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Elbow: The Religious Closet

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Religious Closet

My mom called me the other day wanting to know what I was doing and how I was living my life. She said that my little brother who is now 19 years old and planning on turning in his mission papers next month (who doesn’t know I’m gay but just knows because of the way that my mom has been acting in conjunction with my divorce) has been asking questions to my other siblings if I’m gay. My mom is concerned about this because she doesn’t want anyone to know, and she’s trying to make sure that it is kept a secret. She thinks that I should be more careful with whom I hang out with. She mentioned that he and my brother-in-law were looking at some girls butt and he asked “Do you think Elbow likes girls butts or guys?” And of course my mother heard that and was mortified and when she told me over the phone I couldn’t help but laugh really hard. I thought it was funny. And if you knew my little brother you would be able to picture him saying it and the tone he were to use. He's just a funny and charming kid.

My mom couldn’t even believe that I was laughing and told me that it was a very sensitive subject. I keep forgetting that she’s only known about this since I was 23 and that I guess she needs more time to process the fact that I’m gay. She told me that when I tell my little brother that I should make it clear to him that I’m still obeying the commandments and that I have a strong testimony of the gospel so as to soften the blow.

I’m uncertain now as to how to proceed with all of this. My little brother knows I’m gay, it’s obvious by the way he asked about my friends and about what I’m doing. He’s okay with it. He’s supportive and he loves me and he is probably just waiting for me to say it because he pretty much knows, but I’m not sure how to tell him that I’m not going to Church anymore, and while I love the gospel I’m not participating in a Church that makes me feel marginalized.

So now I know that I have to come out of the closet all over again, except this time instead of saying “I’m not straight.” I’m going to have to tell my family “I’m not living the way that the Church wants me to and I don’t have a testimony of how the Church says I should live my life.”

I think telling them I’m gay was easier.

9 Comments:

Blogger Beck said...

I'd say this is a logical next step in your process of coming out. I feel for you as you realize this may be harder than the first steps you took several years ago. Obviously, you don't want to hurt those that you love and that is commendable, but it seems your little brother is strong enough and wise enough to put it all in proper perspective and still see you as the older brother he has come to love, without any damage.

As for your mother - I'd be kind and patient with her. We all accept things in our own ways. She may be in denial, but she still obviously loves you and wants what is best for you.

You are in my prayers as always.

6:13 AM  
Blogger J G-W said...

That was my experience as well. When I told my parents I was leaving the Church, they really flipped out. When I told them I was gay, I expected it to be much, much worse, but they handled that really well by comparison.

My parents were really protective of my younger brother (who was 15 years old at the time I left the Church). Once when I called home and he picked up the phone, my mom got really upset and snatched the phone away from him, like she was afraid of what I might say to him. That hurt.

My parents have come a long way since then. Though they are really, REALLY glad that I have decided I want to come back to Church and live as faithfully as I can under the circumstances, they came to a point where they were very understanding of why I felt I needed to distance myself from the Church.

Keep in mind, my parents are really strong, devout Mormons with strong testimonies of the Gospel. Nothing has shaken that testimony. I am so grateful for that, because now I too have a testimony and I love the gospel and the Church. But my parents also understand the difficulties I face as a gay man, and they are 100% supportive of me, and whatever choices I need to make to be happy.

I wish the same for you. I think your parents will get there eventually. Keep in mind, it took many, many years for my parents to get from freak-out mode to totally-cool mode. Till then, you have to just hang in there, and find the support you need from other quarters if necessary.

9:45 AM  
Blogger J G-W said...

Oh, and by the way, I could really relate to that situation where you thought what your brother had said was funny, and your mom was just appalled.

That's hard too... Your mom is probably not inclined to see anything funny about this situation right now. She is stressed out, she doesn't understand what's going on, she's worried about you, and nothing in this vein will seem remotely funny to her at all, and it will probably be easier for her if you're careful about this stuff.

One of the best things about my current situation is my parents have gotten their sense of humor about this back. Just an example...

In October, I went to priesthood meeting with my dad. They had a talk about husband-wife communication, and the brother teaching the lesson handed out blue questionnaires for the husband to fill out and pink questionnaires for the wife to fill out. The questions on each questionnaire were identical. The brother just thought it made sense to color half the questionnaires pink for the wives and half the questionnaires blue for the husbands.

After priesthood meeting, my dad said, "Well, you and Göran could use these questionnaires too. They could really be helpful for your relationship as well."

I said, "Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. But the only problem is, which of us fills out the pink questionnaire and which of us fills out the blue questionnaire?"

My dad thought about it for just a second and then he burst out laughing. We both had a really good long laugh together about that. It felt really good, and it was a great moment that made me feel really close to my dad.

You'll have that too, someday. Trust me. Someday you'll remind your mom about what your brother said about what kind of butts you like looking at, and you'll laugh together and it will be a really healing moment for you.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Jake said...

My family has taken my "coming out" as an unbeliever much harder than my gay coming out. I think that, just as the Stripping Warrior put it so eloquently in his youtube interview, a lot of members of the church don't believe that homosexuality actually, really exists. Or at least will not exist after this life. Most members think that homosexuality is a temporary condition at best; something that will be taken care of later.

But saying you don't believe in the church anymore... well, that is a bit more real. That can have permanent consequences. And I think that is much scarier for mormon relatives.

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

Hey Elbow. I appreciate this post and the opportunity to reflect on my own coming out and leaving the church, etc. I find the entire thing to a multi-phase process. For me the full effects of my decisions took time, as did being comfortable talking about all of it. Carol Lynn's book is great for parents trying to deal (if you haven't discovered this already).

11:33 PM  
Blogger Elbow said...

Michelle,

Yes! "No More Goodbyes" is such an awesome book and I had both my parents read it and I think it helped a little, but it's just going to take a long time for them to trust my decisions are the right thing for me.

4:10 AM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

You've got it! Time is the key. Hang in there.

3:27 PM  
Blogger gentlefriend said...

This is hard for your mother, but it is helping her to stretch in her compassion, just as you are stretching in your compassion for people who don't understand what you are going through. I think that the two major learnings mortality can give us is to learn to love, even when people are not what we wish they were and to learn to follow the Spirit even when life isn't turning out as we expected.

3:01 PM  
Blogger Distinguishing Preoccupation said...

Yeah, I am going through a similar thing with my youngest brother... He will be 19 next year and is considering a mission too. I would tell him today if here were here in UT with me, but since he is back home I'd have to tell him over the phone and I don't want to do it that way. He has asked my parents or mentioned it to them anyway... He found my parents copy of "No More Goodbyes" and asked them about it. I know he wonders.

I just don't want to wait so long to tell him that it make it so that he is upset that I didn't tell him sooner.

1:41 PM  

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