I'm dealing with the fallout from coming out to my deeply religious immediate family. For years, I had prepared for their tears, their anger, their remonstrances, their appeals to the Bible, and all of those have come. What I hadn't prepared for was how disappointed I would be, and how fundamental and lonely that disappointment would be. Help?
posted by grrarrgh00 to human relations (38 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
All my life, the person I've considered myself closest to was my older sister. I love her dearly, and I've always held her up on a pedestal as a rational, incredibly decent, and most deeply generous person. A little under a decade ago, when I first realized I was gay, and that it wasn't a phase, I knew my sister would be the family member I'd come out to first, because even though I knew she'd have some trouble with it, I also knew she'd understand and assuage my fears in a way no one else would or could. If I could depend on no one else in life, I could depend on my sister.
I've been living on my own for almost a decade, in a different state than any of my family members. I've been out at work and to friends for 6 years. After years of prelude, I formally came out to my sister at the beginning of this year, as best as I knew how. Our first conversation about it made me grimace and chuckle a little bit -- she said everything the textbooks tell you not to say when someone comes out to you -- "Were you abused as a child?" "And you're sure it's not a phase?" But she assured me she loved me, and was, on some level, OK with it, and understood I couldn't be the person I was if I wasn't the person I am.
In the ensuing months, though, our conversations became a touch more difficult. She started telling me in every phone call that she was praying for me, asking me to open my heart to God, pointing out the standard passages in Leviticus and so forth. I was taken aback, because although my sister has always been religious, she's never been a fundamentalist. But I assured her of my own time spent studying the Bible, reconciling my sexuality with my faith, and walked her through the numerous doctrinal interpretations challenging the fundamentalist position on homosexuality. (I attended Christian schools all my life; I've read the Bible basically cover to cover, and I've done a lot of intense Bible study to help inform my own faith.) I was trying to engage her at her level, although I was astounded that she'd brought it there. Leviticus, really? My sister?
Tonight was the last straw. My year of finally coming out to my family climaxed in what was more-or-less a coming-out conversation with my uber-religious mother. (A wonderful person, who commands much of my love and admiration and respect, but whom I will probably never describe as thoroughly rational.) It was tough, but I've been steeling myself for that for years. My mom is probably still wailing and screaming and asking what she did to deserve this. I don't know how long it will be before we speak again, but again, that I was prepared for.
But the giant blow was the conversation with my sister that followed, which included every distorted Biblical canard a fundie ever threw at a fag. (OK, she left out the Adam-n-Eve-not-Adam-n-Steve quip.) We each remained as civil as we could, but "civility" is a term I'd hate to ever use to describe an interaction with my dear, dear sister.
What I'm left with is my disbelief and disappointment that this was my sister. My decent, rational, generous, cherished sister, clinging to such uncharitable, irrational, bileful dogma in the face of all reason and loyalty and love. Something fundamental has soured in our relationship, even if things get better between us. It feels as though the person whose love and support I have always counted on in life is a different person entirely, and the loneliness and disappointment in that is just wrenching.
Give me some perspective. Point me to an essay, or a speech, or a book, or a song, or something. Lay down your words of wisdom. This was long, but I had to get it off my chest.