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.


Steve Boese said...

Hey Chris... This is the first time I can recall anyone echoing some of my stuff about hoping for and working toward what I perceived to be a healthy family and being a dad in the wake of great distance between me and my own dad.

(My experience was complicated further after coming out by a contentious divorce and my ex taking steps which alienated my kids from me, not completely, but significantly. So, the kid that grew up determined to be a good dad ends up feeling shut out of his kids' lives.)

Isn't it intriguing how we sometimes discover a layer amids all of the complexities which we didn't expect?

Take care, guy...

A Troll At Sea said...


We all struggle with the impact other people's ideas have had on our own formation.

I find that I am now able to pursue my gurus' goals by doing the opposite of what they would approve... or at least, I THINK it would be the opposite. You should never underestimate the people who can no longer take active part in your conversation with them.

Hang in there.
And good luck in 2007.


Scot said...

It seems so much in this arena lingers. Such feelings rarely, if ever in my experience, go from black to white. It’s more as though they have a half-life, and need primarily time to eventually decay.

Nevertheless, I’m sure you’ll get the better of it.

iasme said...

Beautifully written. It was a revelation to me when one day a couple of years ago, after coming home from church and not being able to stop crying, I realized that the source of my pain was rooted in my feelings of being a failure - a failure to me, to my parents, to God. The pain was crushing at the time. I wonder how much of that I still carry.

And what is it about marathons?! I’m hoping to run one in the future - perhaps next fall!