Saturday, December 23, 2006

No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons Around Our Gay Loved Ones

Read this book:
I bought it a few weeks ago, but hadn't had the chance to dive into it until yesterday, when I had a long day of travel from New York to Salt Lake City. I started it on my flight from Newark to Chicago and finished it about 20 minutes before I landed in Salt Lake.

It is, in a word, remarkable. Carol Lynn Pearson is a voice of compassion and understanding for gay people and their families, particularly those from religious backgrounds. Of course, she comes to the topic from a very personal place. She married a gay man (and told the story of her marriage in the book Goodbye, I Love You), and her daughter married a gay man. She has befriended and comforted hundreds of gay people and their families since she began dealing with the "issue" of homosexuality in her life decades ago.

If you are gay, read this book. If you have a gay family member, read this book. If you have gay friends, read this book. If you want to better understand homosexuality, read this book. If you believe in love and family, read this book.

As I read the last few pages, I was overcome with emotion. I was sitting on a plane, surrounded by strangers, quietly weeping. They weren't tears of sadness. They were tears of gratitude that we have voices of compassion such as Carol Lynn Pearson's urging us on to be better than we are, to not accept what is as what must be. They were tears of gratitude that my family has circled their wagons around me, their gay loved one. And when I speak of my family, I speak of Keri and her parents and siblings, who have loved me through a crisis that led to a transformation of our family relationships. The one constant has been love. I am so grateful to be here with them for the Christmas holidays. I love them, and I know they love me. They are my family.

Read this book.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Birthday to KK!

I won't try to match the eloquence of her post on my birthday, but I do want to wish her the happiest of days here on the blog. Today she is a radiant 34.

In that post on my birthday, she wrote of me: The year between his 34th birthday and his 35th birthday is certainly the biggest of his life. To have accomplished all that he has in terms of facing a frightening truth, treating his family in a loving and considerate way while figuring out how to come out, deftly navigating the waters of homophobia and misplaced faith with grace and respect, and finishing the year by running TWENTY-SIX POINT TWO MILES is more than most of us accomplish in a lifetime.

KK has had a similarly momentous year between 33 and 34 that deserves some acknowledgement. She has faced the biggest crisis of her adult life with grace and forgiveness, extended (to many people unfathomable) compassion to me, begun the sometimes daunting process of trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up, and put herself in a place where she can be surrounded on a daily basis by the love and warmth and support of many people who love her deeply. She didn't cap her year off with a marathon, though if you asked her, I suspect she'd tell you that she feels like she has run one.

Join me in wishing her the best. Happy birthday, Keri!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Fear of my gay self

I haven't been posting much, for a couple of reasons. First, I've been busy with the holidays and work and such. Second, I continue to struggle with this "voice" thing here on the blog. I'm working with a fellow blogger to develop a new site that will focus on, among other things, politics, policy and advocacy, so I'm staying away from those topics here. I've also enjoyed taking a break from examining my life inside and out as I find greater comfort in this new phase. I wrote in my post about my marathon that I achieved a certain measure of closure with that event, and with that closure has come a diminished need to write about my life, at least for now.

That said, there has been a topic lurking in my mind the past few weeks. It's a topic I have explored with my therapist as I have reflected on this past year of my life: my lingering internalized homophobia.

Interestingly, I did not seek to discuss this with him, because I didn't really even recognize it. But as I discussed some other issues, there it was. We've been talking a lot about my parents and the family I grew up in, and as we have I realized that I am still very umcomfortable talking to my parents about being gay, ending my marriage, the pain associated with the period of transition I have been through, and my new relationship. The more we talked, the more I realized that it's not just a matter of being uncomfortable. When I talk to my parents about being gay, I feel a deep sense of shame and inadequacy. This despite the fact that they have both professed their love and support for me and appear to have no moral objections to homosexuality themselves (remember, they aren't Mormon).

I think much of this is tied up in my childhood and the coping mechanisms I developed to deal with my parents' divorce and the long-distance relationship I had with my father. I never doubted my parents loved me, but I can see now with the benefit of hindsight how their conflict produced conflict within me. I was determined to have a better family life than they provided for me. I know I could do better than they did for my future children. I knew I could build a family that looked and behaved a lot differently than mine. Indeed, I think that was always part of the appeal of the LDS Church for me. It provided a solution to many of my problems with my family. And when my emerging sexuality started to trouble me as I was going through these difficult emotions with my parents, the LDS Church offered a solution for me with that as well. I could have a better family and I didn't have to be gay!

As I have emerged from my marriage and left the LDS Church, I have found comfort and happiness in being openly gay that I never imagined. Even in the face of disapproval from LDS friends and acquaintences, I no longer feel guilt or shame about being gay. No, it seems the only people I have those feelings with are... my parents!?

This has perplexed me. Why? They do not condemn or shun me or my homosexuality, so why am I so uncomfortable and ashamed and embarrased about being gay around them? One possibility is that as I was growing up I felt the need to protect my parents, to reassure them that I was okay! even when I was struggling terribly. (This is apparently not at all uncommon for children of divorce.) But the answer is also, at least in part, that being gay represents a failure of sorts for me as it relates to my relationship with my parents and my image of myself before them. Being gay has now denied me the perfect family I was raising. It has thrust me into a long-distance relationship of my own with my children. It has repudiated so many of the things I professed to stand for when I presented myself to them.

Now, the truth is that I really do feel that being openly gay has vastly improved my life and most of my relationships, particularly with my kids and, ironically, with KK. I feel like I am more open and honest and authentic and that has produced more good fruit than bad. I am still a father, still committed to the well being of my family. I know that I am a better parent to my children than my parents were to me. So the "failure" I feel with my parents is purely emotional. I don't believe I have failed in their eyes. I just feel that way when I talk to them. And no one else inspires those feelings in me anymore in such a strong way--just my parents.

Being gay in a straight world forces many of us to make compromises with ourselves even before we are old enough to realize what we are doing. And once we begin to emerge from the closet and the fear of ourselves--our own homophobia--that the closet breeds so aggressively, we often find that it has sunk roots deep into our souls in ways we never anticipated and certainly never realized. I'm not a big New Year's resolution guy, but in 2007, I resolve to shake as much of this lingering internalized homophobia as I can so that I can live my life openly and share it happily and fearlessly with all the people I love and who love me in return.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The wisdom of Logo

I was watching Logo the other night when they did a little promo for the channel that featured a young woman who looked into the camera and said, "My sexuality is only a small part of who I am." Then she pauses and says, with a laugh, "But it's also a HUGE part of who I am!"


Monday, December 11, 2006

It's the holiday season...

...and I don't seem to have much time to post anything new. So Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and Joyful Festivus to you all!