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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Inner Battle

Last night I watched an LGBT movie that I'd never heard of before. It's called Dorian Blues, and it follows the coming out story of a boy in his senior year of high school. While the premise was nothing new, the execution was fresh and entertaining. It had a light comic feel as it followed this cynical 18-year old through his journey of dealing with his sexuality.

At the heart of the movie was Dorian's conflict with his strong-minded, authoritarian father. His father is ruthless, judgmental, and condescending, leading Dorian to become rather bitter toward him. And in the end, the thing that sets him free is dealing with his anger, rather than his father. 

He has a moment of realization at the end, when it hits him how much of an effect his father's judgment has had on him, and how much the resulting anger has made him miserable.

Speaking about his father, he says something to the effect of: "You know the one worst thing my father did to me? He convinced me it mattered what people think of you. And truth is, they never think quite enough."

This hit close to home. The anger and resentment that he talked about was all too familiar. And it's for the same reason. I care way too much what people think of me. And because I do, I even project what I think people would think of me, if they knew the whole truth about me. The result is anger and lashing out in order to protect my vulnerability.

And I'm tired of it.

I'm tired of being frustrated and angry at people. I'm tired of yelling at people on the road, emotionally separating myself from people in class. And most of all, I'm tired of keeping myself away from any and all family to protect myself. Because I have a right to a family, and I shouldn't have to put on the armor to go to a family party.

I know where this stems from. I was talking with my therapist over a month ago when we finally pierced through the shell I'd spent months forming around myself. I broke down. I wept. And it felt wonderful. At the end of the session, I knew that I had not resolved my issues with my parents as well as I had thought. 

A couple weeks ago, I went on a vacation to San Diego with my parents and siblings. Having realized my need for resolution and peacemaking with my parents, I looked forward to the trip. I also hoped to meet up with a friend who has been there for me so much as I have been dealing with my sexuality. 

It was Easter Sunday, and out first full day in San Diego. My friend and I planned to attend the Easter program at a cathedral downtown and then see the sights. I mentioned this to my mother the night before, but in the chaos of the evening not much attention was paid to it. In the morning as I was getting ready, she interrogated me, and found out the details: it wasn't an LDS service, my friend was gay, we'd met at a Moho Party. I could see the irritation fall onto her face just before she said "I don't agree with it, but it's your life."

I went anyway, because I needed to get away from them. I had a very nice time. The service was beautiful. San Diego was warm and bright. And spending time in the company of such a good friend was refreshing. And I even made it back to the hotel room before my family got back from their service. So, all was good, and like usual, we didn't discuss it.

Later in the week, I wanted to meet up with this friend for dinner. I found an evening when my family was doing nothing other than relaxing in the hotel room after a day at the beach. It was perfect: I would get to see my friend, and  wouldn't be robbing them of family vacation time. 

I told my mother that I wanted to go out that night with the same friend. I saw that same irritated face as she said "Talk to your father."

I finished getting ready and met my mother and father on the couch. I could feel that familiar tension in my stomach as I sat down. This wasn't going to be good. I told my dad that I wanted to go out with this friend, and asked if he had any objections. He turned his gaze from the tv, but didn't bring it all the way around to me. "Ty, I really don't feel good about this," he said. A serious, almost bishop-like tone filled the place in his voice where it was normally light hearted and joking.

I explained. I trusted this guy. I'd met him before. Nothing bad is going to happen. 

"Try to think about this, Ty. We planned this trip around your schedule so that you could come with us. Then you skip church on Easter Sunday to be with a friend instead of your family. And the fact that this friend is a part of the lifestyle you're choosing doesn't please us either." 

I understood about the family time, thing. That would be the case no matter who the friend was. And passing on church with the family. That probably didn't feel good for them, seeing the empty spot on the sacrament bench and imagining it as an empty spot in heaven. 

But then the "lifestyle" I'm choosing. I thought it pretty ironic, because in terms of gay mindset, I think myself extremely conservative. I want a home, a marriage, a family. I want a career. I want to be a part of a church community and to serve within that community. I don't care for gay bars or clubs. I'm so completely not "A" list that I barely even know what that means. Essentially, I want the same life I wanted before I came to terms with my attraction. Just, switch the sex of the person I'm with. 

I tried explaining that to some degree, but to no avail. I could feel the disapproval weighing down on my chest, making it difficult to breathe. And it began clouding my logic so I could barely even defend my point of view. It was the shaming powers my parents have had all my life, even if they don't realize they have it. Their disapproval crushes me, and robs my self-worth.

Even so, I tried to stand my ground, defend my position, weakly though it may have been. This just raised the temperature of the room, until my dear mother snapped.

Hell hath no fury like a woman's scorn. And for a woman who only knows how to react to vulnerability by bottling up or getting angry, that scorn is especially fierce. 

I'll spare you the details of it, partially because it's besides the point, and partially because I don't think I've un-repressed the memory enough to completely remember what she said. But the just of it was this:
  • through prayer, she'd received the answer that sin is sin, and that she cannot tolerate it.
  • my attraction is not legitimate; I apparently had a hard time on my mission, had my heart broken, and sought companionship elsewhere because it hurt too much. (I fought back on that one, pointing out that she could never feel comfortable in the arms of a woman, no matter how hurt she was. It isn't about heartbreak.)
  • I cannot be saved if I keep pursuing this lifestyle
  • eventually the gays will persecute the church
Don't ask me where that last one came from. It was just as random and out of the blue as it sounds.

She said I couldn't argue with her, because she's read a lot of books on this. I asked which ones. She couldn't think of titles off the top of her head. I asked if she read the one I sent her (No More Goodbyes). An expression of control crossed her face as she said "Yes, and it was awful." 

That one hurt. In all the loneliness, in all the isolation and self-hatred, no one had been there to wrap their arms around me and tell me they loved me. But through that book I could almost feel loving and protecting arms around me. It wasn't a book of "you're not good enough." It was simply "I love you." And my mother thought it was awful.

My father made the point to tell her here that Carol Lynn's first book was different, and that diffused my mother to a degree. Still, she thought it awful that all these families were changing their beliefs in order to excuse their child's behavior. But I never asked her to change her beliefs. In fact, I want her to retain her faith as much as possible. I just wanted her to love me.

The conversation went on, that crushing weight bringing me low in my seat. I couldn't look at them. I felt the misery building in me, but the shame wouldn't let me cry. They told me that they couldn't sleep because of this. That this was the most awful trial they'd ever had to go through. Even my brother, whose kidneys are failing, who goes to dialysis three times a week in order to live, who is waiting for a kidney transplant and will have health implications from it for the rest of his life doesn't compare to this, they said. We make jokes about his kidney problems, they said. 

That one hurt, too. I am the most painful thing they've ever experienced. I tried to speak of my own pain. Of the misery I felt. Of the trials I had experienced, but they were usually brushed aside. I told my mother, who thinks she knows my entire psychological persona through prayer, that I have never felt I could trust them with personal and emotional parts of myself, and so how would she know who I was, or what I'd been through? I don't tell her anything, and she knows nothing. 

A knock at the door was my salvation. My mother's old friend from San Diego was here, and I could escape her presence. My dad took me into his bedroom while my mom opened the door to greet her friend. 

As soon as the door was closed he turned to me and said, "let me diffuse a little of the emotion. I didn't want to get into all this tonight. But you know your mother." He came up to me and wrapped his arms around me. And then the tears came. To say that I wept would be a gross understatement. I bawled. My entire body shook and my tears came out in massive sobs. I felt my legs get weak, and had he not been holding me, I would have fallen to the floor. I was being crushed to death by my own parents.

When I regained my composure to a small degree we talked. My father tends to be the more emotionally in-tune out of my parents, and thus doesn't feel compelled to resort to anger when he feels vulnerable. Never once did he raise his voice. Neither was he prone to attacking or condemning accusations. That said, his disapproval is more subtle as well, which makes it difficult to sort from truth.

We talked about a lot. I was able to express myself a bit better. He still didn't budge on the issue. Though, at one point he said "if it weren't for the eternal ramifications of this I would have dropped it long ago." So it seems his only concern is God's disapproval. While I find definitive evidence of this disapproval hard to come by, I can accept his position. It's better than any other stance he could take.

We talked of life choices, of the possibility of being celibate. We talked of my boyfriend and the part he had played in all this. I told my father with strong resolution that if it were not for my boyfriend, my life would have been ruined by now. I was too weak in the early days to have resisted things that would have destroyed me.

My dad told me of the anger he felt toward my boyfriend. Though in all fairness, I don't think he realizes the degree to which it takes two people to make a relationship. If my boyfriend has any blame, then I have just as much.

I told him about the awful night when they drove down to Provo to force me out of the closet, and how it is the one event I wish I could erase from my life. (Though this experience pulls a close second). 

He still doesn't budge much doctrinally. He defended President Packer in his infamous talk last October. He defended President Kimball in his recommendation to hundreds of young gay men to marry women and they'd be fixed ("I seriously doubt that's the only instruction he gave them"). And he defends the concept of man/woman salvation as if there were no possible other way. The thought doesn't even occur to him that if God said it was so, there's be a perfectly logical explanation. The Doctrine and Covenants doesn't hold the entirety of the plan of salvation, and I cannot help but believe just because I don't see how something could be, that He can't.

It's funny. The way he and my mom talk to me about this, it's as if they're trying to get me to change before it's too late. As if there's a point of no return, or an expiration date on my potential straightness. But their attitude of "you need to do it now" irritates me. This life is the time to prepare to meet God, and I need to learn and grow and experience to figure out just what that preparation entails. And right now, that means being in a relationship. 

So, while my talk with my dad didn't change his view much, at least he listened. And he expressed a desire to listen more. I told him that if he wanted to be there for me, he needed to be more available, and he needed to shut up and listen. We'll see how things go in the future.

After we finished talking he went out to greet my mother's friend, and I talked to both my friend from San Diego, and my boyfriend on the phone. My friend was very consoling and helpful, (as his blog ever continues to be) and from the conversation with him I knew even more that I just wasn't going to get direction or answers on this issue from the church. It's not going to happen. Not in the time frame that I need them. The culminating point in all this was that I need to ask God.

But I have a hard time with that. I ask, but I haven't asked while really wanting to know the answer. Because I'm afraid of the answer. As my friend put it, "part of you is going to have to be sacrificed." And that's going to hurt. 

I'm trying to be ready to ask and mean it. And I'm trying to let the shame and rejection from my parents heal. The entire day following that fiasco with my parents was a numb day. I was just there, floating from place to place with my family. I felt little emotion over anything. It improved as the vacation drew to a close. My mother came up both that night and the following morning and hugged me and apologized for how she had acted. That was a start. But the hurt isn't gone.

When I got home, my boyfriend came over. It was so surreal to see him, to have those arms again. I had to step back and just look at him for a bit, to make sure he was real. I had to break through the numbness, but it took time. 

I remember laying with his arms around me that evening. It felt so wonderful to have his warm body wrapped around mine. I just had to ask myself, why? Why is this so wrong? I do not understand, and no one has been able to explain it to me, especially in a calm and unhateful way. 

I saw my family again on mother's day. I went up to my aunt's house for the big family dinner. I found myself nervous as I walked up the driveway, and when I walked in I was suddenly very aware of the walls I was protecting myself with. My parents were there, and they were sweet. Things were like they were before, as they always are on the surface. But beneath it all I could feel the hidden wound, still fresh from our vacation. I love my parents. But I find myself pulling away from them, because I don't want to get hurt. But even the pulling away hurts, because I miss them. I miss being a part of a family.

When I pray I have made a point lately to ask for healing and for greater love for others. I'm tired of the anger and the resentment. It's like an infection in the wound, keeping me in pain and keeping it from healing. I'm trying to learn to forgive, but it can be so difficult. But I'm reminded of the sermon I heard Easter morning in a beautiful cathedral. The sermon was on the atonement in our lives. The preacher said that as we face the seemingly insurmountable difficulties in our lives, we need to tell ourselves "I can't. God can. I'll let him." 

And I really can't carry this anymore. I'm getting too weary. So I'm trying to let God carry it for me. Sometimes the unaccepting judgmental God of my youth creeps in, making it harder to open my heart to him. But in those sweet moments, when mortal opinion falls away, I feel the reality of his all-loving nature. It's then that I can let go of the pain and the anger. It's then that I can lay down with peace and truly rest. And it's then that I can find a loving haven in this chaotic world. 

I am so incredibly grateful for those moments. Even more, I am grateful that out of all the people that have been affected by this aspect of my life, my God is the one who has never left or abandoned me. He is merciful to me, even when others would limit his mercy. He is loving, when others would limit his love. And he is changing me as he sees wise, when others would define what his design is for me.

I love him. And I trust him


Joe Conflict said...

I felt like crying while reading while reading this. Your mother needs to read prayers for bobby or watch the movie. I wish I could hug you. I am glad your father was at least kind enough to embrace you.

Ty said...

Hey, sorry for taking so long to respond! Thanks for your support. I would love my mom to see this from a more sympathetic point of view, but I just don't know that she's ready for that yet. Maybe in time. Thankfully, though, things have gotten better since this post.

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