Saturday, February 18, 2012

Consider the Children

(Note: I've included a couple of photos of our children thriving with our gay friends. Openness and honesty is what we've been all about with our family through this change, and it has been wonderful for all involved!)

Last weekend a birthday party for February birthdays in Scott's family, including his down-syndrome brother, was held at his parent's house.

Other than his parents coming to parts of the Mormon Stories conference in November, Christmas Eve dinner, lunch with his little sister, and a funeral for his step-mother's brother earlier this month, he has not associated with his family since July of last year.

I was actually really glad he came to the funeral, because while there his sister asked him about the guy he's dating, whom she had noticed status updates about on Facebook. She has come a long way in truly loving and showing interest in him without restraint.

Anyway, when his mom invited him to the party, he asked if he could bring a date. She told him she would talk to his dad and get back to him. The answer came that others in the family were not yet ready for that step and so while he was welcome, and even urged to come, he was not yet permitted to bring a date, so he informed them he would not be coming to any family events until that was permitted. (Side note: if it is really that big of deal, why can't they just let Scott say "this is my friend?" for now? We've had friends with us at family parties before. I think Scott and his friend would be willing to keep PDA to a minimum while the family just got to know the friend for a few months first. Give it a chance! Compromise! Jeez!)

Last summer he sent a letter to his family, informing them that he would not associate with them until they were ready to accept him completely. It was sparked in part because of his brother that was in town at the time. I didn't want to go to a family party and have the out-of-town family asking where Scott was. So Scott's dad asked them to tell their children that were are divorcing. They did so, and the 10 and 14 year old girls asked why, to which they lied and said "We don't know."

While I realize that parents have the rights to what they want their children to learn at certain ages, the whole thing infuriated Scott and I at the time. And it still does, just thinking about it.

Well, the problem continues, and not even the local siblings are ready for that step, because they don't want to tell their children. I'm sorry--but they are never going to be "ready" for that step until they are willing to jump right in. Maybe they are waiting until their children are grown, which means when uncle Scott is actually willing to come back into their lives because they now know all about him, they will no longer even remember that he ever existed, or they will be so jilted against him because of their upbringing in the church, that they won't want anything to do with him anyway.

Scott's parents took me to dinner last night to talk and to celebrate my birthday (which was over a month ago). Scott's dad feels like he is being as accepting as he can possibly be with Scott, and that he is not capable of changing the fact that he believes some of the things Scott is doing are wrong. I told him that Scott's response to that would be that he is gay and cannot biologically change that, but their beliefs against same-sex relations are just that--beliefs--and so the comparison is flawed. Anyway, Scott's parents have no idea what to do, because they want Scott back in their lives, but they are not willing to step on the toes of the other siblings that refuse to let Scott bring any appearance of a same-sex relationship around their children--probably because they agree with those parents.

Scott's dad also expressed to me that because it is the siblings' rights as parents to decide what is best for their children, that I (and Scott) have no right to be angry with them. That made me angry! I have not crossed the line and told any of their children things that they don't want them to know, but I should not be angry? How do I control whether or not I am angry? I understand that it is their right, but it is not one I agree with, and I am angry about it, and that is that.

I was talking about all of this with Scott last night and then with a good friend of mine in the ward this morning. Scott was grateful for the information about my discussion with his parents, because it solidifies his belief that he cannot handle a relationship with his family right now. His parents are willing to do what the siblings want, but not what Scott wants. So they need to realize that the consequence of that decision means not having a relationship with Scott.

As for the children, wow. I just get so frustrated. I know one of my sister-in-laws tried turning it on me a few months ago, saying that what if the tables were turned and we were still the TBM (True-Believing Mormons) and they were the ones that suddenly and drastically changed their views on gay rights and wanted us to accept them. Would we? I told her I could not answer that question, that I had no idea, but I hoped that I would have been willing to listen to their viewpoints and give them a chance, stepping outside my Mormon box and think for once. In fact, that is exactly what I did when Scott came out to me.  Why wouldn't I have done the same thing if it was one of them instead? I love them--and if this is important to them, then I would have tried. I really think I would.

Anyway, this morning my friend made the comment that in the church we have things that are "sacred" and because they are "sacred", we tend to also keep them secret. So children have a hard time differentiating between sacred and secret, and when parents have a secret, suddenly that is what the children want to know about the very most! What happens, then, is in families where things are not talked about, the children seem to be more likely to experiment with this secret that their parents won't talk to them about.We hear radio ads about this very thing--talking to our children about drugs and alcohol is the best thing we can do to keep them from experimenting with it. Wouldn't the same thing go for sex and homosexuality?

Another thing is that so many people have the misconception that talking to children about what it means to be a homosexual means that they also have to teach their children about sex. Hogwash! The kids came from parents that had sex to get them here, and yet that is not discussed until the kids are ready. Why does telling children that two men or two women love each other immediately mean that they have to teach their children about sex, and a particular kind of sex that the parents are very uncomfortable with and know very little about? Children know what love is, they thrive on love! There is no need to include sex to talk about love and acceptance to children. My concern with families, like our next-door neighbors and Scott's TBM siblings, where they don't talk about that stuff, is that even if they don't talk about it at home, they hear it at school, in the paper, on the news, etc. And if they try to ask questions and their parents just say "we don't talk about that" then it can only make them feel like something is wrong with it, and they will grow into adults that shun and judge others because of it. Or worse yet, if they are gay, they will grow up hating themselves and the damaging cycle with families and homeless youth and suicides continues!

I believe that when Scott's siblings are finally able to tell their children, that a couple of things could happen: the children could be disgusted and judgmental because that is how they've been taught to be, simply because their parents did not discuss it with them, and will want nothing to do with Uncle Scott. Or maybe the children will be angry with their parents for not telling them sooner, thus causing further rifts within their families.

Thank you Mormon church, for helping families break up in so many pieces, for generations yet to come, over this issue! Voting against same-sex marriage is so supportive of and preserving traditional families, right? Like hell, it is.

And you have no idea how close I am to telling all of the children exactly what is going on since their parents won't. What's the worse that will happen? The parents will no longer associate with me. At the moment I don't really want to associate with them anyway, so who gives a rat's ass? I guess the only thing that holds me back is the association that my children have--and crave--with their cousins. And I can't hurt my children like that, even though I think it would be for the best.



MoHoHawaii said...

I'm so sorry to hear stories like this, and yours is not the only one I've heard lately. I just hate to see family divisions over something that really should be a non-issue. We're basically talking about who gets to be invited to dinner. Is that really so controversial?

A consensus is emerging about how gay people should be treated in society (hint: decently) but conservative Mormons are kicking and screaming and refusing to be dragged along.

BTW, we're facing a rerun of Prop 8 up here in the Pacific Northwest this year and unlike other areas with anti-gay ballot measures, we have lots of Mormons up here and the Church is expected to be active in the campaign. I'm dreading it-- it's just going to make all these family dramas worse.

I like your observation that conservative Mormons seem to think that acknowledging the existence of gay people requires them to have conversations with their young children about sex. This way of thinking makes no sense whatsoever!

Best to you and yours.

Philip said...

The comment about acknowledgng the existence of gay requires them to have conversations with their young children about sex is something I have encountered but it had nothing to do with kids.

For instance, I came out at work and I heard comments from both gay and straight coworkers questioning the appropriateness of my coming out at work.

Here is what I think is happening...

We don't talk about heterosexuality. Instead we talk about love, relationships, friendships, sex and probably many other things.

But, when it comes to homosexuality, it all gets lumped together.

So for heterosexuality distinctions are made and therefore some aspects are appropriate to talk about like love, relationships, and friendships while some are often not appropriate to talk about like sex.

But since those distinctions are not made for homosexuality and instead all lumped together then the same aspects considered appropriate when it comes to hetersexuality are considered inappropriate for homosexuality.

So I would point out that those distinctions are not being made and then the discussion will change to one of discussing if the two orientations can be compared.

And that is I think where the problem really lies.

They think homosexuality is somehow different and does not equate to heterosexuality.