And The Greatest of These is Love   2 comments

Today I’ve been on Facebook quite a bit and have seen this letter posted on friends’ and family’s pages:

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In the last 24 hours, it has gone “viral” on the internet.  I think that there is a chance that this is a fictional letter, perhaps written by “Nate” himself.  The only reason I say this is because if Dad knew his son was gay since he was six, there would have been ample opportunity between then and the writing of this letter for the topics of gender roles, sexual orientation, and parental acceptance to have come up, if only by the commenting on a TV show, a news story or some other occurrence or event.  The son under these circumstances would not have to “come out;” his identity would have been a non-event.  That niggling suspicion of mine aside, the reason why this letter went viral is because people crave this kind of love and acceptance.  It is a ray of sunshine in what can be a very bleak world.

I, too, wrote a fictional letter back when I was around 20-years-old.  The story in which this letter was a part continued to be worked on and edited over a number of years, finally stalling out at close to a hundred pages when I was closing in on 30-years-old.  If I were to ever pick it up again, it would undergo another re-work as my life’s experiences have added to my perspective, but the one thing I no doubt would NOT change is the letter I wrote.  Throughout the editing that has taken place on this work of fiction, I have never edited the letter that this 18-year-old son wrote to his adoptive parents.

Curious about this fictional letter I wrote as a 20-year-old?  Here it is:

Wed., August 14, 1974

Dear Mom and Dad,

The time has come for me to write this difficult letter.  I’ve put it off for much too long already, and there really isn’t much sense in waiting any longer.  I will say right off that the reason for writing you a letter about it instead of just talking with you is not to impersonalize it but simply to make sure that certain things get said.  Talking about it has given me more than its share of difficulty, so rather than face the prospect of mumbling through a few incoherent phrases in a panic, I decided that I would sit down in private and organize my thoughts.  It seems to be the best way to get this job done.

To state a lengthy and complicated situation in its simplest terms, I’m gay.  I’ve had myself in one hell of a mess this past year, trying to come to grips with that.  I was in so much of a mess for most of that time that I couldn’t even admit to myself what I’ve been struggling with.  In fact, the admission has really only come about within the last six weeks or so.

Not the struggle came on suddenly this past year.  No, the feelings have been there for years now, going way back into childhood, but  they were usually weak and undefined when they would occasionally surface, and in my panic that they may just mean something some day, I always managed to beat them back into the darkness.  I never let that 3:00 A.M. feeling in the pit of my stomach get the better of me!

During this past year, however, those feelings abandoned the timidity of their youth and took on a startling new force.  Repressing them was no longer accomplished with a few Hail Marys!  They were demanding to be recognized, and I just wasn’t ready to do it!

Suddenly I found myself in the predicament of devoting an enormous amount of energy into running from these feelings.  As you pointed out to me, Dad, in the middle of the night following one of my recent nightmares, this energy was coming from the energy I had available to do useful, productive things. The resulting drain quickly began to take its toll on my physical and emotional health, as we all witnessed.

All of a sudden, I realized that I couldn’t go on like that anymore.  A new approach was very obviously in order!  I knew that the energy required to deal with this issue was going to be tremendous, but it could in no way compare to the longterm drain of running from it.  It was a slow, painful struggle, but I was finally able to admit my situation and take some steps to deal with it.

With this new approach, I realized that I had some choices in front of me.  From my perspective, they are:

(1) I could continue to be “nonpracticing.”  Call it celibacy or the priesthood or whatever you want.  It still boils down to a running game. The method of dealing with it is still a form of denial and self-rejection.  Its sole redeeming quality is that at least no one suspects what you’re not dealing with!  However, I need a special closeness in life with someone, and if I forbid myself to have a gay relationship, I am left with no other fulfilling option.  I decided that it was a quick way of finishing the job of driving myself crazy.

(2) I could practice my sexuality in secret and therefore “protect” my loved ones from this aspect of my life.  At first glance, that option held a definite appeal by minimizing the risk of rejection and other conflicts.  However, I felt a vague, nagging uneasiness about this choice, and after thinking about it for awhile (and talking it over with a dear and trusted friend who has been there), I realized why.  The furtiveness and necessary deceptions, the inevitable guilt because of the deceptions, the fragmentation involved in maintaining such a complicated juggling act would produce a great deal of stress.  The prospect of developing a well-balanced life and a happy, satisfying relationship seems doomed from the start under such conditions.  I don’t care to set myself up for that failure.

My third option is laying aside celibacy and secrets and being openly what I am: a man who finds deep joy and pleasure in loving another man.  In spite of the problems this choice is sure to bring, it’s the only option in this list that will truly allow me to get my act together and give a relationship a chance at success.

That success is very important to me because “a relationship” is not merely a dream of mine anymore.  It’s very real and very alive right now, and  I have no intention of letting it die while still in the pangs of its birth.  I’m not going to stand by and watch while it disintegrates in front of my eyes because I was too scared to do anything else. It’s taken me a year-and-a-half of miserable indecision before deciding to give it this chance, but I’m firmly convinced that it deserves this chance, and it’s going to have it.  I’ve given my vote for what’s behind Door #3.

Which is, of course, why I had to write this letter.  You’ve got to know the truth of my situation so that I can get on with the business of dealing with it in the way that I think is best for me.  If there were another way of accomplishing that without hurting you with this, I’d gladly take that route, but I frankly don’t see a good alternative.  For my own selfish reasons, you have to know the truth, in spite of the pain this truth may bring.

As I write this, I feel horribly panic-stricken inside, fearing that I’m risking what is most important and treasured to me — my parents’ love — for……what?  I’m not even sure yet!  I hope and pray that I still have your love, for I desperately need it and would consider it my most valuable asset right now.  But I also realize that there are some things that some people just can’t understand or accept.  I will­ understand if you can’t.

 I love you both very much. You’ve been the most important people to ever become a part of my life.  When I called out for you in that Emergency Room five years ago, Dad, you dropped what you were doing and came to my rescue.  It changed my life, bringing me into the circle of a loving family and filling my heart with a hope that I never before knew.

Believe me, not a single day goes by that I don’t give thanks for that!

Randy

Beyond a doubt, what every person who has had a close relationship with his/her parents and has stood in these “coming out” shoes wants is parental love, acceptance, and continued support.   Because of not wanting to risk this loss, many over the years have chosen to repress their identity and desires, hide them, deny them, live complicated and cumbersome lives over them. That self-deception is one of the unhealthiest choices a person can make but yet many folks have made that choice over the years out of fear.

Some folks who have stood in the lavender “coming out” shoes have faced the very real possibility of receiving a letter like the one that follows:

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No LGBTQ child wants to receive such a message from a parent.  However, the need to be true to oneself, the need to live a life compatable with one’s inner feelings and desires, is so important that the risk is often taken.

If being gay (or L, B, T, or Q) is a lifestyle choice, as the religious Right have claimed, why on Earth would one ever choose this lifestyle? “I chose to be gay because I wanted my parents to disown me, my neighbors to vandalize my property, my church to excommunicate me, and my former friends to shun me,” said no person EVER.

To me, it is obvious that being something other than heterosexual is an inborn trait, resistant to change to any great extent over the course of a lifetime.  However, the best data we have on this are self-reported and evidence-based from the people who have these characteristics and those who care about them.  Time and time again people will say, “I knew from the time I was a kid.”  These reports have been discounted by the religious Right as “biased data,” just something people say to support their own cause.  Until we have physiological studies demonstrating some key ingredient that is different in the homosexual make-up, something we can definitely point to and say, “this is a human biological variation,” the religious Right will continue to argue that it’s a lifestyle choice and a sin.

I feel very confident that as we understand more about the complicated subjects of genetics, physiology, the resulting endocrinology, and the workings of the human brain, we will eventually have the irrefutable answer that there is an inborn basis to the orientation.  It may not happen in my lifetime, but it will happen.

In the meantime, fathers will write letters, and they will have the choice to reject or accept.  Folks all over the world will rejoice when the father rises to meet the situation with acceptance and love.

“…I’ve loved you since you were born…”

May it always be so.

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2 responses to “And The Greatest of These is Love

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  1. My heart aches for James. 😦

  2. Mine, too, Lottie. I hope that he is in a location where there is a strong and visible GLBT community that can provide him with the family he needs.

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