Saturday, May 31, 2008

Excuse me, did I mention that my son is gay?

It has been about 4 years now since we found out that one of our sons was gay. And I am a bit ashamed to admit that there are still people on both sides of our family who still don’t know that our middle son is gay. And this is something that I am starting to feel more and more pressure (self-imposed of course) to change. In fact the pressure has built up so much that I am now having these vivid in-color dreams about what I will say to the remaining people who don’t yet know. And when I start dreaming about something, I know it is time to “get er done”. My subconscious can be quite the nag.

Now I consider these feelings of pressure a very good sign. It signals to me that I have officially crossed over into the “You gotta problem with it? ---- Well tough shit ---- It’s definitely your problem not mine” world --- a place I’ve been striving to reach for quite some time. And now that I am 100% there, I just want to put it out there and let the chips fall where they may. Losing a friendship or even a relationship with a family member is just not going to destroy me, losing my relationship with our son would.

I am very happy to say that in our case, we have thus far been very fortunate. No one has reacted badly. No relationships have been irreparably damaged. No friendships have gone by the wayside. And no family members have chosen to cut ties. But then I didn’t expect problems with the people that we have told so far.

On my husband’s side of the family (all of whom live in Florida), the only person we have told is his one and only sister, her husband, and their two children. There wasn’t even a blip or a pause in the phone conversation when I told her, she was as wonderful and accepting as I knew she would be. But none of my husband’s cousins or their kids knows a thing yet and there are plenty of them to tell. And it is looking like we will be getting an opportunity to change that in just a few weeks when one of his cousins come to visit us in Arizona.

And again, I expect no bad reactions from this cousin. I believe her love for our son to be genuine to the core and who he chooses to love will not change that. But I do have some concerns about some of her children. They are all wonderful people, but at least one seems to have gotten quite religious in the past few years and I fear her new found religiosity may present some obstacles to her acceptance of our son’s sexual orientation. I hope this is a baseless fear, but again, I am prepared for the worst and if it happens, I will be sad, but my son will always be my first priority.

On my side of the family, I have four brothers, no sisters, and my mom. Three of my four brothers know about our son already and it has been a complete non-issue for them. If anything, I think it has made some of those uncle-nephew relationships even closer. And of course, who my son chooses to love does not make one bit of difference to my mother, her love for him is unconditional and unyielding. But telling my fourth brother is an entirely different story. My husband and I made a conscious decision NOT to tell him anything, which hasn’t been too difficult since his relationship with us and the rest of his siblings is extremely strained right now. But the main reason we chose NOT to tell him is that he too has found religion and used it in ways that have actually widened the rift between him and all of his siblings. And on top of all of that, the church in which he has found a home is notorious for its hateful stance towards gays and lesbians. So for now, we have opted to say nothing to this brother for fear of damaging the relationship beyond any hope of repair.

It just breaks my heart that in every instance in which I might have some hesitation telling people about our son, religion is the main reason why I have erred on the side of remaining mum. No one could have convinced me 4 years ago that the biggest obstacles we would encounter to full acceptance and peace within our circle of family and friends would be found preaching sermons of bigotry and exclusions from the pulpits of churches all over the world. History is rife with examples of people using the bible to justify all kinds of hatred and injustice. I guess I just needed to experience it first-hand to realize how truly damaging these supposed “Houses of God” are to families like mine.

But the good news is that I now know the best weapon I have in my arsenal to combat this hatred from the pulpit is my mouth. By opening up and telling people we know and love that one of our children is gay, we put a face on that evil abomination their pious preachers love to demonize in their sermons. And what better way is there to get people to realize that the people they are being urged to shun are actually people they've known and loved their entire lives?



Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm going to play a bit of devil's advocate here. I hope you don't mind.

If your one brother is already so distant and estranged, why bother telling him something so deeply personal about your son? Does he need to know? Does he deserve to know?

I'm glad you're so fiercely proud of your son and that you want to be open and honest about him. (Heck, it's one of the many reasons I wish you were my mom!) But at the same time, one's sexual orientation is a deeply personal thing, and I don't think it always needs to be shared either. Speaking for myself, there are some people I'd rather keep out of that aspect of my life, anyway.

Now I don't understand the the situation in your brother at all, and maybe there are good reasons for you to tell him after all. I can certainly think of a large number of scenarios where I might do so, myself, and I'm sure there are others I haven't imagined yet. In the end, it's your call to make, and I trust you.

But in general, I think the LGBT community as a whole pushes the idea of telling everyone and not being ashamed so much that we forget that there are some scenarios where simply not disclosing such personal information is an equally valid choice and has nothing to do with fear or shame.

Seething Mom said...

Jarred, I love it when you play devil's advocate. You always bring a very well thought out perspective that makes me think about things in another light.

And actually, I do agree with you that there will be people who do not need to know --- ever (and this brother is absolutely one of them). My son's sexual orientation is really just a very small part of who he is.

But in the case of "family" (not including aforementioned bible-thumping brother) I do not like the feeling that we are always having to guard our every word, or steer a conversation away from potential mine fields that might reveal our "secret", or shrink away if we see a gay joke or slur coming, or even lie about things like girlfriends or dating.

I think the main point I wanted to make is that it is no longer a major ordeal when I know that I must tell someone (whom I believe should know), it is a conversation I know I am going to have, and if there is fallout, it won't devastate me, it will just be a reminder that there are people in my life to whom I gave way too much credit.

And just as I would not stand in a line in the grocery store having a casual conversation about my straight son or daugher's sexual orientation, I would not discuss the fact that my middle son is gay.

But your point is absolutely well-taken Jarred. You and I are definitely on the same page.

Jan said...

If you haven't seen Anna Quindlen's latest essay in the new "Newsweek," go over to my blog and go to that link!

elaygee said...

I see my Mom go thru this all the time. Who do I tell the truth to and to whom do I lie? I told her that I could give a damn what they say so she might as well tell them. Everyone has a Gay child or one of their subling's does so its no big deal anymore.