Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Flipping the Script on Christian Parents

I visited my parents last weekend. We hadn't had much contact for the six months prior. My grandmother (dad's mom) was in the hospital.

First, some history. I came out to my parents as bisexual seven years ago, at the age of 27. At some point a few years later, I called myself queer. Now that I'm living with a woman and hoping to spend the foreseeable future with her, I call myself gay.

In the seven years since I came out, my parents have tried to convince me that I wasn't this Other, that I was going through a phase, and/or that I was hurtfully disconnected from God. They also spent a good deal of time being utterly avoidant of my sexuality and related subjects, not unlike when I was a teenager.

For two years (when I was about 30-32 years old), I was single and I'd bring friends to my childhood home. Most of these friends were queer. My parents live in a rural area about 90 minutes outside of the city and some summers, we visited four or five times for barbecues, campouts or bonfires.

In retrospect, I brought these friends home to desensitize my parents to this idea that LGBTQ people were Other. By giving them the opportunity to meet and get to know several diverse, queer friends, I thought I could help them see that we couldn't all be put in some easy box.

But people, especially Christians, see what they want to see. They choose the frame of their pictures, sometimes quite literally.

In April, Sonia and I stopped at my parents' house to pick up a few pieces of furniture that they were getting rid of. We were moving into a new apartment. After we loaded the two bulky chairs and a corner hutch into the back of the UHaul, my mom asked us to turn around for a picture.

(No UHaul jokes, please! We waited two years to move in.)

As I turned around, Sonia was on my left, hesitant. My dad stood to my right. I pulled them both toward me for a picture, and my mom dropped the camera like a hot potato. She'd meant a picture with just me and my dad.

I was furious, and my rage fueled the next several weeks of email boxing between my mother and I, as I tried to set the perimeter for our relationship, and she quoted the Bible to me.

Her approach doesn't make sense. You may lose your oldest child, the only child who lives in any proximity to you, and you can't get it together to form an original or nuanced thought? The more dire the situation, the more she relies on vague Biblical maxims.

Last weekend, following the visit to my grandmother in the hospital, my mother gave me a handwritten card for Sonia. I cringed. I'd received dozens, if not hundreds, of those over the years. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and, when I got home, handed the card to Sonia, still sealed.
Dear Sonia,
I had hoped to see you today, look into your eyes, and tell you that you are loved. All human love is imperfect, mine most of all. I'm sorry if you were hurt by any action or word of mine, they were not conscious or intended on my part. I long for you and Rita to both experience completeness in the One who created us and loves us completely. I pray you will find it in your heart to know that you are welcome in our home and in our hearts.
Love in Christ,
She thinks she is some kind of saint. She's known Sonia for over a year, and has not yet acknowledged that our relationship is more than a friendship. How could we possibly feel welcome in a home where we are seen as incomplete, or have to pretend?

I love Dan Savage, and I wish I'd found him sooner. That one year ultimatum for Christian parents, or anyone having trouble accepting an LGBTQ child, is priceless. (Basically, get to acceptance in a year or I'm out of your life.) I'm thinking about calling into his show, but I'm afraid he'll tell me what is obvious to me intellectually: the relationship with your mother is toxic. Cut it off so you can live your life.

I'm getting there. Maybe I'm writing my way there.

Do you think it's possible for LGBTQ children to flip the script on their devotedly Christian parents, or will we never find a common language?

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