Ed. Note: A reader recently wrote in with the following letter. A common theme among internal discussions within our Facebook groups and other organizational activities is the relationship issues that arise with parents and siblings for LGBT fundamentalists and former fundamentalists. We asked if we could share her letter.
Sometimes being out of the IFB feels a bit like recovering from a serious addiction. My “addictions” are guilt, shame, worry, perfectionism, and the like. These surface in all areas of my life, even though I know it’s outdated.
I sometimes find myself minimizing, calling myself “silly for caring so much,” but the fact is it’s not “silly” at all. It is a serious and sometimes dangerous byproduct of having been raised in such a restrictive and controlling and manipulative environment.
One of the most difficult areas I’ve seen in myself is my relationship with my parents. I love them so much, and in so many ways just wanted them to love me unconditionally. I feel as if I’ve never had that security. “Honor your father and mother” was drilled into me to the point that if I got detention in school, I felt like a failure as a child because my parents were paying money for me to get a quality education. Having an argument, getting anything lower than a B on a test, sticking up for myself, being depressed, etc. – my parents would always be able to turn around to how I was hurting my family. Much of it was my perception – I have been overly sensitive since birth.
Since my coming out to my parents, my dependence upon their perception of me had been thrown into sharp relief. They try every tactic they can think of to make sure that I become “straight and narrow” again – not that I ever was in favor of it. Even as a fervent Christian in years past, I’d never bought the idea that homosexuality was the evil thing it was purported to be. Most of the pressure comes from my mother. She will cry, tell me about single men she’s met, ask me if I’m going to get a boyfriend yet, etc.; all while knowing that I am in a very happy, very fulfilling relationship.
Things came to a head in the last couple days. Just about two weeks ago, my mother informed me that when she and my father come to visit (which will be soon), that she wants me to go to an ex-gay seminar in Arkansas. Then last night, she and my dad made a reference to how my younger sister’s anxiety is due to my sexuality.
Now, in the context of recent events, that comment is actually valid. However, this is not the first time that I’ve been made to feel like dirt over the problems of my family members which existed years before I came out as a lesbian.
And quite frankly, I’m sick of it.
I experienced a surge of empowerment tonight when I opened a piece of mail from my mother – an Exodus International brochure with a note that said, “Don’t get mad at me for sending this to you, just read it.”
This is the message I want to get across to people struggling with their own family issues: It IS NOT OK for people’s families to actively persecute them for their sexuality.
I’ve been told, both by my parents and others, that I should consider myself lucky that my family didn’t disown me. I’ve been told, “At least they/we still love you and want the best for you.” However, all the “well-meaning” advice and conversations and manipulation and standards are in fact quite inappropriate.
To be told that my girlfriend will never be allowed in my parents’ house. To have my parents tell my girlfriend that “our daughter is not a lesbian, she’s just a backslidden Christian, and let us tell you about all the boys she used to chase in high school,” (an actual event when I came out). To be sent literature on how God can change my mind about sexuality–none of that is OK! It sends the very clear message that I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
But that’s bogus. I am good enough. And I finally got to the point, TONIGHT, where I am ready to tell them, “Hey! I am an adult. This needs to stop, and it needs to stop NOW. No longer are you allowed to proselytize me because it would make you more comfortable if I had a husband and two children. This is the end of it. You accept me, or you don’t. No more in-between and hiding behind the name of God, no matter how strongly you believe I’m wrong.”
I fervently wish that this message would have resonated inside me much sooner than now. But I do not want to live in regret with that, either. The important thing is, I’m ready now. And with myself on my own side, along with this amazing community of friends here, it can only get better.
A Frustrated Lesbian