Friday, July 20, 2012

Kind & Quiet Family

It has been a… week. Two of Scott’s very LDS siblings and their families that live half-way across the country have been in town. They've invited me and the kids (and Scott) to join them in several outings, including a family dinner party at the parents’ house. Scott of course refused all invitations, but for the sake of the kids seeing some of their favorite cousins, I have participated. Grandpa even paid for the older two to attend EFY (Especially for Youth) with three of their cousins at BYU in Provo this week.

Everyone has been really nice. No one has said anything homophobic or judgmental even though I had opportunities to make it very clear that the kids and I no longer attend church very often at all (since one of the kids had no dress shoes that fit to take with him to EFY). They have been nicer and more inclusive than I would have ever imagined, and yet it has been very hard for me. In fact, at the family party, I broke down and began to cry and was unable to stop, even after getting home that night. I cried myself to sleep and continued to be a bit weepy the next morning until my straight spouse therapist friend came over and helped me work through it.

Why, for no apparent reason, would I suddenly have this breakdown?

My friend and I decided that just because there wasn’t one huge obvious reasons, doesn’t mean that there weren’t many many little reasons that added up to a breaking point for me.

In no particular order:

1. One of these family members had to have called our bishop four years ago and lied to us about it. Someday I would love for whomever it was to come clean and apologize. In the meantime, I struggle with forgiveness for that person, my former bishop, and my current stake president.

2. Last summer when one of the same families was in town, at my father-in-law’s request, they told their children that Scott and I were divorcing, but they flat out lied to them when the kids asked them why and the parents said they didn't know.

3. Three summers ago when one of the other families was in town, they planned a backpacking trip with another local sibling with their kids, and Scott and my kids were not invited. When I found out that my kids would not be able to see their cousins because of this trip, I tried to see if my older kids could go too and was told no because it had been months in the planning and “they had not tried to hide it from us” even though I had absolutely no idea it was happening.

4. Recently I had a heated email conversation with the local sibling when I sent him (and everyone else) an email with a link to an article about teaching children about gay people. He specifically told me to leave him and the other siblings alone: Don’t send emails, don’t dress my kids in matching “Utah Gay Fathers” shirts and don’t give them story books about how some families have two moms or two dads. That I shouldn't tell him what to teach his children any more than he should tell me what to teach mine, even though he strongly believes that I should teach them that acting on homosexuality is a sin and contrary to God’s plan. I guess I should be grateful that he even responded, when all I get from the other siblings is dead silence.

5. Because of all of this past baggage, they don’t say a word to me about any of it and I am afraid to death to say anything to them. For example, they were discussing a video that one brother had made for his youth conference (he is a leader in the stake young men's organization) that was similar to the popular “Kid History” videos on YouTube. I wanted to tell them about the video that I had spent hours on that week, an “It gets better” video for straight spouses. But did I? Of course not. I was afraid to say anything for fear I would say something that would offend someone and make them uncomfortable. Instead, I became very uncomfortable and eventually broke down into an unstoppable torrent of tears.

6. Looming in the background were memories of a party with my family for my dad’s birthday just the week prior, where my dad told the restaurant owner and long-time friend of the family that my husband left me to find a boyfriend. His tone of voice was one of disgust, and I quickly glared at him and shared my own version of the story about Scott discovering his true self and how we are still best friends, parenting together from different homes. At the same party, Scott said he thought my brother had his back to him the entire time. My brother and his wife used to be Scott’s biggest fans, and now they don’t recognize his existence, even though all of their kids have left the church and one has two baby mommas, neither of which he has been married to. Do they give their own kids the same silent treatment? Gratefully, no. But it does seem rather hypocritical to me. Anyway, their wedding anniversary was the same day as Scott’s family party, and I had acknowledged it on Facebook. There was no indication that they recognized or appreciated the fact that I acknowledged it. Just painful silence, as usual.

7. I was also frustrated that Scott put himself first, and refused to attend the family party because of the tickets he purchased for the "Damn these Heels" gay film festival. We are both uncomfortable around his family, but it is not fair for our kids to suffer from our discomfort and therefore not be able to associate with their cousins. So I am the one that has to step up for his children at his family party. Granted he did go in April to the Easter party for that reason, but this really was time for him to be there again and help build those bridges with his family. To show that he is happy despite living a gay lifestyle.Yes, yes...I am a little bit bitter about that one. Sorry--I usually try not to complain about Scott because he is a great dad and has taken the kids overnight a few times this summer so I could have a break and he works so hard to earn the money to help support two households. And he helps with so many other things. But still, I have to acknowledge the frustration to truly process the situation with this post.

When I began to break down at the family party, I went in the den and closed the door and posted a depressed note on Facebook. Right after that, one of Scott’s step-sisters (a liberal one that has caused herself a lot of stress in her own life) came through the door and held me as I cried. She had seen my post on facebook on her smartphone and immediately came searching.

Later, when I was crying again, my father-in-law and I were a distance away from the rest of the family discussing the situation. I told him how I felt I didn’t fit in there, even though they were all nice and accepting of me. I told him I couldn’t participate in conversations freely because I was afraid I would say something I shouldn’t. I mentioned my video project and showed it to him. Scott’s parents have really come a long way, and I have no problem freely talking to them about anything when no one else is around. He commented about how my life is very narrow right now, and that I can’t see anything around me other than things that are related to “gay”. He was trying hard not to be critical of that, but just to mention his observation and that’s why I feel like I don’t fit in.

What I wanted to do was to look one member of the family in the eyes and ask him/her to tell me straight that he/she had not called our bishop. But I only saw this particular person one day and there was never a private moment to do such a thing.

I wanted to tell them about my straight spouse group and the article in the tribune. I wanted them to reach out to Scott while they were here, to apologize for making him feel rejected and somehow prove that they truly do love him. None of this love the sinner and hate the sin bunk that doesn’t really exist.

I want to email them all and tell them why I was crying, why I was uncomfortable, and say all the things I was unable to say in person. I want to send them a link to my video when it is done. I want them to understand and feel both my pain through this journey as well as my growth and my continued support and friendship with Scott. I want to tell them to stop sitting uncomfortably where they are, but to join support groups with other people who have gay family, to read “No more Goodbyes”, to somehow have it click that loving and supporting their brother is so much more important than what their church tells them about his behavior. And then to truly reach out and get to know the real him. To ask him about who he is dating, or how he has helped talk individuals out of suicide, or of his participation in the Utah Gay Father’s association and the good that they are doing for men that would otherwise be miserable, making their families miserable along with them and/or taking their own lives in desperation.

I want to.

I am afraid to.

But I probably will. When the video is done in a couple of weeks. And maybe, just maybe, this will be my last attempt to bridge some huge canyons in the family. Because if anything is going to change, it ultimately has to be their decision to take the right steps to make it happen.

In the mean time, I have no idea what to do about my own brother, and that simply breaks my heart more than I am willing to admit most of the time.

It gets better. It has to.


Anonymous said...

(hugs) Straight or Gay, I think most moms do more of the heavy lifting and relative appeasement than most dads do. And you can 't change your ILs. your life will get better. I am decades out of a MOR myself. It ripped me to shreds at the time but I am so over it now. Ya know, I think your FIL may have a point... Can you think of any things you can do for you rather than for the community that is currently so important to you? Any little tiny treats that are for the core if you rather than the straight spouse part if you? I'd love to see you treat yourself to a treat.

Sarah said...

Thank you, anonymous. The lack of comments lately have made me wonder if anyone is reading any more. My blog stats tell me otherwise, but that is how it feels. Thanks for the hugs and once I have this important video done, I will have a week before I go back to work and I will have to think about staying away from everything gay and seeing how it feels! Sometimes I feel like taking care of me is selfish to my children, but right now I am not a great mother. Maybe if I take better care of me I will be a better mother in the long run. I just don't know how to take care of me. I never have known how to do that. I've always had issues in the self-esteem department.

Straight survivor of MOR said...

Me again, I went through all this in the 1980's. No Internet, no blogosphere, no one to talk to. My head, faith and emotions were so messed up. In the end I had to force myself to pack it all away inside me, pick up the rest of my life and move on. I always knew it was like a messy junk room in my soul, that some time I would go back in and figure it all out. For me, that time is now. I got on with my life in the mean time and I have been very happy.

What I wish for you, and for anyone breaking up with anything in this Internet age, is that you can put it away for now and put your energy into you. I'm just a stranger, so you can take this with as big a pinch of salt as you like, but I'd like to see you blogging about taking steps into your new life. Of course some of it will suck at first, but you can write about that. Us straight partners probably do 'get' more about what being gay means more than any other straight group out there, but I wish for you, that for the next 3 years you do not make it your burden to carry or your battle to fight. And your kids cousins aside, his family is his problem. That should be a bonus of the break up, not a chain pulling you back in!

Anonymous said...

You're quite the whiner. Get off your butt and do something different.

Sarah said...

What the hell? You have no idea what I am or who I am or what I should be doing. Thanks for your encouragement. Takes one to know one. Sticks and stones may break my bones.


Amy said...

Anonymous, there are about 1000 more ways to say something along the lines of, "It sounds like you could use another focus in your life" without being so negative toward Sarah who is, obviously, having a bit of a hard time right now. How about instead of being mean and negative, we give some positive encouragement? Few people are moved to change (which, obviously you're insinuating) when they're beaten down.