Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ending my estrangement with one of my brothers and grappling with the next major conundrum - Part 2

Back in December I wrote about the very shaky relationship between me and one of my 4 brothers after a long estrangement. And in that post I shared my nagging worries about the challenges I was going to face as a result of that estrangement coming to an end. One of those challenges was the task of informing him and his wife that one of my children is gay. But because of the very different paths he and I had taken during those years of estrangement, I feared his reaction to that news would probably not be good. And I was right.

Like most people, this brother has faced a lot of personal challenges in his life, one of them with alcohol abuse. Thankfully it appears he has beaten this particular demon, but sadly, he had to hit rock bottom, come within a hair's breadth of losing his beautiful family, and seriously damage relationships with various other family members, myself included, before he could begin the climb back up. And even more sad, he still will not admit he had a problem.

My brother did not turn to counseling for help with his problems, he turned to rigid, dogmatic, authoritarian, evangelicalism instead. And from the rubble of a very broken, troubled, alcoholic man, I watched him rebuild himself into an arrogant, judgmental, bible-thumping man who no longer drinks, but preaches. And I am not sure which version I like better. The only up-side to what he is now is that I no longer have to lay in bed at night and pray that he will not get in a car drunk and possibly kill someone.

But slowly, very slowly, the rift between my brother and me began to get smaller. It started with a funeral of a mutual friend where he was forced to speak to me and proceeded from there. But with each encounter I had with my brother came the realization that our relationship was going to be just as painful and uncomfortable as it was before, just in different ways. In fact, I am ashamed to say this, but I was slowly coming to the realization that I could stomach the drunk and slightly more humble brother a whole lot more than I could the arrogant, unyielding man he'd become. His righteousness and complete certitude about everything were becoming more than I could take. All semblance of humility or doubt were completely gone.

But I still felt I had to tell him about our son. My husband and I were done tiptoeing around other people's religous-based hate and bigotry. And this could be no exception. I would tell him and let the chips fall where they may. I truly did not care which way this story ended. I knew that I'd either be pleasantly surprised and a bit ashamed of myself for not giving him the benefit of the doubt or I'd walk away unsurprised by his reaction. And I could easily live with either scenario. So I decided to talk to his wife first. I felt I owed her an explanation of my reactions whenever she'd turn our conversations toward the bible and her brand of religion. I needed her to know why I had an almost pavlovian reaction each time she started the bible-thumping (yes, sadly she too turned to the strict confines of authoritarian religious beliefs to get her through the tough times in her life). I needed her to understand that the bible she looked to and studied for answers to her problems was the same bible that was used as a weapon to demonize and dehumanize our gay and lesbian children. And I wanted to remind her that the bible had been used to justify many terrible wrongs in the past and to at least consider the possibility that this might be happening again in the hard-right evangelical community when it came to the glbt community.

She and I talked for a long time. And I thought I'd made in-roads. I even thought I saw some pain in her eyes when I told her about the many glbt children who are thrown to the streets like trash by their religious families or the many glbt children who kill themselves when rejected by their families and told the bible says they are abominations. I needed her to know that there are many people for whom the bible represents agony and open wounds and not the comfort it so obviously brings her.

When we were done talking. She asked me to let her tell my brother. I could tell she was worried that I would have very little allowance for a wrong reaction from him. And this worried her. She wanted this rift between my brother and me healed. And she knew this situation had the makings of a volatile ending. And she was right. In this situation, I was immovable. He would either accept the fact that our son is gay and love him unconditionally or else whatever fragile chance we had of resuming a healthy relationship was over. For me, there was no in-between. There couldn't be. He was immovable on everything and I was immovable on this. Impasse.

I guess she told him, but weeks went by and I heard nothing. That was not like her. I could only guess that things did not go well. So finally I decided I would ask him the next time I saw him, which I did. We were in a car, just he and I. I waited until there was just 5 minutes left until we reached our destination in case the conversation did not go well and then I asked him. And the floodgates of evangelical talking-points thinly veiled in faux Christian love came flowing out. They were all there: love the sinner, hate the sin; our son's eternal salvation was at stake and my brother was very worried for him; biologically the parts don't fit which can only mean our son's sexual orientation is wrong and sinful; and then my brother capped it all off by saying that he accepted our son, but we were never to bring him around if he had someone with him. And then he was done with that subject and segued seamlessly onto other groups that are damned and going to hell right along with my son: the Catholics, the Lutherans, the Muslims, the Jews, the Episcopalians and well ... you get the picture, everyone whose views don't exactly match his views. Oh well ... I suppose I can take comfort in the fact that my son will have a lot of company in hell.

Needless to say, it is over. I am done. My brother and his wife now know they have a gay nephew. Things did not go well when they learned the news. Their "acceptance" with so many caveats is not acceptance at all, it is judgment and intolerance. But I am not surprised, I pretty much expected it. I don't feel devastated, I don't feel hurt, and I certainly don't feel disappointment, I just feel resigned to the fact that they will not be a part of our lives and we won't be a part of theirs. But I do have to laugh at the irony. We have spent the last 7 years slowly telling our friends and family that we have a gay son. And we were prepared for the worst: lost friendships, lost family, major sadness. But up until we told this brother, the reactions have been quite open, searingly honest, and very loving. Not even a blip in the radar with any of them. And then we tell my "good Christian brother", the one who prides himself in exuding the warmth of God's love and grace, and for the first time in 7 years I felt the scathing judgment and hatred that defines today's James Dobson/Pat Robertson Christian.

I hurt so badly for all those lgbt children who have to call that kind of "Christian" mom or dad, they really don't stand a chance. No wonder so many of them are roaming the streets, homeless and lost, they learned first-hand that "good Christian" love is reserved only for those who fit a very narrow definition of "normal".

And now I will deal with the aftermath of shock anger, hurt, and moving on ---- without him in my life. Share


Anonymous said...

Your son is fortunate to have you. Bless you.

Seething Mom said...

Thank you for your kind words Anonymous, but it is me who is fortunate to have him.