seen this from going through your own journal entries, but it’s breathtaking to look back and realize now how much they speak in Christianese, and how much of their thinking they allow to be done for them by the church. Fuck that.

  5. I think you have to be a little more understanding of your mother. She grew up her whole life being told God’s word and stuff was the only way. She could of cut you off instantly. Yes she is patronising you with her “be a better Christian speech”, but it’s all she knows. Yes maybe at first she would ignore your sexuality, but I feel like with time she could maybe accept it in her own way (could take years). This might sound very stupid and annoy you, but I think the main person who has an issue with your sexuality is you. You should give your family another chance, but remember you are asking a lot from them, I know to us we feel it should just come naturally, but those who have been brought up with religion really have a different mindset. It doesn’t mean they can’t change though.

    • David

      You couldn’t know this, but both my parents converted in their mid-20s, and their upbringings were largely secular. They came to Christianity with all the fervor and passion of the “redeemed.” Believe me though when I say that it’s very unlikely they will ever “come around.” Had it not been for my sexuality to cause me to question the beliefs they raised me with, I would probably still be an evangelical today.

      It’s difficult to fully explain this to someone who hasn’t experienced the insularity of Christian fundamentalism and how truly controlling it is for those within, but suffice to say they view absolutely everything through the lens of the Bible and reformed theology, and believe the Bible was literally written by God and is therefore inerrant. It informs every decision they make, and every feeling and desire that they have. In the words of the apostle Paul (or someone writing in his name), they “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, English Standard Version). These are not your garden variety ignorant Bible thumpers. They have intellectualized their faith to the point of Christofascism. In their view, to be a slave to Christ is the greatest thing there is.

      My parents are not going to cut me off because they believe in spite of all the evidence to the contrary that their god can still get through to me, because their god wants complete sovereignty and dominance over all things in this world, yet they still desire to have influence and sway over me. They bear with my sexuality because they believe I am spiritually blind, but ultimately cannot accept the reality of it, because it violates the strict gender norms of their society and the teachings of their church, meaning that they can never fully accept me as a person. They’ll forever long that I were someone else (i.e., a heterosexual and a Christian) instead of the person that I am (i.e., a demisexual androphile and an atheist). And because they’re Evangelicals, they’re incapable of giving up their crusade to win my soul for Christ.

      But frankly, they’re asking a lot from me while practicing a double standard of conduct. They’re asking me to censor my own views while they see no problem in being overtly religious and conservative. They threw a huge party for my sister when she got married (two weeks before I came out, actually), but would never do the same for me.

      They have told me flatly that they will never accept that I am attracted only to men, will never accept anyone I date or marry, and will never acknowledge any relationships I am in. Do you really think I should accept this second-class citizen state of affairs when I stand to gain nothing in return?

      • I am sorry you’ve ended up in this situation David. It’s not the worst, but far from the best. I guess anything I say is of little use. But I am that annoying person who has hope, in the most seemingly hopeless situation. I ,too, grew up in the Church so I can relate to that feeling of “everything there telling me is wrong”. It taunted and ruined me growing up. I am only 22, but I feel like life can be super shit, uberrr shit! So I always try and see the best in hardest situations. But

      • David

        Ye gods, twenty-two!? You don’t know how envious I am of you! Ah, to be twenty-two: out, and making all sorts of mistakes when you’re supposed to make mistakes. But seriously, I wish I’d been able to come out earlier. :-/

      • David

        The effort is appreciated, so thanks. 🙂 I’m a realist with a liberal dash of cynicism thrown in, so hope isn’t really my thing. I like to prepare for the worst. Now that I think about it, there’s more than a little of Puddleglum in my character, if you’re familiar with the Chronicles of Narnia. 😉

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