It’s Mom’s choice: her dogma or her daughter

meanmom

Hi John. I was raised going to a Baptist church, and consider myself very spiritual and close to God. My parents had my brothers and I in the church any time its doors were open. I loved growing up in the church.

I always knew I was “different,” but didn’t fully understand that difference until I got older. I am now 26 and came out to my mother about 10 days ago.

When I first told her, she cried, but her overall reaction was picture perfect. She said things like “you and the person you love will never be excluded from our family,” “the road that chose you,” “your father and I love you no matter what,” etc. I felt good about things—until I met with her a week later, and she told me she has been praying about my life style all week and “can’t come to terms with it.” She said that she could not go against her convictions.

She said that I would be welcome to family events, but that my girlfriend (soon to be wife) will not be invited. She said if she allows us to come to family affairs together, then it shows that she is okay with our homosexual relationship. (She’s also very concerned what my grandparents and “others” will think.) I was in shock. I responded by saying “You are also convicted about premarital sex, yet both of my brothers get to bring their significant others to family events.” I told her I could tolerate this for a little bit but that I wouldn’t do it forever.

I don’t understand how God is “convicting” her so strongly to the point where she doesn’t want to be a part of my life with my partner. Can you help me to grasp what has happened? How did she go so quickly from one extreme to the other in one week? Thanks in advance for your opinion! (P.S. She told my dad the same day I told her, and since then he hasn’t spoken to me at all. I’ve always been a daddy’s girl and never gone this long without talking to him… Help please!!)

So this happens. It’s awful, but it happens. I’m so sorry it’s happened to you.

The first thing is, your mom and dad might very well come around, and sooner than you might now expect. That’s just … part of the process. It’s so common: people come out; their parents freak; some time goes by; the parents settle down; the parents accept their new understanding of who their kids are, and go back to loving them the same as they ever did.

I’m betting that’s how this will go for you and your parents. Your mom’s initial response was her true response; that was the response of her heart. Now she has to go through the process of realizing that she has a very real choice to make between her dogma and her daughter. By saying what she did at her second meeting with you, she was—however purely instinctively—hoping that you would change: that the power of her conviction would change you back into the person that it best works for her if you are.

That effort of hers will fail, of course. And sooner or later she’ll know that it’s failed, that it can’t not fail. And then she’ll be forced to realize that she is going to have to change if she wants to keep you in your life, that literally the only way she can keep from ripping you out of her life is to adjust her theology.

And before long that won’t look to her like anything near the dramatic change it does to her just now.

She’ll see and/or learn how many other people have made that change, to no detriment at all to their faith or religious experience.

And then hopefully (if he hasn’t yet come around) she’ll talk to your petulant, childish father. (Sorry: but it drives me nuts when parents act like children toward their children.)

So hang in there. Let your parents trip. Don’t of course allow them to treat you shabbily or with any disrespect, and do refuse to attend any family event at which your partner isn’t lovingly welcomed. And always let your parents know that you’re more than willing to sit down with them and talk about all of this. This is your life; they’re your parents. They should very much want to at least talk to you about this new development in your relationship with them.

So let them know you’re there, you love them, you’re not tripping, everything’s cool, and then  . . .  see what happens.

And please let me know what does happen. If, say, three months go by, and they’re still freezing you out, or letting you know they think you’re … wrong for being gay, then it’ll be time for you to start constructing for yourself an interior life in which your parents don’t figure as, God knows, they should.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • http://www.krethtunez.biz Randy Creath

    Good job on the response, John. I hope you’re correct! I am always very aware that the pain this young woman is going to experience prior to her parents “coming around” will be massive. It always breaks my heart when parents persist in eating their young!

    • Brian

      Randy,

      I like your comment about parents “eatting their young.”

      That possible scenario kept me feeling terrified of ever telling my mom (my dad died when I was 9 yo) and my brother. Between my family, and the Catholic Church, I remained closeted for a little more than 30 years. Thinking back on that time I often think of myself as being a coward, but am also aware of how much of my lack of courage to Come Out was also a matter of self-preservation. I see my situation, like many my age, as being the result of the combination of a perfect storm.

      I think you might agree that many churches also eat their followers!

      Brian

  • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

    Good response, John…the voice of reason. :)

    To the letter-writer I would add: your dad may also be working through this quietly…sometimes people don’t want to react right away because of what they might say. It sounds like your relationship with him is close. He may just not want to hurt you and that alone will make him really look at his theology. God bless you, sweet!

  • http://thethreews.wordpress.com Ken Leonard

    A lot of theories don’t stand up to real life. A lot of people who reject homosexuality have to adapt when they realize that a person they love is homosexual. I don’t envy anyone the process, though.

    I’m very sorry that you’re going through this.

    I hope and pray that this works out the way it should — with loving acceptance and everyone growing.

  • n.

    writer: you seem nice, they should miss you soon. even if they don’t accept you soon, you are still doing the right thing being who you are.

    i had to lose contact with one parent over something not related to orientation, but just as important in my actual life as an actual separate person from my parents.

    and i missed her (and she missed me, but never enough to change her mind) and we never made up and she died and i *STILL* am sure i did what i had to for my sanity, marriage, etc.

    what he said about parents being children to their children. totally.

    and sorry for the negative example but it’s just to say that even worst case scenario with your family, you can still be ok and have a life.

  • mike moore

    Great insights and advice, as always, John.

    I would add that after I came out, my parents were similarly inconsistent … the “we love you” and then “you’re not welcome in our home” see-saw.

    I soon realized that some of the words and phrases they were using were not their words. They had sought counseling at their church and had begun using the counselor’s words … in my case, it was a whole “tough love” patois in attempt to “fix” my problem as if I were a drug addict. Your parents are probably getting an earful of rotten advice from their church, and hopefully they will soon get past it.

    The silent treatment goes both ways. Call to check in and keep communication open, but don’t call too often. Make it clear you are moving on with your life, with or without them. Many parents I’ve known of, upon learning their LBGT kid is happily moving on without them, tend to come around fairly quickly. They hate discovering that they are not necessary for you to be happy.

    As for the “not welcome at family events” dictate, I found turning the tables on my parents to be most effective. Simply tell them you are now making your own new family, and when they so desire and are ready to be polite and gracious, they will be welcome at your family events.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      love it

    • Barbara Rice

      I agree with this. Your mother was OK with you until she told her pastor/friends, and I bet the fallout was tremendous. I bet also she heard the “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it” line, making it her “fault.” Your dad is just being childish.

      Hang in there.

    • Jill

      Mike, you never fail to impress.

      • mike moore

        from your lips to the studio’s ears, bubala.

  • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

    Dear Letter Writer,

    I hope that soon your parents will realize that you are still the person they’ve known all along. You haven’t suddenly gone through a major transformation. You’ve been you all along, with all the quirks they love about you, but as all parents tend to do, there are parts of you are they weren’t aware of.

    I hope that they see you build your life, happy and healthy, they will realize that their daughter is gonna be just fine, and there is nothing at all to be worried about.

  • Dove

    When I came out to my family, my grandma was like this. She wanted to have me around, but not my partner. A couple years ago I put my foot down and said I wouldn’t come to Christmas if she couldn’t come too. We had Chinese for Christmas dinner… and the next year, we were invited as a pair. She’s even going to come to our wedding.

    Give your family some time, but don’t be afraid to put your foot down eventually. Otherwise they’ll walk all over you.

  • Jim

    I’m painting with a broad-ish brush with this comment, and I know it. Please don’t take anything I blurt on electrons here as absolutely personal, as this is more of a thought process than a statement of Truth. (Notice the capital ‘T’?)

    It occurs to me that something akin to the stages of grief occurs when people receive “unexpected” news. (Unexpected? — Where they not paying attention for the last 20-some years?) In other words, because of the shock, or whatever you wish to call it, the hearers must go through some processing stages, just as if (and that is a key distinction) they were mourning a loss.

    Quick review: The Kubler-Ross model for Grief includes stages of Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. There’s actually a decent write-up on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%BCbler-Ross_model. The current wisdom is that there is no timing or hard and fast progression through the stages, and that you may experience more than one stage simultaneously.

    I am not saying that this is grief, in the traditional sense of death or traumatic loss. It is, however, a game-changer that challenges the hearer. They will need time to process the change, and the stages are similar to the grief cycle. So John’s advice, “give them room to trip”, is spot on.

    Specific to this particular case, given the background information, I believe they will come around once they’ve processed through. As John has said, be patient with them, love them, and don’t wig out just because they are wigging out. Show them that you are the same person you have always been, and that you have shared a recently discovered part of yourself that makes no difference whatsoever.

    • Jill

      I agree from personal experience. Grief seems to come into play anytime we are faced with information or decision that changes our intended or expected result. Sometimes the grieving process asks us to introspect as to why we had such an expectation. It may be that expectation was built on false or faulty information. Sometimes grieving asks us to face our own humility, which is by no means a simple task. Who of us ever wants to be wrong?

      In other words as Jim said, it takes time for real adjustment to happen. Love ultimately conquers grief, it conquers being wrong, and it conquers anger too.

      • Matt

        “…“unexpected” news. (Unexpected? — were they not paying attention for the last 20-some years?).”

        It’s not always that. I underestimated the intense strength of the dreams my mother had had for my life. And because I was not out to even myself, I inadvertently strengthed them further by straight dating, talking about my someday straight marriage, etc. I did not have the words for my experience, and I have always had difficulty expressing my emotions. I assumed every Christian girl went through similar difficulties as they were prepared for marriage and motherhood.

        So yes, my mother was firmly convinced for the first 20 years of my life that she had a straight daughter. You can imagine her shock and grief that yes, I am bisexual, I am in a queer relationship, and I am actually her son. She is still working through it, and sometimes I wish she’d discuss it with me more.

        • Jill

          I really hope she discusses it more with you too, Matt. I’m rooting for you so much, you don’t even know. :)

        • N

          I too, was not out to myself until fairly late for this day and age. I was 20 and in love, and it was so confusing and terrifying. I understand some people don’t come out to themselves till even longer, but I’m of a generation where many came out, at least to themselves and close friends, in high school. I, however, dated straight, flirted straight, and talked straight. I really don’t blame anyone for not knowing what I myself didn’t know. I am very very thankful every day that my love knew enough of the hidden truth to ask me.

  • Owengirl79

    Ask them if they are willing to read John’s book Unfair and discuss it with you.

  • Robert

    To the writer…

    31 years ago when I was 20, I came out to my mom. It was the beginning of a very tough road for the both of us. What I didn’t understand then, but I do now… is this… when I came out to her… I had years of thinking about it, years of processesing it, years of coming to terms with it…

    On the day I came out… my mom had those few moments.

    It took a long time for my mom to mourn the hopes and dreams she had for me. She later told me, that she used to thinking about, day dream what it was going to be like to meet my girlfriend/wife, she imagined my wedding, my first child, my house, my life… she had built a large and lovely life for me…

    When I came out to her, I shattered her dream.

    And I replaced it with something very “scary” and unknown to her.

    Give your parents time. Give them kindness. Now is not the time for grandstanding… it is the time for gentleness… Let them see your happiness… their fears for you will deminish… and the love you and they share will bloosom…

    It took a number of years my family to move through this process… and it was worth it… Love always is worth it.

    • Jill

      What a beautifully compassionate comment. Very wise.

  • Nancy Fife

    I agree wholeheartedly with your response to this young woman’s situation, and the remarks of everyone so far. With the exception of this statement:” the only way she can keep from ripping you out of her life is to adjust her theology.” If by that you mean she must accept what she disagrees with in order to keep her daughter in her life, I don’t agree. Regardless of the issue, whether or not I agree or accept a family members belief, or even a stranger’s, I’m still compelled by the love of Christ to treat them with love, respect, and hospitality. To do so does not validate them, it validates the love of Christ for them. If by “adjust her theology” you mean the mother needs to realize that loving her daughter and her partner does not validate their relationship any more than it validates her brothers and their girlfriends, then yes, she does need to change that. We don’t love based on approval. We love because Christ first loved us. When we make that the basis of our theology, most of these issues resolve themselves.

    • Nancy Fife

      And I’m saying this based on what I’ve watched happen in my own very religiously conservative family over the years. Regardless of views on sexuality, politics, culture-they’ve always welcomed anyone in, treated them lovingly and respectfully. Sometimes their views on issues changed over time, sometimes they didn’t- but the family stayed together. We aren’t responsible for the lives those we love lead.

  • Lymis

    I find it takes most people about a year, if this is a new idea to them. Hang in there, keep the doors open, and politely decline the family events that your fiancee isn’t invited to, while finding chances to invite your parents to your home if you can.

    Once they realize that no, you aren’t coming to Thanksgiving and Christmas without her, it’s going to start sinking in. And once you’re no longer the gossip flavor of the month, that’ll help too.

  • Rachel G.

    I hope you are right in this case. My mother won’t come down off her higher-ground high horse; it’s been 22 years. She’s someone that I used to know.

    • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

      So sorry, Rachel G. *hug*

    • Zach

      I can totally relate. I was the most spiritual of all my siblings since very early age. I even maintained my virginity for 28 yrs — including during an 8yr stint in the Navy. It has been well over 2 decades since I came out to my “Christian-Taliban” family and my parents have yet to accept or discuss it. All my hetero brothers have been married and divorced, had pre-marital sex, and one brother has 2 (wonderful) illegitimate sons, and their entire families have been loved, forgiven, embraced from day one. Ironically, the one brother I NEVER wanted to come out to (due to his violence toward gays) has become my best friend and greatest ally. At the end of the day, I realize I shouldn’t waste my precious life trying to predict how a person might react, and instead, simply live my life with dignity. Period. If anyone has an issue with a life of love, respect, and dignity, then they are free to carry the weight of their ignorance and hate — I will live free in Christ.

      My gay relationship has lasted longer than 2 of my brothers “straight” marriages combined .. yet I am the one not practicing “family values”.

      • mike moore

        dear Rachel,

        does is it help to know you’re not alone? 30 years after coming out, my Dad still has “spells” when he gets very mean about my husband and me. My Mom is consistent, yet she is clueless that, on a semi-regular basis, she treats my 27yo relationship, 4 years actually married, like a 2nd class arrangement.

        Like Zach above, my brother, cousins, various family members, and family friends have all gone through divorces with no judgment, yet we’re the ones subtly treated like our marriage is not entirely legit.

        In those moments, we just remind ourselves that our real family are not those related to us by blood. I once again play the same psychological game I’ve had to play on and off over the years, and soon the parents get the message and settle back down.

        • Jill

          I’ve recently updated my ancestry.com family tree, I guess in preparation for the day that knowledge might serve a valuable purpose.

          I realize how accurate Mike is for so many people, for so many reasons. We choose our familial ties every day, whether they have DNA similarity or not.

      • Jill

        I love that you, and so many people, really get it Zach. You get that your life is yours, that it is precious and dignified and worthy of respect. I loathe that this fact still requires so much proving and jawing about with people that we have loved. Ugh.

        Many hugs to you.

  • http://www.bonafidemagicschool.net kelven

    The thing about coming out to your parents is that now they have to come out as parents of a gay child. And, just like you, that becomes a constant process as you negotiate the routines of daily life. For some that means confronting a lot of awkward social scenes like less than affirming churches or other narrow minded people. They may be swayed by others shaming judgements for a bit, but if they truly love you they will soon discern who has the truly Christian attitudes concerning you and who does not.

  • Brent

    She should encourage her mother to go to a local PFLAG meeting where she can discuss this with other parents who have grappled with the same issue. The mother being able to discuss her hopes & fears with someone (other than judgmental relatives & fellow church members) who understands the situation may help the mother think this trhough to resolution.

  • Jane Carlton

    I would advise anyone going through this to encourage thier parents to read the story of David and Johnathan…and to tell them that as in the story…it’s about love not sex.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kimberlyknight/ Kimberly Knight

    Oh John, these stories always and completely break my heart because I have lived it so deeply. Please oh please point her in my direction, either blog or on FB if she would like to talk with a queer Christian raised as a Baptist (but my It Get’s Better Video just gives me the willies to watch so don’t tell me if you share that with her :). I would love to talk with her about her experience, how her journey sounds a great deal like a portion of my own, and how it did indeed get better.

    Thank you for being there for her.

  • Starr

    Great and reasoned responses so far.

    To the writer: I am so proud of you for choosing to come out to your parents! This must have taken many hours of thought and consideration.

    Remember that their reactions have nothing to do with you. They are trained by their religion to feel that your “lifestyle” (as if you chose it) is sinful and evil. So they are going through cognitive dissonance trying to fit the daughter they love into their belief system. Right now it’s not working for them.

    Give them time…and continue to communicate with them. Don’t back down, because you did the work before you came out. Now they need to do the work to accept you back into their family.

    Good luck!

  • http://www.cindymurphythinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Cindy

    To the writer…

    I understand what you are going through all too well. Much of it echoes what I dealt with in coming out to my parents about 4 years ago. The main difference being that you got a fairly positive response initially, while the initial response that I got really had nothing positive. Some of the things that were said to me in the early days were so horrific that I have shared them with nobody other than my (now) wife. I would speculate (and it would of course be pure speculation) that your mother’s initial response offers much hope as it is her honest reaction before talking with other people (perhaps your father).

    For the most part, I wholeheartedly agree with John’s advice. But I wouldn’t necessarily jump right to refusing to attend any family events that your fiancée isn’t invited to. While you certainly have every right to do so and nobody could fault you for doing so, I personally think you need to give some thought to where you are at and how going to family events alone or missing them will affect you, as either choice will certainly have a profound effect on you as much as on them. Also of course, your fiancée probably has some feelings on that matter as well that need to be considered.

    Similar to your situation, my father had the talk with me shortly after I came out to ensure me that no woman I might have a relationship with would ever be welcome in his house. I, like you, pointed out the hypocrisy in that position to him as he welcomed with open arms (and in fact practically begged to come visit) my brother with his at the time not married partner. While it didn’t seem to do much good at the time, those words did stick with him as would be evidenced much later when he reminded me of them after having somewhat of a change of heart. More on that in a bit.

    I chose to continue to spend time with my family even though my wife could not join me, but I did refuse to stay with them. Our time together was limited to about twice a year as I moved to a different province very shortly after coming out to be with my wife (not wife at the time of course). Had I remained in close proximity, the family time might have ended much sooner as we all have our limits. I’m not going to tell you it was easy, because it wasn’t. To add to the difficulty I had a little 5 year old niece with parents that were adamant that she not find out the truth about me and I feared that if I did not go along with this ridiculous plan I might be cut off from her entirely and that was a terrifying thought. She was and is very precious to me and of course completely innocent in the matter. Those times spent with my family, where my wife could not only not be present, but couldn’t even really be spoken of, were extremely difficult for me. I was happier than I had ever been in my life, but I could not share that joy with my family. I felt very much compartmentalized and it was very painful. But I didn’t want to cut my family off and I certainly didn’t want to miss out on watching me niece grow up. I endured as long as I could, though not without some arguments and very painful fights, both in person and over the phone long distance. I reached my breaking point after my father told me over the phone that the next time I was there, if I couldn’t refrain from kissing my wife goodbye in front of his house, then maybe I shouldn’t visit him at all. I mulled over the idea for some time (as I had time before I would be on vacation and potentially see them again) and then one night had a dream. It was a beautiful dream of surprise acceptance and it made me very depressed because it was just a dream and I saw no hope of it ever becoming a reality. As I was mulling over my decision as to whether or not I would acquiesce to my father’s latest demand to remain in contact, I wrote a blog post about it, because I find writing helps me to work through my feelings when I’m struggling with them. My father called, to tell me that he had a read my blog and to tell me that he had been thinking long and hard about the way he was behaving and had come to the conclusion that he was wrong. While he thought it important to make sure that I understood that he still believed my “lifestyle” to be sinful, he realized that his reaction was wrong and he assured me that from that day on my wife and I would always be welcome in his house. Mind you, he didn’t call her my wife (we were married by this point, nobody from my family attended the wedding) and to this day refuses to recognize our marriage, but it was a huge step for him.

    As my father is very much the patriarch in our family, the rest of the family just seemed to fall in step and my now 8 year old niece now adores my wife. While the topic of our being married has yet to come up with her directly, I get the feeling she understands very well. This is not to say that everything is now coming up roses, but the difference between when I first came out and now is like night and day.

    When it comes to your parents needing to change their theology to keep from ripping you out of their life as John suggested, I don’t think that’s a given. But I also wouldn’t go as far as Nancy (in the comments) did in comparing this to families having different views on politics and other issues. I don’t know if my family will ever come around to accepting that my marriage is every bit as blessed by God as that of any straight couple. They may each go to their respective graves believing that my relationship with my wife is sinful. That doesn’t have to put a wall up between us, but I believe it will always cause some strife and keep my relationship with them from being what it might otherwise be. I have lots of theological disagreements with my family that will never be the issue that this one is. It isn’t comparable to other “differences of opinion”. Being gay isn’t an opinion, it’s an integral part of who I am. And saying that an integral part of who I am is inherently sinful, is not the same as saying that, for example, my enjoying a bottle of beer is sinful (as some in my family believe). My enjoyment of a good beer is not an integral part of who I am. Saying that my relationship with my wife, which brings out the best in me and represents the best part of who I am, the love by which I relate to all other love including the love of God, is evil cannot be simply dismissed as a difference of theology. It is not the same as any other issue because it strikes at the core of our beings. Love is what it is all about. And the way that we love and understand love affects every other aspect of our beings. It’s not about sex, it’s about love. And love is everything.

  • Brenda in La

    Good response, John. I also liked the point made that the dad may simply be trying to work it through before speaking about it to his daughter to avoid saying anything hurtful. I sure hope that’s the case and that the mom comes around soon.

    When my wonderful, funny, intelligent, and extremely loveable niece told my sister that she was gay, our second reaction as a family (after our realization that life was going to be harder for her because of society) was that we already knew it. Duh! Our whole family, my sis and husband and son (her brother), my grown children (her cousins), my husband and I, and even my elderly dad all knew it in our hearts. My mother had already passed away, but I’m sure she knew. We all had our own suspicions that my niece was gay, even though she was careful to never even hint at it. We were glad she told my sister so that we could go from there and acknowledge that the woman she loved wasn’t simply her roommate as theybhad pretended! She has a lovely partner whom we also love. I guess my point is that I have to believe all families can’t be that shocked. Some families have to be waiting for that conversation. We can’t be the only ones.

    LW, follow the advice to go gently with your parents while they process the news. Based on your mom’s first response, I think the odds are in your favor for a happy ending. Give them some time. Just like my generation loved to say “give peace a chance”, you give love a chance. They love you. Best wishes to all of you as you work through it together!

  • Allie

    It sounds to me as if mom realized what having a gay daughter would mean in terms of her family’s reaction, and caved to imaginary future peer pressure. And also probably some not-imaginary present peer pressure from dad. The problem is thus not a theological one at all, but a social one. And it’s not going to change because her dogma changes, but because she gets the courage to stand up for her child in public even if it means others shun her.

  • Mary Bullock Mullins

    Sad.

  • Judi Gentry

    I simply cannot believe people like this woman’s parents.

  • Lana Harrison Currier

    Beautiful response, John! As a mom myself, I’m sending love, hugs and encouragement to this young lady.

  • Linda Ashley

    It is sad that we have so twisted Christianity that we can’t even love our own children.

    • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

      Wow. That’s a profound statement.

  • Maria Elizabeth Zazzero

    Love will win in the end, there is an experience of grief for all involved [the thought of loss of a dream,eg daughter marries a man,has babies-traditional acceptance],misunderstanding scripture,up-bringings,etc,so much to process,give it time.Give the family time.You do not ‘owe’ it to them,but I have seen how remarkable love is,when given time.It won’t be picture-perfect,but it will get better.

    • Brenda in La

      I agree. Love can prevail if people will be open to it. Also, peer pressure or whatever is blocking the mom right now must become less important.

  • Bill Lentzsch

    “Do refuse to attend any family event at which your partner isn’t lovingly welcomed.” GREAT advice! (Not that I expect any less at this point).

    • N

      Agreed! It makes the choice (dogma or daughter) stand out that much more clearly. I would also add– Do make sure to mention your girlfriend each and every time you speak on the phone. Just a little thing like “Oh, we went to this cool museum, it was great, blah blah” can really normalize things for your parents, nd keep them appraised of how your life is structured.

  • Christina Scroggins-Shipley

    Reminds me of being shunned by my evangelical family members when I divorced my abusive husband in 1994…I was ignored by them or belittled. About 10 years later their “conviction” changed as my aunts divorced my uncles. Suddenly it was acceptable to talk to me again. Your response was lovely and encouraging thanks for the article John.

  • Polly Van Fleet

    To this young lady, I would add, your parents’ rejection of you is not a reflection on you, it’s a reflection on them. It’s not your failure, it’s theirs. It’s not your fault, it’s theirs. You are not the one lacking morality or being wrong-headed, they are. And I say this to you as someone who was disowned 35 years ago for marrying “outside my race”. I am sure my father would have rather I’d been a lesbian…but his bigotry was his problem, not mine. Much love to you, may you and your lady walk in beauty.

  • Laura Lowery Franklin

    Hopefully we are seeing the last generations of people who treat their kids this way.

  • Louis Seawell

    If she turns you out, she is not being very christian. Christ never turned anyone away and always preached love. She and your father must think they are better than Chist to treat you this way. They will have to answer for their actions.

  • Anita Heuss

    Actually sounds to me like someone else convinced Mom to change her original tune. Dad maybe?

  • Charles Stanley

    Underlying all of this is the great divide of Christians – the question, does God love all people? The universailty of the love of God is being challenged today, and not only by fringe Christians like Westboro. Christian heaveyweights Like John MaCarthur, John Ankerberg, and others question whether God loves all people. In my opinion, this is the fundamental 20th century fundamentalist heresy. It is the theological foundation of the Christian right. They hate certain types of people, so they want God to hate them too. This mother needs Christ.

    • Brian

      @Charles Stanley:

      You wrote, “The universailty of the love of God is being challenged today, and not only by fringe Christians like Westboro. Christian heaveyweights Like John MaCarthur, John Ankerberg, and others question whether God loves all people. In my opinion, this is the fundamental 20th century fundamentalist heresy. It is the theological foundation of the Christian right.”

      I couldn’t agree more. In both the Gospel of John and the First Letter of John, the writer(s) state, God is Love. Considering the eternal and unchanging quality of God, it is reasonable to conlude that that Love is Unconditional. The best we human beings are capable of giving is conditional. Herein lies the basic problem with any marriage these days. The only marriages that are truely healthy and long lasting are those where God is at the Center; where he is the Love that is shared between partners. There are straight and LGBT relationships where this is evident, because they are the most long lasting.

      Several years ago, my own spiritual journey began with the premise that “God is Love.” When I finally saw how that that Love was Unconditional, my conversion became the sole focus of my life. The word “conversion” broken into its constituant roots means “to turn with.” That suggested to me a relationship. And in time that is what my faith became – a relationship with Jesus. Beliefs are unimporant next to that.

  • Matt

    Heh, do I ever know what you’re talking about!

    You have to remember always, letter writer: Your mother is straight. You of course, already know this intellectually. But since you are gay, it’s a perspective you can’t truly know. I have asked my own straight mother about this: She can’t comprehend my or my partner’s LGBTQ-ness.

    She is trying to come to terms with something she knows nothing about, can never fully understand, and which her faith tells her is “wrong.” Remember the intense thought, the questioning, the learning, the introspection you had to go through to get to this point in your journey? Sometimes you may have felt so confused, sometimes you may have denied, sometimes you may have been afraid and terribly hard on yourself. She needs to go through this too–and she’s lacking crucial information about your experience, in addition to feeing pressure from what “others” will think.

    She is never allowed to treat you horribly or abuse you, but it would answer a lot of questions to consider her perspective. She is also human, and will make mistakes.

    Is there a double standard about gay vs. straight relationships? Absolutely, without a doubt. Even with my family being as supportive as possible, there is still a gap. There are still noticeable differences between how they treat my partner and I and my older brother and his wife. Part of it is stigma, part of it is that there is no cultural script for my relationshp vs. my brother’s, and my family is not used to operating without one.

    Give her time. I’m working on that with my own parents. I am learning patience with them, and learning to see them as the flawed, wonderful people that they are. This will bring you closer together as a family if you can stick it out through the tough parts.

  • Allie

    So, I read this letter out loud to my husband. At the end of the third paragraph, he interrupted me to say, “Who has she been talking to?” (Answered at the end of the letter: dad.) Husband was raised Baptist and is pretty familiar with this sort of reaction.

    His advice is to say, “I know you know what’s right, because you did it when I first came out to you. You are choosing, knowing what’s right, to do what’s wrong. Call me when you decide to stop that.”

    • Maria

      Allie, good insight from your husband.

  • Carol B.

    The title of this piece is correct: “Mom’s choice”. I am also living in that limbo spot where some of the people I care about are learning that I am, in fact, gay – that I identify as Gender Queer or Third Gender, and that they have no clue what that even means. They are more sure of what it means for them…discomfort around me, coming to terms with my recent (and second) divorce from a heterosexual marriage, and “what will my religious friends think?”. I recently had a messaging exchange with a childhood friend, who asked me things like: “When did you decide that you were (seriously) “that way” – and “I am a sinner too, and just like me, when you recognize your sin, God is faithful and just to forgive that sin, and I am so glad he forgave mine…” etc.

    When I asked her my two favorite questions…she couldn’t really tell me when SHE dicided that she was STRAIGHT. Nor could she tell me how much prayer, repentence, and intervention from God it would take to “make” her gay….

    I stopped the exchange with: “I simply want you to think about those two questions, about the two great commandments (love God, and love your neighbor) and what kind of forgiveness might be needed for deciding for God what He thinks and who He loves and accepts.”

    I will now wait. She may or may not think about it. Chances are, I just got dropped like a spiritually infected rock. But I can’t convince her, nor do I feel the need to try.

    I, too, think that maybe your parents are still in the “OMG” reaction stage….you have challenged much of what they were raised to believe is true. It took me 56 years to come to terms with my gayness, and it will surely take time for those dogmas to be replaced, if they are. I too was raised in a strict Dutch Calvinist home, and some of my family are quite likely struggling with some of those same dogmas.

    Blessings to you…and courage…being who God made you to be, and celebrating that with someone you love is a precious gift…please don’t let anyone tarnish that for you!

  • N

    My parents did that too.

    Very first reaction: “I will always love you.”

    Backlash reaction: ” I dont’ want you to be gay, stop doing that.”

    Eventual authentic reaction: “I love you.”

    Just don’t bee too surprised if the backlash lasts a good long while. I waited and waited for years, but eventually the third reaction came. I made them choose. Dogma or Daughter. I think coming out to the rest of my family (aunts, uncles, cousins) helped too, because even though they had asked me not to do that, it lifted a burden to have me, and their struggle, out in the open. Plus, they I got a ton of allies! So even if your parents don’t come around for a good while, definitely reach out to other family members.


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