Scott and I talked about it on the phone, and now he has blogged about it. I know there are some people who read my blog that do not read his, or may not realize at the beginning of his post that there may be some message for them down at the bottom, so I want to quote from it here:
I told him after I read his post that the entire thing should be published as an instructional pamphlet for gay members and their family and friends, but I have no idea who would be willing to publish or distribute it. I've said it before and I'll say it again, but he is so good at putting our discussions into writing. It always helps me clarify what I was really thinking and trying to say.
...it is beneficial and self-affirming to know that there are people who do accept us for who we are, and especially to know that the people who are closest to us and who mean the most to us are willing to accept us and love us without requiring or expecting us to change ourselves to fit some pattern that they have created for us.
At least once or twice every week Sarah turns to me and asks "Why am I so weird?" She reads the MoHo blogs and the posts on the various Spouse and Family lists that she is on and is frequently reminded that our relationship and situation are a little bit abnormal, mostly due to how comfortable and open Sarah has been with the whole situation. So... why is she so weird? I believe (and we've talked about this) that the one thing that has made all the difference in how well we are doing is how open and honest we have been able to be. And the main reason we have been able to be so open and honest is because I discovered very shortly after I came out to her that she was willing to accept me as I am, with no attempts to change me and very little regret for what "should" be or what could have been.
Sarah's acceptance of me stems from the same roots that my acceptance of others comes from: She understands me. Right after I came out to her she read No More Goodbyes by Carol Lynn Pearson. The book provides numerous anecdotes and points-of-view from gay people (mostly members of the Church) who explain and describe what it means to be gay and Mormon. The stories focus on "goodbyes"--goodbyes from suicide, from the breakup of mixed-orientation marriages, and from individuals or families leaving the Church because of the incompatibilities between their beliefs regarding homosexuality and the Church's teachings. They are poignant and touching and frequently sad and they give the reader a good glimpse into what goes on inside the head and heart of a gay member of the Church. Reading the book gave Sarah an injection of empathy that has allowed her to understand and accept not only me but also all of the other friends we have met through the MoHo blogs.
Knowing that she accepts me (as a man who is attracted to men) has gone a long way toward helping me feel better about myself. Knowing that she accepts others (including men who are in relationships with men) has been the icing on the cake. To be perfectly honest (and we've talked about this, too) if Sarah wasn't as understanding as she is--if she wasn't willing to allow me to be who I am, and to support me and love me without trying to squeeze me into some "ideal husband" shape--I'm absolutely certain that we wouldn't be as happy together as we are, and I'm not entirely sure that we would still be together at all. There's a very real chance that her acceptance of me has made all the difference is our remaining together vs. separating or divorcing.
We all want to be accepted, and we will seek acceptance where we can get it. If our gay loved ones ask for and expect acceptance from us and are denied or disappointed, they will seek acceptance elsewhere. Too often, "elsewhere" will prove to be a bad influence or a bad environment and one poor choice snowballs into an avalanche of bad decisions. If, instead, we provide the love and open arms and non-judgmental acceptance that they seek so that they don't need to turn to others for it, we have a chance to influence them for good.
This influence must be exercised carefully. Constant reminders of what is right and what is wrong (with emphasis on the "wrong") are really little different from closed arms and closed hearts. The Savior didn't lecture the woman taken in adultery, or confront her with a list of her sins or misdeeds. Instead, after dismissing others who would have condemned her, he gently reminded her to "sin no more". Our influence is most effective when it is exercised in the form of kindness, of good example, and of loving acceptance. We need not accept that a particular action is right when we believe it to be wrong, but we should accept an individual's right to choose his own path.