Friday, November 07, 2008

#11


If you've checked my "profile" you see that I don't publish much information about myself, not even an email contact. I used to, but found I was more transparent that I desired. When some had put together who I really am in the real world, it began to freak me out - not so much for myself but for my family. I wasn't ready for that. So, I pulled back. At some point, maybe I will be, but for now, I prefer privacy for them.


I've been reticent to be more open. In reading Bravone's blog comments this morning about a dear mother (Alanna) of a gay teenage son, I was deeply touched by this thoughtful plea to all of us:


"...The only way we are going to begin to change the church members' perceptions is to give a face to the name. When the word homosexual brings to their minds the picture of their best friend, brother, father, son, cousin, etc instead of the flaming, drugging, drinking maladjusted guys who are so often associated with the name, nothing will change. It's changing. I know it is....little by little. In twenty years, we'll be surprised by this dialog we're having and the need for it. At least, that's MY prayer!"


Alanna asks Bravone (and all of us still hidden in the closet) why we don't give voice or give face of the "faithful gay Mormon". As Alan so eloquently responded:


"...for all these reasons many of us are probably going to stay right where we are—hidden--because it's the safest thing for us and for our families spiritually, socially, and emotionally. "


I wonder if my voice matters, and am I doing a disservice (such as to Alanna's son) by being so quiet, so private, so hidden? I feel deeply Alanna's plea for her son to have positive examples to look up to. I see Scott's incredible steps to come out to his family and ward in positive but very bold ways. I see the tension of the gay community at large focusing their frustration against the Church - and all things Mormon - and I realize the pull within me that aches for this battle and me caught between the fighting sides - and remaining silent.


Who am I to speak up? What voice do I have? Who am I to think of myself as any kind of example for others? for younglings coming up? A face of a married MOHO?


This blogging world, in a certain way, has helped me to come out of my thick shell. I've been slow to open myself personally to others even in this community where it is safe and there is a spirit of camaraderie and support. I've "chatted" occasionally with some, but even that has been brief. And I've enjoyed the brief but meaningful face-to-face encounters of several. I'm slowly becoming more comfortable as time goes on.
Today, I sat down and wrote down those of you I now know in person. Over the course of the last year or so, I've met in person ten of you! And as of this week, that number increases to eleven with Abelard joining the ranks of those who have seen Beck in person.


All the other encounters have been at their request. Not thinking less of them, but this time, it was me doing the requesting to seek out Abelard to give him a hug. That's a step, to be the seeker instead of the seekee, right? It was a wonderful visit and a bonding time of friendship and brotherhood between us. Thank you, Abe, for being there for me!


NOTE: If anyone wants to receive the warmest, biggest bear hug (and I should know as I'm a hug affezionato) then they need not go any further than Abelard to have their bear hugging needs met!


Someday, I may have more willingness to open up, to give voice and provide face for who I am, and what I stand for, beyond this little circle of friends in the queerosphere corner of the universe. We all need support. We all need friendship. We all need love. If there is something you suggest I can do more for you, please let me know...

13 comments:

Abelard Enigma said...

For those of us who are married and with children - coming out is far more complicated. Such a decision has far reaching impact not only to ourselves but to our family as well. In short, it's not our decision alone to make.

If anyone wants to receive the warmest, biggest bear hug ... then they need not go any further than Abelard

Did you just call me a Bear?!?

Beck said...

I didn't call you a bear (unless you want to be called a bear)! It is a reference to being embraced fully with strength and gusto and passion and completeness and emotion and power! That, to me, is a bear hug...

And thanks again, my dear friend for it!

I think I'll call you Abe, the "orso grande" - Big Bear!
***

As for coming out, you're right that "it's not our decision alone to make", but, why do I feel so wrong in staying so quiet as I see two core parts of me (a gay man and a Mormon man) being pulled apart at the seams in the world around me? And as I watch protests and anger enrage against each other - against these two essential parts of me?

And I sit and do nothing... I remain silent. I say nothing... Where do I get off in doing that? Is this silence worth it for the loved ones around me?

I'm not an activist at heart, but I am a fighter. If you corner me, I'll fight back. I feel cornered. Meeting you has given me strength, inner resolve and peace that I'm not alone in this fight - but this silence is gnawing at me. What can those of us in this situation (with innocent loved ones to protect) but with countless others that need our voice and face for their "protection" and "greater good" do instead of just sit? How can our voices be heard and our faces seen to help Alanna's son and countless other sons - if we aren't known to the Church? Is it right to just sit here and watch this firestorm rage around us and not participate in it?

I admire the faith of so many in this community who do stand up for their beliefs and I am envious of their courage and strength. So what do we do or how do we offer our support to our gay brothers and sisters as INSIDERS in the Kingdom if the Kingdom doesn't even know we dwell in their midst?

My questions are rambling... sorry, but it is my blog after all.

Scott said...

If you want to be out, or if you fee like you should be out, then make it a goal and work toward it.

In your particular case, Beck, I think a few things would need to happen before you should start considering being more public than you currently are.

You would need your wife's support. Sarah's experience in school yesterday is evidence enough that the wife of an out gay man can expect a bit of negative feedback. She would need to be prepared for that, and would need to agree with you that the benefits of being out would make it worth whatever hardships might be involved.

You would need your kids' support, which obviously means coming out to them first. They'll need time to get used to the idea of having a gay dad before they're ready for other people to know that they have a gay dad (though, if our daughter is at all typical, they may actually find it easier to be able to talk about things with their friends).

Once you've got the support of your family, if you feel like it's the right thing to do, then you can start revealing your secret to the world, as quickly or as slowly as you're comfortable with, and in whatever manner makes sense to you.

In the meantime, if you're not ready to be out, or if you're not ready to tell your kids, or if your wife isn't ready for you to be out, or whatever, don't sweat it. There are legitimate reasons to stay in the closet, and there's no shame in staying hidden if that's what's best for you and your family.

You're still doing a lot of good and affecting a lot of lives with your blog. It helped me when I was first starting to come to terms with everything, and I know it's helped many others. You may not be an obvious example to the straight majority of the Church, but you're a beacon of hope to many in the gay minority, and you should be proud of that.

Philip said...

Beck,

I have two stories I think relate to what you are posting about.

I apologize ahead of time if you have already heard these stories.

First story...

I came out at work because a young gay man that I didn't really know killed himself in such a way that I knew he must of really wanted to die.

What bothered me most about his death was that everyone around him knew he was gay but were patiently waiting for him to come out.

His mother knew. His gay brother knew. Yeah, he had an older gay brother. All his friends knew. And they were all ready to accept him as soon as he came out.

This really upset me so I went around asking gay friends what we could have done to stop something like this from happening. All of my friends told me to get over it; that it happens all the time. Finally one friend took pity on me and said that it was just too bad that the kid didn't hang in there long enough to come out because if he had then he would had more support than he could ever possibly have needed from the gay community.

That's when I knew what killed that boy.

Our silence killed him.

His mother's silence. His gay brother's silence. His friends silence. The gay community's silence. And because I am part of the gay community, my silence.

If just one of us had broken that silence and talked to that child then he wouldn't have felt so terminally alone.

Right then and there I decided to be silent no longer. It took three weeks but finally I found the courage to come out at work.

My hope was that by coming out at work I could do my small part in helping other gay children avoid a similar fate but the person I ended up helping the most was me.

I had always thought I was a shy personality; a person that was not good at expressing his thoughts or feelings.

Now I regularly post on your blog. Do I sound like a person that has trouble expressing his thoughts or feelings? Do I come across as shy?

Of course, not.

Coming out at work changed me forever because I found my voice.

Second story...

My wife and I made a decision early on not to tell the kids I was gay because we both feared the news would traumatize them.

When my daughter was sixteen she sat me down and told me that she knew all about me and furthermore she was angry I hadn't trusted her enough to tell her the truth.

About three months later she gave me a story she wrote for English class as a Father's Day present.

In the story she describes stumbling upon my secret when she was 11 years and the years spent in torment not knowing what to think and knowing she couldn't come to us - her parents - or anyone else about the big family secret.

As I read the story I cried because I realized in our attempt to protect our children that we had forced our straight daughter into a closet every bit as bad as the one I had grown up in.

You can read my daughter's story by going to www.pflagphoenix.org and clicking on personal stories. Her name is Katy.

Regards,
Philip

Philip said...

Beck,

If I can add to Scott's comments...

The way I see it the closet is about two things - a secret and fear of others finding out that secret.

I know I can't control how others react to finding out my secret but it helps me to know that my fear plays such a important role in making it more difficult or easier to come out because oftentimes my fears are unfounded (in fact, they almost always are) and I have found ways to mitigate my fears.

For instance, when I wanted to go back to the Church, I privately met with a Priest I suspected was gay to find out how I would be received as an openly gay man. The Priest told me I could come back but not as an openly gay man. Not what I wanted to hear but then he also told me that there were members of the congregation that were very gay friendly and did not support the Church's position on homosexuality. He also told me that pockets like this existed in every congregation and some parishes were more gay friendly than others. He, of course, never mentioned he was gay but then he didn't have to.

Another instance, is what you are doing by finding support in the blogosphere and through face to face meetings. I found having a strong support network of friends to fall back on if coming out does not go well went a long way towards mitigating my fears.

One other thing is that I had to come out in a certain order. I had to come out to my kids before I could come out to my parents, for instance. The fear of my children finding out from my parents was too great. And once I came out to my family it was a whole lot easier to come out to others because I no longer had to worry about my family finding out from others.

I hope this makes sense.

Regards,
Philip

Beck said...

SCOTT said: "You may not be an obvious example to the straight majority of the Church, but you're a beacon of hope to many in the gay minority, and you should be proud of that."

Thank you, though I don't feel much of a beacon, nor to I feel that proud of my timidity. But, if you or others can find hope in my blog and experiences, then I am encouraged to keep keepin' on.

As for coming out in steps, I see this and know this - it's just a slow process to take. I need a push of some kind that motivates me to move forward - maybe as this political debate and other family dynamics evolve, I'll be able to do so - first to my kids and then to others.

Meanwhile, these occasional face-to-face visits with fellow MOHOs like yourself encourage me on and help me to be more comfortable with myself day by day, step by step.

But, thinking about my silences and not giving face of one like me in this Mormon community to help those behind me causes me deep pain and concern and threatens to take away any feelings of pride as I'm so timid to share my light and knowledge. The blog is a step, and meeting more and more of you out there is another step, and feeling good about continuing the dialog is another...

Who knows, maybe I'll organize a MOHO Christmas party. What do you think? :)

Beck said...

PHILIP said: "Our silence killed him".

What a powerful message - and one that I am currently stressing over. When I read Alanna's words, I see her desperation for help and cry for examples to step up.

This closet we are in is so heavily constructed by our own fears and insecurities and years of silence and years of watching the abuse of others, and years of pretending, that we can't seem to break out of it. And so I blog quietly in anonymity.

But, as I come to know each of you here, I gain confidence and see at least some timid attempt to break my silence, to reach out, to be seen and heard.

I see the day when I'll be able to "tell my story" more openly and more honestly. I see the day when I'll not be so timid or scared of those around me. I see the day when I will fear (show my humble devotion) God and not man...

***

"My wife and I made a decision early on not to tell the kids I was gay because we both feared the news would traumatize them..."

So have we, but we've discussed this and decided that if the time is right, or the subject is brought up by one of them, that I will be honest and truthful in my response and not hestitate to tell them about their father. Like I've noted in the past, I'm sure my son has suspected some things about me, and I've committed to myself that I will not lie to him.

Your thoughts of your daugther feeling hurt that you would not trust her in these "secrets" is powerful and makes me wonder if my hesitancy is more damaging than the message itself, and if the waiting for my kids to confront me is a way for me to avoid or take responsibility for it.

***

"Another instance, is what you are doing by finding support in the blogosphere and through face to face meetings. I found having a strong support network of friends to fall back on if coming out does not go well went a long way towards mitigating my fears..."

This is what this post is also about, not just coming out step by step to help break the silence and be a face and voice to those "behind me", but to gain a network of support and be a part of that support network to others, moving toward mitigating these terribly strong and binding, stifling and smoothering fears...

Thank you for your wisdom and insights as you are looking back and watching me (and probably chuckling at me and the adolescent manner with which I conduct my life) and helping me to come along the path, showing me the way.

Scott said...

Who knows, maybe I'll organize a MOHO Christmas party. What do you think? :)

Sarah and I were thinking of putting on some sort of get-together, but we haven't figured out any details yet.

makes me wonder if ... waiting for my kids to confront me is a way for me to avoid or take responsibility for it.

Maybe.

One of the reasons we decided to tell the kids was that we realized that if they figured it out on their own, our silence and secrecy could very easily be understood to mean that we were ashamed of how I am. We didn't want to give that impression.

If you think there's any chance that any of your kids suspects anything, think of the message you might be sending by remaining silent: Homosexuality is a shameful thing; something we don't talk about; something that's embarrassing to disclose even to those who are closest to us.

Our kids are still pretty young, and haven't really learned prejudices yet (which is another reason we thought it would be good to tell them early). When your kids are older, there may be some justifiable fear that learned homophobic tendencies will cause them to distance themselves from you when they find out. In that sense, telling an older child is probably not much different than coming out to a friend or other family member as far as fear of rejection goes.

I've got a little bit of coming out experience now :), and in my experience there hasn't been as much rejection as I have feared. (I've also found that it gets easier every time).

Don't try to take things faster than you can handle, but try not to let fear hold you back, either.

Silver said...

As usual I'm posting late and there is another new post. I hope someone reads this. I'm often a late voice.

I've read this with great interest and it has hit me at my core. I think it's time for me to come out to my children.

Reading what Philip has posted about his 16 year old daughter hit me like a rock. I have an 18 year old who I think knows on some level. There have been subtle signs. I have given her opportunity to question me. I have been open and receptive, but she may fear bridging the subject and she may be waiting for me to do the right thing. She may feel I don't trust her. We have taught our kids to come to us with ANYTHING and promised them we would withhold judgment. They have done so many times and are remarkably open with us. Perhaps it's my turn to return the favor.

Scott essentially said that silence equals shame. Really, what do I have to be ashamed of? I have been faithful to my wife and to my temple covenants. I am in good standing and my heart is her's. What is the harm in sharing my struggle with the children? Our family will remain in tact.

My wife is trapped in silence. She has to "protect" the kids and other family members. She can't turn to them for support. She remains loyal to me in her silence. I want to release her from her prison of silence. It's time to start to tell her family and mine.

Scott, thanks for pointing out the proper order; start with the kids first and then to other family members, but only after the spouse gives her permission.

I'm going to talk with her tonight. I really believe that by coming out of hiding with this that I will avail her and myself a great deal of new freedom and the support of loving families and friends. I trust that our families will be kind. I trust that they will be supportive and I believe that many of them will find courage and strength through my honesty and openness.

I see homophobic tendencies in my kids and it hurts me. Their innocent jokes from school and their frequent comments (that's so gay etc..) hurt and concern me. I want to teach them the reality of this struggle and the value of empathy and tolerance.

I love myself and I have no reason to sit in shame. It's time I started coming out to the ones I love most. I have faith that it's going to be better.

If my wife agrees you will see me blog on this. I'll be posting about it.

The timing and the appropriateness of coming out is different for all of us depending on our own situations. Beck, you have inspired me and for me at least, I think I've come to the conviction that the time is NOW.

I hope you and Scott will invite me to your Christmas party. I would want to be there.

I'm so happy for you and Abe. It's a bromance of epic proportions. A truly bromantic tale. I mean that sincerely. So great that you have finally met.

Silver

Sarah (Serendipity) said...

Silver, Wow! Scott and I are so excited for you! We will pray for you!

And you (and your wife, I hope!) can definitely be invited to the party.

When is everyone available? We can do it sooner than later, since December is always so crazy!

Beck said...

SILVER: I do not believe that "silence equals shame". There are reasons for silence, among which are protection, privacy, and love. Each person's situation is unique and to label all silence as shame is not fair. Though there may be some shame in remaining hidden, don't lump all motives into the same pot and situation.

I've been thinking a lot about this same thing. I wonder if my hesitancy to open to my kids and to be truly honest with my wife about my blog and friends here is nothing more than fear - fear that is fed by shame. I'm with you, by friend, but not sure we can all do it in the exact same way at a prescribed time.

"My wife is trapped in silence. She has to "protect" the kids and other family members. She can't turn to them for support. She remains loyal to me in her silence. I want to release her from her prison of silence. It's time to start to tell her family and mine."

This is powerful and I pray for your success as you move into this next phase of your journey. Best wishes as you bring your wife and kids into the light of knowledge and integrity!

Please restore your blog and report for the rest of us, I beg of you!

SARAH: Your prayers are felt for all of us.

Scott said...

silver: Scott essentially said that silence equals shame.

beck: I do not believe that "silence equals shame".

I'll just clarify that I agree with Beck that there can be valid reasons to remain silent. I've read a few books on mixed-orientation marriages that include accounts of custody battles gone wrong when the courts find out that one of the parents is gay. That's one example of when silence might be justified.

What I really meant to say is that silence might be interpreted as embarrassment or shame when someone (the kids, for example) finally figures out or is told the secret. When casting about for a reason why they might not have been told earlier, they may decide that it was because of embarrassment or shame.

If there are legitimate reasons to remain quiet, and those reasons can be explained in a manner that the kids will understand and accept, then there's no issue.

duck said...

I would like to share my story with you as a gay member in the church. I checked the link on your comment verification giving my email address if you are interested in hearing it. I like reading your blog. I feel for you. I have been where you currently are.