Monday, March 17, 2014

The Longest Sunday Part 2: the Parents

I’ve really struggled with this post.  It’s been two weeks since I came out to my parents, and in all honesty I’m not sure how I feel about it.  Whereas my bishop was very understanding and compassionate, my parents were much more…orthodox.

Two days before “the talk” I sent both my parents a link to this blog post and this blog post and said “please read these articles; I’d like to discuss them on Sunday when I come over.”  I figured it would be better to give them a heads up about what was going on, partly because I didn’t want to deal with their knee-jerk  reaction and partly because there was a good chance I’d chicken out if I didn’t.

I had a minor panic attack when I hit “send,” and a major panic attack when my mom texted me Sunday morning.  She said that dad had wondered, she hadn’t, that they loved me no matter what, and that they would do their best to be understanding.

During our four-hour conversation they did make sure that I knew they still love me.  As for being understanding…well, they tried, sort of.

A lot of the things they said were pretty hurtful and offensive.  I know they didn’t intend to be hurtful and offensive, so I’m trying not to resent them for it, but my stomach twists every time I think about it.

As far as my mom is concerned the Church is the final authority on the subject, and it was very painful for her to see that I disagree with most of their official statements about homosexuality, especially the interview with Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman. 

It was much more difficult with my dad.  His general attitude is that since he doesn’t understand the issue it can’t be understood, and therefore isn’t a real issue.  It took me at least half an hour of explaining before he finally got the picture that I’m not attracted to women that way.  Even then, he offhandedly dismissed my spiritual confirmation that a mixed-orientation marriage is not for me, and told me I should still keep an open mind about that possibility.  Then he told me to find a lesbian and marry her.  Just thinking about it makes me want to tear my hair out and scream.

Even though I’m not angry with my parents (out of sheer force of will) I’m frustrated as hell about the whole experience.  Coming to terms with myself as a gay Mormon was a harrowing experience, and although my perspective is very unorthodox I feel it is based on personal revelation.  As far as they are concerned, however, at best I’m misinterpreting things, and at worst I’ve been deceived.  In a church based on developing personal relationships with God, why is it so easy to disregard spiritual experiences that don’t fit the mold?

I decided not to share everything with them.  They think I’m sticking with celibacy, although I made it clear that I am repulsed by the very idea.  They made it clear that they wouldn’t approve of me pursuing a same-sex relationship.  I sure as hell didn’t mention that I date guys now.

In the end I’m not sure what to think about the whole experience.  I glad to have it out of the way, I guess.  My mom texts me every couple days to show that I’m not cut off or anything like that, but the banality of the conversation is irritating.  We both see the elephant in the room, and ignoring it like this shows that she thinks it’s something shameful to be avoided.  I haven’t heard anything from my dad yet, but chances were I wouldn’t have heard anything from him anyway.

It will be interesting to see how things work out.  Maybe their thoughts on the whole issue will evolve over time, maybe not.  For now I’m content that they still love me and accept me as their son.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Longest Sunday of my Life, Part 1: The Bishop

A little over a week ago I sat down and had “the talk” with my bishop.  Then I drove down to my parent’s house to have “the talk” with them.

It was the longest Sunday of my life. 

On the mission Sundays were my least favorite day.  We’d spend all day scrambling to meet our weekly goals, and I’d always be exhausted by the end of the day.  Fast Sundays were the worst, especially when we had to get around on bikes in the humid Southern heat.

That Sunday was much worse than any Sunday on my mission.

After Stake Conference I just couldn’t hack it anymore.  Even though I’d calmed down from my initial reaction (which was to remove myself completely from the Church), it was time to define my membership on my own terms. 

Since my ward meets at 1:30 I had all morning to worry about how things were going to work out.  It ended up being not that bad.  In fact, after all the horror stories I’ve heard about bishops’ reactions to ward members coming out my experience was nearly ideal.

I stepped into his office and he could tell right away that I was nervous.  “What can I do for you?” he asked.

“I need to be released from my calling.”

“Oh, ok.  What’s going on?”

“I’m gay and I’m not going to fight it anymore.”

“Wow, I’m sorry to hear that.”

Now, I don’t think he meant it as “I’m sorry you’re gay.”  It was more like “I’m sorry about the difficult position this puts you in.”  From the beginning he never judged me or tried to tell me what to do.  He did everything he could to understand my situation so he would know how to help me. 

He admitted that he didn’t know a lot about homosexuality, especially in the Mormon context.  “You have some tough decisions to make, though, and I understand if you don’t feel comfortable coming to Church.”  I reassured him that I’ll probably attend Sacrament Meeting most weeks, but as long as I’m right in the middle of Church activity there’s a tremendous pressure pushing me out, and it might push me so far away that I’d never have anything to do with the Church again.  However, if I come as close as I feel comfortable, just close enough to get from it what I need, then I can maintain some relationship with the Church.

The question did come up if I’d “acted out on these feelings,” to which I responded “yes, but I’m not ready to go over all that just yet.”  My bishop said “that’s fine.  I’m always here if you need or want to talk about anything.  For now we’ll release you and won’t give you another calling unless you decide you’re ready for one.”

I had no idea how things would happen, but I can’t think of a better way he could have handled it.  In fact, I wish there were official training for local leaders on how to minister to gay church members, because then I wouldn’t have worried so much going in.

Despite the positive experience with my bishop I still left his office exhausted.  I’d promised to help him count tithing after the block since his counselors were gone and I was the only clerk there, so I couldn’t run off and hide, but I really wasn’t feeling enthusiastic about sitting through priesthood meeting.  Fortunately, the temple was only five minutes away, so I drove there and listened to cheesy EFY music that reminds me of my mission.  The clouds didn’t part and I didn’t hear a voice or concourses of angels, but looking at the temple and thinking about my mission experience I felt that being open and honest about who I am and what I believe was the right thing to do.

Even being open and honest with my parents.