Sunday, August 5, 2012

CHICKEN SQUAWK

I received considerable feedback on Twitter and on the blog after posting “A Game of Chicken” on Friday.  The comments are so greatly appreciated as I have had no one to talk with about this issue.  I invite you to read the post, but here it is in a nutshell: 

I learned from a Facebook entry that my brother’s family attended “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” and I wondered what my response should be.  Ultimately, I decided to leave well enough alone.  I would not be able to enlighten them and my mother, caught in between, would be the one to internalize the family rift.  Not worth it.
I thought blogging about the matter would help me move on.  How naïve.  I let things fester.  Ignoring the issue was not the answer.

I logged back into Facebook.  Foolish move.  Like peeking under a Bandaid to be icked out all over again.  My chest tightened again.  My sister-in-law’s previous entry was a call out for chair donations for her church.  I thought of writing, “Ask Chick-fil-A.”  It made me smile, but I refrained.  I returned to the inciting entry:  only too happy to support them again today!” 

Enough! I thought.  I have put up with this for twenty-four years since my brother met this woman and he became an extreme Baptist.  My family has quietly tiptoed around my brother and sister-in-law all this time.  My mother gets mad when I count the “God” references in their annual Christmas newsletter.  (I am not exaggerating when I say God makes dozens of appearances.)  We all felt homeschooling their children would create a sense of isolation and deny the kids chances for social interaction, exposure to diversity and opportunities in sports.  (My niece knits.  My nephew plays piano.  They both participated in State Bible Drill competitions.) 

I once tried to bond with my sister-in-law, striking up a conversation after seeing her reading a book.  “Christian mysteries are my favorite,” she said.  Yes, apparently it is a genre.  I suppressed a wave of sarcastic thoughts and poured myself a rum and Coke as my mother frowned at me.  We’re not supposed to drink in front of them.  Don’t let them think of our Episcopalian family as heathens.

But, the thing is, we are heathens in their eyes.  I am, for sure.  Any recitation of my good deeds would be pointless.  Hell awaits.

Why is it that they can live so openly as they believe and I, to spare the family, must shield them from a basic part of who I am?  Family harmony is a complete sham.  I have avoided contact with my brother and his family.  Maybe I am being unfair.  I have made my own assumptions.  I have withheld the truth.

I typed a Facebook reply:  “This hurts so much.”  I stared at the screen, hands shaking.  Yes, I can be very melodramatic.  I erased the words.  Why make a public statement on my sister-in-law’s account?  Instead, I emailed my brother.  The text follows:

Hi Brother’s Name,

I read sister-inlaw's Facebook post about going to Chick-fil-A and I am shattered. To be fair, I have never officially come out to you, but it should come as no surprise. That your family should be against gay marriage is also no surprise.
 
Sometimes I think things were much better before the days of Facebook. I do not need to know certain things and I didn't feel you needed to either. After reading the comment, however, I cannot let you pretend that you do not have a gay brother. So sorry that I do not fit within your "family values", but I am who I am. I do not need your prayers or any talk of loving the sinner, hating the sin. I got enough of that living in Texas and that's a big reason why I left.

The rest of the family knows I am gay. You should, too. However you choose to regard that is your own decision.
 
The message was sent Friday afternoon.  More than forty-eight hours later, I have received no reply.  I don’t expect one.  Still, I am glad I spoke up.  I am tired of assumptions and censoring myself.

I did not attend Pride celebrations in Vancouver today.  I don’t need to.  A stronger sense of pride lives within me.

5 comments:

Rick Modien said...

Oh, good job, RG. I don't know if it's my place, but I am so proud of you. You have no idea.

What is ultimately so shameful about this situation is that your brother and sister-in-law have chosen their relationship with God over their relationship with you. Somehow, in their minds, one precludes the other. How can that be? I don't get it. Are they so blind that they can't see God is about acceptance and love, not about judgment and condemnation?

Actually, I thought you were remarkably controlled in what you said. I understand you wanted to remain respectful with your words, but, if I were in the same situation, I would have let them have it, many years ago. I can't believe you've lived with this as long as you have.

I wonder if you now feel as though you've been set free. I sincerely hope so, for your sake. It's high time to let the past go. You are an amazing human being and don't deserve what you've been a part of, explicitly or implicitly, over all these years.

In light of what you did, and the courage it took, you define Pride for me today. Great job.

Jack A Urquhart said...

James, Congratulations on having liberated yourself from familial silence and secrecy -- and for having shared the experience with your readers. Who knows how many others you may have inspired toward a similar self-validating stance. Thank you for another wonderful post. You are are a brave and gifted writer.
-- Jack
PS: As the only 'Gay' in a family of hardcore Southern Baptists, I can empathize.

Tim said...

I think you did a good thing, writing that email. Weather you get a response or not, at least you put your voice out there. Silence can be seen to many as acquiescing so its good you spoke up. So many people look to their family for validation, and I just feel it isn't necessary or true. Be ok with you, anyone else's opinion is their problem, not yours. Just know, which I know you do, that you have lots of support out there.

ATC Scott said...

Good job! Never ever be afraid to stand up for yourself or others that you feel are being harmed. The more of us that stand up and are heard, the harder it is for them to pretend that we don't exist. The only thing different that I would have done is posted it publicly on their facebook. It might not be the high road, but they have no shame in airing their views in public, so public responses are fair game. Good on you!

marydpierce said...

For what it's worth, I think you did the right thing on all counts. It's unlikely you will ever change your brother's and his wife's mind. I believe people like that have so much fear and loathing inside them that it's practically impossible for them to let go of the self-righteousness that allows them to live with themselves. They are damaged goods. I find it sad and ironic that they pepper their conversation with God's name, but they cannot find him in their hearts.

My father is like that. When he turned from Catholicism to Born-again 30 years ago, it made for a fractious, uncomfortable relationship between us. We argued our points until we were both filled with rage and hurt, and neither of us changed our minds one bit.

I love my father because he is my father and there are good memories intertwined with the bad. I now make it a point to stay away from a most subjects. And I limit the contact I have with him. It's a little sad that some of us often have to live that way to survive.

We don't get to choose our family. We DO get to choose how much we allow them to hurt us. And we can choose to surround ourselves with a family of our own making who will love us and support us no matter what.

I do not know you personally, but I support you and respect you. I wish you well.