How do my boyfriend and I cope with his coming out to his parents?
June 18, 2017 12:33 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend of nearly two years recently came out to his ultra-conservative, kind-of-crazy Catholic parents. They are convinced he is possessed by a demon king and is going to hell. How do we *both* navigate this incredibly stressful time? More details inside.

We are both in our 20's. I've been out for about a decade, and my family is, in the main, loving and supporting. He had only started coming out when we first started dating nearly two years ago, and only recently did he muster up the courage to come out to his parents. They are the sort of people who lap up the rants of people like Alex Jones, who think the government is making people gay by spreading chemicals in airplane's "chemtrails", and who are convinced the Apocalypse is well near nigh.

We are in what we both consider to be a very loving and healthy relationship, by far the best one I've ever been in. We intend to eventually marry, and have recently moved to a new city and apartment together, near a new job for him.

I have yet to even meet his parents. Truth be told, I'm not sure if I want to meet them, nor they, me. They live about an hour from our current location, and my boyfriend goes to visit them relatively frequently. On his last visit, his mom told him point-blank that he is possessed by the evil demon king Asmodeus and that he will go to hell if he doesn't do something about it and his demon-driven sexuality. This is just the latest in a long diatribe against him, spread out over many visits he's had with them. Obviously, this is wearing him down, and it pains me to see him suffer like this. But it's also wearing me down. It's making me, perhaps for no good reason, feel like our otherwise wonderful relationship is under constant threat by his parents.

Are there any resources we could direct his parents to, resources rooted in Catholic faith but that nonetheless point to at least some semblance of love and tolerance for their son, rather than paranoid fear and confusion? I know the best thing I can do for my boyfriend is to just listen and be emotionally available for him. But are there any resources I could direct him to? Maybe support groups for Catholics who come out and live life openly rather than as a celibate? He still takes his faith seriously, but he has come to the conclusion that the Catholic church is simply wrong to condemn loving gay relationships. He is interested in visiting other, more inclusive Christian churches. Are there any good books or websites I could direct him to that would help him navigate these changes?

And finally, how should I prepare myself for when I inevitably meet his parents?
posted by fignewton to Human Relations (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you know whether they are mainstream Catholics or some offshoot? If mainstream, their priest might be a good resource.
posted by bq at 12:43 PM on June 18

I'll be blunt: there are no resources out there that will turn these horrible people into loving, accepting parents. This is on your boyfriend--the only way they'll ever come around is if he refuses to indulge this behavior and stops visiting them.

I'm sorry you're going through this.
posted by Automocar at 12:56 PM on June 18 [51 favorites]

Here is just one example of Pope Francis discussing the attitude Catholics should have toward gays. Pope Francis has been very clear that gay people are children of God and should be included with love, not excluded and judged.
posted by epj at 12:58 PM on June 18 [17 favorites]

His parents sound legitimately mentally ill, I'm not sure there's much you can do. Nothing in your description of them sounds like their behavior is coming from Catholicism, Catholics don't believe that being gay is caused by the demon king Asmodeus, you know?

Is your boyfriend worried about his parents? Their situation sounds pretty bad. I would just try to be a support system for your boyfriend right now. It's great that he is out now and he should be proud of himself.
posted by cakelite at 1:11 PM on June 18 [31 favorites]

I'd counsel your boyfriend to not continue to see his parents alone for one reason, and that's the horror stories I've heard from friends about ultra-religious people essentially kidnapping their children and taking them to exorcisms or anti-gay camps. Forced exorcisms can be lethal. If his parents truly believe their son is possessed then they are capable of anything, and it's probably not safe for him to see them alone. I disagree with cakelite however. His parents don't sound mentally ill, they sound like they've drank the koolaid of the hyper religious. It's insulting to the mentally ill to conflate this type of Christianity with mental illness. What your boyfriend needs is love and support. This is going to be a very difficult time for him, and I have nothing by sympathy for you both.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 1:19 PM on June 18 [20 favorites]

Why are you even considering having a relationship with these people? Why does he keep trying? I mean, that's not technically your business but is it because he thinks he's supposed to or because he actually wants to?

These people - whether something is horribly broken in them or they are just evil - have made their choice. Their choice is to think these things of him. Of you. They're choosing that. Over the factual existence of their son, who they could choose to love instead. They are adults, this is what they want more than they want any of the other options.

You need to have boundaries, for yourself. You need to encourage your partner to have boundaries and support him in the very difficult task of establishing them. You need to decide what you will do if your partner chooses to continue to have a relationship with them. (I would not marry that person, personally. Because they are also making a choice, and it's not one compatible with a healthy life.)

While there's a part of this choice that can be blamed on the culture and rhetoric of the Catholic church, don't use that to continue minimizing their open, abject abuse as if they are just following rules *shrugemoji*. There are plenty of gay people in the world with loving Catholic, Mormon, Muslim, whatever families, because adults have agency and they have a choice. There's always a choice.

He should reach out to a local LGBT+ center and get some guidance on support groups and therapists who are both queer-friendly and recovering-Catholic-friendly.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:40 PM on June 18 [11 favorites]

I'm so sorry you have to go through this.

The Catholic church teaches many things, but many of those seem to be dependent upon what the listener chooses to pick up. Raised Catholic and being straight, I found myself with friends and acquaintances in the gay community, and had other Catholic friends and mentors who were also friends with many of these same people, and thought nothing odd of it. Jesus teaches love and tolerance, because all people are sinners. I never really picked up on "persecute sinners", but I know many people seem to. Some of the people I knew helped to operate the local gay crisis hotline, and I watched the toll it took on them. After a call came in, sometimes we'd just listen with ashen faces to help provide moral support for whoever had taken the call. People can be so awful. This was admittedly during an era that was much more hostile to the gay community, but it is clear that there is a long way to go.

The conclusion I've come to over many years is that people believe what they want, conveniently ignoring the parts that don't conform to what they want. They are that way because they simply don't care, or, worse, want to be that way. Your boyfriend's parents sound like horrible people. This isn't a Catholic thing. This is a wicked thing. Be warned.

Congratulations on having moved at least a little ways away, as this may be one of the best things that you could do. Simply not putting yourself in that situation may well be the best thing you can do. It is quite possible that the healthiest thing for the two of you to do would be to cut off ties and focus on yourselves, your new life, and finding new friends who accept and welcome you for who you are.

I feel awful saying it, but over the years, I haven't seen a more reliable solution than to cut ties with such people. It is painful, yes, but far less painful in the long run.
posted by jgreco at 1:46 PM on June 18 [7 favorites]

As a cradle Catholic I have for many decades now maintained that there are multiple aspects of the CCC (official Catechism of the Catholic Church) which cause needless anguish, pain and confusion. In this particular case see entries 2357 through 2359, which I believe to be a glib Catch-22 imposed by an unfeeling Church. However, as was already pointed out by other replies, average priests and lay Catholics (and for that matter the Pope) are more caring than the rest of the Church's hierarchy.

And of course Christ freely associated with sinners, and seemed to prefer their company. He went far, far out of his way to reveal himself as Savior to a woman living a life of sexual immorality, and did not condemn her. So clearly these parents are not behaving in a Christian manner and, though some would disagree, Catholicism is a subset of Christianity.

And so IMHO this is more a parents/adult child problem. Would these parents' behavior be less extreme if it were about cross-racial marriage or elopement or moving to a different country, etc.? In any of those conflicts there would need to be boundaries, possibly family counseling and maybe even no contact. As a parent myself I have always realized that my adult children cannot both be independent responsible adults AND carbon copies of myself and my wife. Sadly that is not true of all parents.

Also check your MefiMail in a bit.
posted by forthright at 2:10 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]

Dignity is an .org for gay Catholics.
posted by brujita at 2:20 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]

Dignity USA is group that supports respect for all sexual and gender positions within the Catholic community. Maybe your partner can find support there for his difficult situation.

By the way, this is a good summary of the mainstream, official Catholic position from the Jesuit perspective. Bottom line: Gay Catholics who wish to observe the Church's teachings are "set up to lead a lonely, loveless, secretive life".

There are many practicing Catholics who reject this conclusion in their own lives. If your boyfriend can find a community that is in synch with his own understanding of God's commands, it will help him be strong in the face of his parent's weirdness.
posted by metahawk at 2:23 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]

Other people have listed better resources. Here's what I'm going to hit:

It's making me, perhaps for no good reason, feel like our otherwise wonderful relationship is under constant threat by his parents.

This is not for no good reason. Your partner obviously wants to have a relationship with his parents, and they think his sexuality and your relationship are, in their words, demonic. They are not going to be happy to meet you, and part of their goal is to get their son away from your positive, awesome relationship. Unless they turn their worldview around, they're likely to posit a choice for your boyfriend of you or them. So as much as you and your partner want things to be different, his parents are in opposition to his identity and his relationship with you.

I think it would probably be best if he cut contact with his folks, but that's up to him and it's not an easy choice even with this kind of toxic behavior. I do agree with whoever has said above that he should not go see them alone because of the history of parents trying to force exorcisms or involuntarily commit gay kids, but you might not be the best person to join him. Figure out what resources you need to support him, and also what you need for your own wellbeing.

Good luck.
posted by bile and syntax at 2:33 PM on June 18 [6 favorites]

You don't need to listen to your boyfriend talk about his parents. You can (gently) ask him to find someone else—friend, understanding family member, therapist, etc—to talk to and get emotional support from. Yes, in general, you should emotionally support your partner but that is not unconditional. You should absolutely have boundaries around it because it's wearing you down!

It is also fine to (gently) tell him that you feel like these visits and this level of contact is wearing him down, which effects you/your relationship in X Y Z way. You can ask him to consider limiting contact or if he can find his own solution so that he expending all of this emotional energy on his parents or isn't bringing negative energy to your home or whatever it is that is effecting you.

I also think you both need to come to terms with the idea that his parents may never let go of these views. It may be that the best you (plural) can hope for is to get them not to air their views to you. I highly recommend using direct consequences to 'train' them not to talk about their feelings about gay people in front of you. Something like, first time they say something, "That is hurtful to me. Can we agree not to discuss it? [Subject change]" Every single time after, "As I said, that is hurtful to me. I am going to leave/hang up the phone now." And do it. Rinse, repeat.

Best of luck to both you.
posted by (Over) Thinking at 3:17 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]

Dignity USA may be a useful resource. He sounds like he really wants to maintain a relationship with his parents. I had a Mom who was probably bipolar, definitely alcoholic, and could be mean. When she said anything horrible, I left the room, the house, the town. On the phone, I'd say, I don't want to talk to you when you talk that way, and hang up. I consistently rejected bad behavior. After many years of resisting emotional blackmail, etc., it got slowly better.

Mom, Dad, I love you. I'm a Christian and I want to follow the commandment to Honour thy father and thy mother. I do not accept the fundamentalist viewpoint that homosexuality is evil, that I am possessed, or that it will cause me to go to Hell or be unloved by God. If you tell me those things, I will not listen. I want to have a relationship with you. I want you to get to know my beloved partner, fignewton.

It may take a great deal of effort and discipline. They may never accept that their son is gay. But he sounds so sweet for loving them despite their hateful behavior. I wish you both the best.
posted by theora55 at 4:15 PM on June 18 [4 favorites]

Yeah, you want Dignity USA for your boyfriend, which provides support and advocacy for LGBT Catholics (crucially, from the position that LGBT people don't need to be celibate but that their sexual activity can be consonant with Church teachings). They have a page with local chapters, and those local chapters will be able to point your boyfriend to parishes that are LGBT friendly and specific priests who are as well -- talking to a priest (or other minister) who's helped other LGBT Catholics through this sort of family nightmare might be very helpful.

His parents are definitely not within mainstream Catholicism (demon kings is pretty out there and probably comes from evangelical culture ... which might also be why they're watching Alex Jones), so I would guess they either go to a church with a nutty pastor who won't be of any help to you, or if they have a decent and relatively mainstream pastor, they probably think he's an idiot they don't have to listen to. Dignity does have documents and resources for talking to unaccepting family members, but based on what you've said here I'm not convinced it'll go well.

If you can tell me what diocese you and he, or his parents, are in, I may be able to point you to more specific local resources (either Catholic or other Christian) ... memail is fine.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:49 PM on June 18 [6 favorites]

As a son who is continually extending love and kindness to parents who show him hatred, I would wager that your boyfriend is by far the truer Christian here. Yes, he should honour his father and mother, but they should honour him back. I agree with other posters on following up on the resources given and find your community within his faith.
posted by Jubey at 5:20 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]

The parents do sound rather irrational and a little bit nuts from your description. It might behoove your boyfriend to either stop seeing them so often, or just lie and say he's working on being straight. I would vote that he stops letting them have some a large role in his life because they obviously suck. Him having an ongoing fight with them about this doesn't seem like a good idea, and I'm not sure any sort of reasonable approach is going to work with these people.

I'm gay and I actually think sometimes it's not worth letting people know -- not because I'm ashamed or whatever, because it's not their business and I don't feel like dealing with the hassle.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:11 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]

Cutting off all contact will be difficult for your boyfriend, but everyone above is right about how bizarre his parents are behaving. For his own safety, please suggest that he at least start meeting them up with them in public places rather than in their home. (If they cannot curb the demon talk in a restaurant, their outlandishness might become clearer to him. Moreover, if they're acting this way in a crowd, he might find it easier to leave early.)

Don't meet these people yourself, for your own safety.
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:39 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]

« Older PDF layout editors?   |   Sartorial sweater obsession... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments