I learned a valuable lesson yesterday about giving my family more credit. I love my sister-in-law very much. She’s pretty conservative, and she and my brother and their kids are very active in the church. But she’s also very loving and nonjudgmental and has really been cool about my relationship with Jonah. She asks about him often and has always made me feel that she considers him important because she knows he is important to me.
Jonah and I changed our marriage plans. For various reasons, we have decided to get married in Hawaii instead of Vancouver, as originally planned. Because my mom will be serving as a witness, I have told her about my plans, and I have also told my youngest sister because she lives in the same house. But I haven’t really told anybody else. I intend to, but I just haven’t yet, for several reasons.
Anyway, the other day my sister-in-law was at the house and noticed my ring and because it was on my left hand she asked if it there was something I had to share. However, because my youngest niece was there I felt uneasy about getting into it all, not knowing how informed she is about the goings on in my life. So I kind of skirted the issue.
Anyway, Friday night the news about my wedding came out, and my sister-in-law was understandably hurt that I hadn’t told her personally. I received the following email from her:
You can imagine how surprised I was last night when your mom told me of your upcoming wedding. I can only imagine how hard it must be to keep your feelings quiet or have to hesitate, at all, in the sharing of such important news. It seems that we have a very good relationship, but I would like to
think that we are close enough to share our life changing events and feelings with each other (actually, I would like to share more. I miss our long talks.) Why didn't you tell me? Especially when we were talking about it. Am I rude, insensitive or judgmental? I hope not. I hope that you can feel my love. I can understand not bringing it up in front of [my youngest]. I have been wondering how you have been doing and what you were deciding about your relationship with Jonah for a very long time. I didn't bring it up
because it is such an adult topic and I am surrounded by a little angel. Which is probably exactly what you did too. Please know that I love you very much. We look forward to Sunday evenings to be with you. So, really, how are you and what is going on?
Love [your sister-in-law]
I felt badly that I hadn’t given her more credit. This was my reply:
You are absolutely right. I didn't not delve into the subject further at the time you asked about the ring because [your daughter] was there. Believe me, I wanted to, but I just wasn't sure it was the right time to do it. Frankly, I don't know how much she knows about my relationship with Jonah, and I don't wish to confuse her or anything, I guess. The fact is, I really haven't announced my engagement to very many people yet. We're still in the planning stages. Originally, we were going to get married in Canada, but just recently decided to do it in Hawaii instead, so I guess I haven't told many people until I know for sure what we're doing. In no way have I ever felt you be insensitive or judgmental about my relationship with Jonah. In fact, you have been cool about it. At the same time, it is hard for me to talk about it the way perhaps a heterosexual person might. In our church culture, especially, a man and a woman can announce their engagement and expect it to be received with joy and celebration whereas if a man and a man do the same thing, it will more likely be met with concern and perhaps even disappointment and judgment. I haven't felt those negative feelings coming from you in any way, but I do know how closely you and [my brother] and your family try to follow our Heavenly Father's commandments and try to live your lives the way he taught. I guess maybe on some level I'm afraid of setting a bad example for your kids with my choices or making any of you uncomfortable. Even though [my brother] has been good about it, for example, I still sense that he is not comfortable with the choices I am making. Perhaps that is a misperception on my part. I guess I just don't want to make anybody more uncomfortable than they have to be. Perhaps that's wrong of me, especially since I've spent a good portion of my life holding everything I feel inside, but I guess I fear sharing too much, like I'm going to rock the boat or something. Does that make any sense?
I love Jonah dearly. He is one of my very best friends. He is a good match for me. We are good for each other. We want to share our lives with each other. He makes me very happy, and I think I do the same for him. I have never in my life been so loved by someone (in a romantic way, I mean). In fact, I often wonder what wonderful thing I have done to deserve him.
It is our intention at this time to get married in a small ceremony in Hawaii some time during the first week of March. Anybody is welcome to come, although I can only pay for myself and Mom (and Jonah is paying for himself and his witness). We hope to have maybe a larger reception of sorts on our one year anniversary…. This is a very challenging time for Jonah because his family isn't anywhere near as supportive as mine has been. In fact, it is doubtful that anyone in his family will actually be at the wedding.
I love you very, very much. Even though I don't tell you (and I'm thinking I need to remedy that) I tell Jonah all the time how supportive you've been and how you ask about him and make me feel like he's just as much a part of the family as anybody else is. That means so, so much to me. I just hope you understand that in many ways this is still an awkward phase for me. I've been planning to send an email out to all my friends and family announcing my news and I haven't sent it yet both because we haven't finalized our plans and because I'm afraid. It's like I feel I have to pick and choose who I will tell because I don't want to "bother" anybody with news that maybe they don't want to hear. I still care very much what people think, even though I tell myself it's their problem, not mine, if they don't receive the news well.
I told [my bishop] about my relationship (which he already knew), but nothing about the engagement. And, much like you, [he] is one of the most loving, nonjudgmental people I know. But I also know what he knows in his heart is true and that it doesn't coincide with the choices I am presently making, and I guess I just didn't want to disappoint or overwhelm him any more than I had to. I also fear things like excommunication. I don't want to be excluded from membership in a religion I love so much. At the same time, I strongly feel this is the path I need to be on right now. Fortunately, excommunication hasn't come up, and I hope it never does. If it does, I will cross that bridge when I get to it.
Please understand that I have never intended to hurt you. I guess in my clumsy way I was trying to protect or spare you and your family from any hurt that might come from what might be viewed as "wrong" choices. If it makes you feel any better, Mom and [my youngest sister] are the only ones who really know any details, and that's only because they live with me. I even felt odd about asking Mom if she wanted to be my witness and still feel weird that when she does witness the wedding, she will see Jonah and I kiss each other for the first time.
Please know that I am perfectly willing to talk to you about any aspect of my life that you wish to know about, but that I still feel it can be an awkward subject. I'm finally, finally getting to the point where I feel I can talk openly to Mom about it, where I can refer to Jonah as my boyfriend, or refer to myself as gay without tiptoeing around it, and I'm sure I will eventually be able to do that with everyone. But please tell me how open you want me to be in front of your kids about it because I still feel I have a strong responsibility to be as good of an example to them as I can possibly be. I would welcome a conversation about anything you want to talk about because I do, indeed, love you very, very much, and I have been very happy with how you've handled my situation.
I am so relieved that I didn't do anything to hurt you. As I told you, I don't feel as free to talk with [my youngest] around. This is such an adult issue that I am not sure how much to tell her or to expose her to. Just so you know, all of our children know that you are gay and that you love them. We love you just the same. We told [our youngest] last night. She was unaware of your situation until your mom started talking about your wedding. When we got home [your brother] and I explained it to her. She seemed satisfied with the conversation we had.
As our children have grown and their questions have come we have done the best we can to answer them. It is hard to know how much to tell each child. For instance, [our youngest son] is at the stage when [your brother] kisses me when he comes through the door, that [he] completely grosses out. He is so uncomfortable with any type of intimacy it is funny. [Your brother] sometimes kisses me just to get [him] crazy. Each child's level is so hard to know.
I thank you for wanting to protect my children. I know that you have struggled with this for many years. Thank you for setting the example that you have. Your support at our families activities is very much appreciated ( like when [our oldest son] was made a Priest ). I have never heard you bad mouth the church or God for giving you this trial. Thank you.
I am glad that you are happy. I went to a missionary fireside a while ago. When I was there they told us to write down who ever we thought about that evening. I couldn't get you out of my mind. I wrote down your name. Maybe I should have sent you an e-mail sooner. I am sorry that I was not able to
emotionally support you sooner.
Please know that I love you. Thank you for always being so willing to talk to me about anything.
No, you didn't hurt me at all. And I hope I didn't hurt you, either. I, too, like you, worry about how much to expose in dealing with this issue. But I am glad to know that all your kids know, and that you all love me the same (although by your actions I have never doubted that). I just hope I never do anything that puts you or [my brother] or your children in an awkward or uncomfortable position.
I have no bad feelings towards the church or Heavenly Father in the slightest, nor do I regret my choices. As contradictory as it may sound, I still have a very strong testimony of the truthfulness of the church, and although there are some things that occur in Mormon culture that bother me, I have nothing but feelings of love for my religion. Being a Mormon is as much a part of who I am as being gay is, and some of my finest virtues are directly related to how I've been taught and raised within my religion, so I have no reason to have bad feelings towards God, the church, or its leaders.
In spite of my testimony and love for my religion, I have found much greater peace and understanding and my relationship with God has gotten better since I found Jonah and since I came out of the closet. I do not know why this seemingly contradictory journey has occurred, but there is no doubt in my mind that I am happier now than I was when I was trying to live my life "right," and although I do not know what is in store for me in the eternities, I know that things between me and the Lord are good, and things will turn out well, and I trust Him on that.
I do not believe in black and white. I do not know all the answers. But I do know that right here, right now, this is where I need to be. I'm still active (just Sunday School and Sacrament Meeting; I don't go to Priesthood), although I do not take the Sacrament. I still continue to participate in my church meetings (and will continue to do so until I am asked not to) and contribute where I can. I have tried to be completely honest with my bishop and my family about my life. Of course, I continue to support my loved ones in their callings and in their lives. I still respect the church leaders and still believe that Gordon B. Hinckley is a prophet. I am still celibate and plan on remaining so until Jonah and I are married (or, at least, as married as we can be). I try to follow the commandments I still feel I am able to follow. In short, I am doing the best I feel I am able to do under the circumstances life has dealt me.
I am reading an excellent book (although in many ways, a sad one) called No More Goodbyes by Carol Lynn Pearson. I think it should be required reading for all members. There may even be ideas in it people won't necessarily take to, but I do think it illustrates well what people like me go through. In many ways, I am actually far more lucky or blessed than many others in my situation. At least I feel I can talk about these things with my family, and at least I feel my family is supportive (or at least as supportive as they feel they can be). Jonah, for example, can't even talk to his family about any of this and feels sad, lonely, and isolated as a result. And, of course, when he is sad, I am sad for him. Anyway, it's been a really good read. I recommend it.
I love you dearly… You are truly a remarkable person. I hold you and my brother and your family in very high esteem. On some level, I am envious that I just never felt I was able to follow the path that you and [my brother] seem to be following successfully (albeit with plenty of work): i.e. a normal heterosexual courtship, temple marriage, children, a good LDS family, etc., but that path, no matter how hard I kicked against the pricks to make it so, never seemed attainable. Now that I've chosen a different path with Jonah, life is so, so much better. I am truly more at peace than I ever was when I trying so hard all those years to get my "square peg to fit in a round hole." Again, based on what I know and still believe, I do not know why this is the case, but it is, and I am choosing to be happy now rather than feel repressed, uptight, guilty, worthless, miserable, and always short of perfection, which is what I felt for many, many years.
Obviously, this has not been an easy transition, but it definitely has been a good one. I trust, for now, that is right. Fortunately, I take great joy in the knowledge that my choices are between me and my Father, and right now, I feel very good about where the two of us (me and Heavenly Father) are in our relationship right now.
I, too, am glad that I feel I can talk to you about anything.
Love, your brother,
I’m glad she wants me to share my life. It makes me feel comfortable that I can be more open. This evening as she and their family were leaving, my oldest niece said, “Congratulations! I’m very happy for you!” and I could tell she meant it. That means a lot. One of her best friends is gay, so I know she is understanding.
My mom and I had a really good discussion about being gay and the church, and I’m just so glad it gets easier every day. I wish Jonah could be as open with his family. It makes me sad that he can’t. Such is life, I guess.