Originally published 10/11/2007
I came out to my parents almost thirteen years ago through a letter left on the dining room table. I simply couldn’t muster the courage to do it in person, so I waited until they had left one evening, laid it in a conspicuous location, and retreated to my sister’s house to wait for the seemingly inevitable wrath.
This letter came shortly after I had taken an overdose, been hospitalized, and forced to enter counseling. This is important to know for two reasons. First, the letter will make more sense when it refers to these things. Second, you will hopefully have a better understanding of my frame of mind at the time it was written.
The fact that I was raised in a religion that taught that homosexuality was comparable to demon-possession and would surely damn me to hell is also important to recognize. That was a large part of what made my struggle so painful, as writing this letter was in many ways an abandonment of my faith.
Dear Mom & Dad,
I don’t know exactly how to go about this, but I’ll do the best I can. The last year has been one that I’ll never forget. I saw my lowest points and my highest all in the space of twelve months. One day I thought no one loved me, that I was unlovable and a monster, and that there was no reason to live; then within a few hours I realized that wasn’t true. You both showed me how much you really cared. I feel like I really know who my father is for the first time. I’ll never forget the look of horror on his face that night as I passed out in his arms. I knew then that he really loved me, but I was scared that we might have waited too late to get to know each other. But somehow I made it. I hate that it all happened, but I think maybe it was good because I got help and am still getting help and also because it brought our family closer.
So, looking back on nineteen-ninety-four, I’d say we did pretty good. I feel like a new person. I see the beauty in life again and I have regained some of my self-esteem which hasn’t been easy. I think I know who I am now and I’m not taking someone else’s identity for my own.
The reason I’m writing this letter is because I can’t tell you this face-to-face. Here goes…
I’ve been sexually attracted to men my whole life. I know this will kill you and I’m really, really sorry. It’s okay to cry and scream. I’ve been crying and screaming at God my whole life. Why me? What did I do to deserve this? I’ve always been a good person. I always went to church and prayed. So why would this happen to me? I don’t know, but I do know it’s not a choice, because I’d rather be an invalid than choose this. I have never been sexually attracted to women even though I tried everything to be “normal”. I’ve used pornography, movies, everything I could think of to be like everyone else, but it doesn’t work. I’ve prayed to God over and over and over to deliver me and save me. I told him I’d do my best if he’d save me and change me, but he hasn’t. So I started to hate myself, turning all the hostility I felt towards everyone for making fun of me in on myself. I decided if I was going to be so hated and so abandoned by God that I would spare you and me alot of pain if I died, so I tried it. But for some reason, God has spared me from a wreck and suicide so I know he loves me even if no one else does.
Homosexuality is not demon possesion. Yeah, I know there are some pretty sick people out there, but I think they hate themselves so much they don’t care what they do. I know for a fact that I am not demon-possesed. I love God very much and I fear him. I love church and I am extremely opposed to anything Satanic or cultish.
I don’t understand why I am like this but I have been this way my whole life, so I think it’s time I accept it. If I have to keep living a lie I will probably kill myself. You don’t understand how you have to guard everything you say and do to keep people from finding out about you. I still think you may have wondered. I’m 20 and I’ve never been on a real date and show no interest, so you had alot of clues.
I told [my sister] three weeks ago. We was [sic] in Pizza Hut and I told her. She was stunned. She wanted to know if I liked all men. I said no. I had taste just like she does. Then she wanted to know if the counsellor could put me on some medicine to make me different. I told her if she could there wouldn’t be anyone like this. Anyway, she’s done pretty well accepting me. She told me she was going to pray that God would help me. I guess you can do the same, but believe me, I’m not like this from lack of prayer. I have prayed until I was physically and emotionally exhausted but it didn’t help. Even Jesus begged God all night to deliver him from the crucifixion, but God didn’t. Somehow, I relate to him very much on that and it makes me cry.
So, I’m really sorry and I hope you’re okay. I love you and I’m still the same person you’ve always known and the same one that you held in the hospital when I cried. I wanted to tell you sooner, but I was scared you would kick me out or something. But now that’s a chance I have to take. If you need to talk to me, you can call me at [my sister’s] or come see me.
I’m sorry and I love you.
December 31, 1994
Originally published 10/15/2007
I hid out at my sister’s house for the next twenty-four hours, nervous about what was to come but feeling slightly excited about the future at the same time. My sister went to see my parents the next day and returned with the following note from my father.
Please don’t say or do anything else until we have a chance to talk.
I love you.
P.S. Don’t be afraid to come home.
The letter calmed some of my fears, but I was still apprehensive about the conversations I knew I would be having with my parents upon my return.
Finally, after a couple of days had passed, I decided to face the music. I can’t remember exactly where my mother was in the house or what she was doing, but I do remember that she was avoiding me. My dad and I went into my room, where he explained that my mother wasn’t taking things very well. We talked for quite a while and he reassured me that he loved me and that everything would be alright. A few days later, he presented me with another handwritten letter that I cherish to this very day.
Love for children
Love for animals
Love for nature & its beauty
Lack of prejudice
Talent for singing
Talent for making people laugh
Sense of humor
Love of giving things
Ability to see through phony issues
Willingness to work
This is a list of a few things that make me proud to tell people that you are my boy. It took about 5 min to think of these.
My parents decided I should see a Christian counselor, as my mother was concerned that the secular counselor I’d been seeing might have influenced my decision to reveal my homosexuality. I relented, even though the counselor they selected was the father of one of my best friends in high school. I also was already beginning to revel in my newly-found freedom and knew that nothing this man had to say was going to have any impact on my sexuality. He could tell me nothing that I hadn’t studied and been anguished over many times before.
Needless to say, the ensuing therapy session was quite uncomfortable. I explained my situation, only to be informed that God gives certain people trials that they have to bear. He explained that the temptation was going to always be there, but that I was required to resist it. He compared it to himself, a married man, being tempted by another women. I didn’t see this comparison as parallel, since he could still go home and have sexual relations with the woman he was married to. It just didn’t seem fair that God would require me to be celibate for the rest of my life. The session ended with me informing him that I had never had sexual relations with his son, which brought a huge smile of relief to his face.
At this point, only my immediate family and two counselors knew my secret. As my walls came down and my words and actions became less guarded, I felt a tremendous sense of relief. It seemed that the next obvious step would be revealing the truth to my co-workers.
After telling one of them the truth and seeing that he took it very well and basically had no reaction, I decided to use him as my messenger. I asked him to bring it up casually to two other employees and see what they said. Apparently, he didn’t understand my intent, because he went straight to them and announced, “Brian’s gay.”
That kind of news spreads like wildfire and it was no time before my boss, a devout Southern Baptist, came around to ask me if the rumor was true. He talked to me at length, before I was called into the office to talk to his wife. I was worried that I might lose my job, even though I had already been working there full-time for over two years and part-time for five years. After being reassured that my job was safe, my employers said that they wanted to make sure I really was gay and asked me to go see a Christian counselor. They even offered to pay, but I declined, explaining that I’d already been down that road.
Things at home eventually got so miserable between Mom and me that I decided it would be best to find my own place to live. I stayed with my aunt and uncle for a couple of weeks while searching for and finding a suitable apartment. My life was changing quickly, but it all seemed to be going in a positive direction… at least for me.
As time passed, the relationship with my mother slowly started to heal. I understood her grief, most of which was based on her religious beliefs about homosexuality. Part of it could have been shame or the realization that I’d probably never have children. We had some long discussions, with me explaining my side of things and her reminding me that I was turning my back on God. Eventually, we got to the point where my sexuality was nothing more than an invisible ghost lurking in the background – something we knew was there but shouldn’t be discussed.
In the years before I came out to my parents, I always assumed that my dad would have the strongest reaction to my revelation, while Mom would take it in stride. I was much closer to my mother growing up, never really feeling any deep connection with my father. As cliched as it may sound, I didn’t feel like I knew him at all. Looking back, I find it somewhat amusing that neither of them had the reaction I was expecting.
A few years ago, after the demise of an eight-year relationship, my mother and sister somehow surmised that this “gay” phase of my life had finally come to an end and they had high hopes that I would finally settle down with a female. Later, after I had introduced a romantic interest to my dad, I got word that Mom and my sister did not want to meet him. Apparently this new guy had dashed all their hopes and they thought if they’d just ignore the “problem” it (or he) might go away. I decided I’d had enough.
The two letters that I wrote – one to my mother and one to my sister – were harsh, but not unfair. I explained that I was tired of being unable to bring my partner to family gatherings and that it was high-time they dealt with reality. I wrote that I felt they were choosing their religion and their church friends over their real family members. I informed them both that I would no longer attend any family events until they accepted that this was who I was and this was the person that I wanted to be with. It was several weeks before we talked again, but things did improve. Today, my partner goes with me when I visit my mother and grandmother.
I know that both of my parents love me. This might not have been the lifestyle that they would have wanted for their only son, but they’ve always been there for me when I needed them most. I feel closer to my father than ever before, my mother has come to realize that life isn’t so black and white, and I’ve found a wonderful person to share my life with. Just imagine what I could have missed out on if I hadn’t put pen to paper all those years ago!