This 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.