Possibly the Droids– Er the Post You Have Been Looking For

I had planned to include a disclaimer here, that this is going to be a long post and to be prepared…  But when aren’t they long?  So–  Yeah.

I’ve written here, a lot, I think, about my family dynamic and how much I feared coming out to my mother and sister particularly.  Lots of people have expressed, rightly so, that coming out to my family would be a big relief.  A number of you have also expressed that you can’t imagine a mother not loving her son no matter what.  While I wanted to believe that, I have had multiple opportunities over my lifetime to be clearly informed that “unconditional love and acceptance is too much to ask for.”  I’ve lived a lifetime of being afraid to tell my mother I was gay, because I knew she would not be OK with it, and the possibility that she might turn her back on me was, at least in my estimation, very real.

It wasn’t until very recently that I was able to come to grips with the idea that I could live without my family if I had to, but I couldn’t continue to live with the burden of having to keep a significant fact of my life a secret.  I could not continue to censor myself and actively work to prevent certain things from being revealed to members of my family.  It was only after coming to this realization that I was able to write and send the e-mail I spoke of here.

My sister’s response was about what I expected:

Ok, I wish I could say I am shocked, but I can’t. I have suspected as much for some time now. I just haven’t wanted to ask.

You already how I feel about the subject, so I don’t need to tell you. My attitude is one of hate the sin, love the sinner. So while I see your choice (and yes I do see it as a choice) as a sin, I still love you. I will continue to do so regardless. I will still talk to you, harass you, pray for you, and love you. I wish I thought you would get as much from mom, but it will surprise me if you do. At best I think you will get a big lecture.

As far as guardianship is concerned, we are still undecided. Since we don’t currently have much to send with them, there is temptation to choose someone who we know would have the means to take care of them. But there is also something to be said for the love of family. At any rate, this revelation is merely confirmation of my suspicions, so I will add it to the pile of considerations.

So, I don’t know what you were expecting my reaction to be, but there you have it. No I don’t approve, no I don’t agree, but no I don’t hate you. We can agree to disagree and I will just pray that if I am not wrong God will convince you that I am right so that we see each other in heaven.

Not an ideal response, but about what I would have expected from her.  My mother took longer.  When I first sent the e-mail I dreaded her reaction, or rather how she’d convey it.  I didn’t want her to call me, or try to initiate an instant message conversation with me, just to start preaching at me.  But then there was no acknowledgement whatsoever for seven whole days.  I went from dreading any direct interaction with her to being somewhat angry that she hadn’t acknowledged me at all.  Would it have been so hard to send a simple e-mail that says, “I’ve received your e-mail.  I’m not ready to talk about it, but yes I still love you.” or “I don’t love you anymore.” whichever.

Finally seven days after she received my coming out letter, she sent me this reply:

Dear Kevin –

Thank you for being honest with me.

If you think this takes me by surprise, you’re wrong.  God talks to me about my children.  I’ve been expecting this for a while now.

If you think it means I’ll stop loving you, you’re wrong.  You’re my son, and I love you.  Nothing will ever change that.

If, however, you think that means I will give you an “oh-honey-that’s-ok” pat on the head and release you with my blessing to pursue a lifestyle that is degrading and dangerous for you and dishonoring to the God we serve, you’re very wrong about that.

If you think you will ever find lasting peace and fulfillment in that lifestyle, you could not possibly be more wrong about anything.

You are not a homosexual.  You’re wrong about that, too.  What you are is deceived.  It was as predictable as tomorrow’s sunrise.  You distanced yourself from the people and the things and the teaching of the Word of God and planted yourself smack in the middle of a hotbed of satanic deceit.  You made yourself a sitting duck, and now you’ve been picked off and turned into yet another mounted head on the devil’s trophy room wall.  He loves to pervert the image of God in human beings, and it gives him particular pleasure to do it in someone who has been marked since before conception for the covenant blessings of God.  He thinks he’s won a big victory, here.  He is very, very wrong about that.  This is not nearly over.  He doesn’t get to hold my children captive.

Fortunately for you, being right with God does not depend on anything you do or don’t do.  Being right with God depends on the finished work of Jesus Christ, who suffered and bled and died a horrible death to redeem you from sin and all of its side effects, and who gives that redemption freely to anyone who will receive it – which you did.  I remember it well.  You were four, maybe five years old, and I will never forget the look of pure-hearted joy and excitement on your face as you ran down the hallway toward me from that children’s meeting.  “Mommy!  I asked Jesus into my heart!” The price He paid has made you right with God.  So, no, you won’t go to hell, although it is a shabby and wasteful thing, indeed, to relegate Him merely to the position of Eternal Fire Escape.  You will never experience the blessing and fulfillment He means for you to have in this world, as long as you live a life that disregards His truth and disrespects His holiness.  But yes, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ has made you “right with God” as far as your eternal destiny is concerned.

So, here’s how this is going to go down.  I’m not going to preach to you – at least not with any regularity – because your born-again spirit already knows the truth, even as you seek to override it.  And you’re not going to flaunt this in my face.  I’ll have nothing to do with anybody or anything that places Kevin Riggs and homosexuality in the same category; and I will not have my son, whom I love, dishonoring my God, Whom I worship and adore, in my hearing, in my presence, or in my line of sight.  Quite simply, I cannot bear to watch that going on.  You don’t get to argue your case with me or try to justify yourself to me.  You just leave me out of it.  This is not negotiable.  My bond with God my Father, with my precious Savior, with His sweet Holy Spirit, and with His holy, living, unchangeable, life-giving Word – these are not simply things I believe.  They are the very essence of my being.  They are not going to change, and you don’t get to mess with them.  You certainly have the ability to break my heart, but there’s nothing you can say or do that will change it.

We’ll go on as we have since you left here.  You can ignore me and distance yourself from me, as you have already done, only more so.  Or we can interact without reference to this mess.

And, finally:  Yes, I am angry, but not at you.

I love you very much.

Again, I was not surprised by much of her reaction but the more I thought about it the more I realized how much it doesn’t say.  Lots of words, but not much meaning.

And then I thought about it even more, and I became a bit angry.  She contradicts herself, “thanks for being honest with me, now don’t do it anymore” and “I’ll have nothing to do with anyone or anything that puts Kevin Riggs and homosexuality in the same category”, except, I’m the one doing it.

I didn’t want to react hastily.  I was unsure how to formulate my thoughts and feelings and I wanted to be careful.  I sat with her letter for nearly two weeks and finally I sent her this:

I’ve been trying to figure out how best to answer your letter.  I have to admit to being more than a little surprised by what you’ve had to say, which I did not expect.

I’m also somewhat confused by your response and the contradictions that lay within.  You start by thanking me for being honest with you and then you end the letter by essentially telling me not to be honest with you anymore.  You want to pretend, and for me to pretend, that I didn’t tell you I’m gay, that you don’t know it after all.  I have to tell you, I’ve lived that way for many years and I won’t do it anymore.  That’s why I told you in the first place; because being honest with you is important to me.

Interestingly, we are in agreement about something.  I am a child of God, He loves me and I am going to heaven when I die.  Honestly, that was the one thing that was hardest for me to accept; the idea that you would look at me and believe I was going to Hell.  That was the part it took me so long to come to terms with.  I knew that not to be true, but I was certain you would see it differently and I had to come to a place of being able to disagree with you openly before I could share the truth with you.

I’m not sure what “flaunt[ing] this in [your] face” would look like to you, but I never had any intention of flaunting it in your face.  The fact is we don’t talk about relationships in our family.  There’s no reason why that would change now.  But having our own relationship means being able to be truthful with each other, not actively working to protect parts of ourselves, and that is all I wanted to accomplish by telling you the truth.

That does not mean I’m willing to accept things going on as they have, worrying at every turn how you will react to things if they were to come to your attention.  I don’t expect you to be proud of, or even happy about, everything I say or do, but I think it’s better to know the truth and not like it all, then to only know the pieces that you find acceptable, therefore not really knowing me at all.

I appreciate that you don’t intend to “preach to me”.  At the end of the day, I know what I believe and it’s not what you believe.  I don’t expect to convince you that I’m right and I would expect the same courtesy from you.  We disagree.  It happens.  We have to accept that and move on.  I know what you believe, so there’s no sense in you telling me again and again.  By the same token, I know I’m not going to convince you.  I had no intention of even trying.  I guess that would be my line in the sand, just as it is yours.

A lot of what you had to say came as no surprise to me, but there are two things from your letter about which I’m not happy.  The first is the healthy dose of guilt you tried to heap on me and the second is the untenable ultimatum you set, which places me in the position of being the jerk, no matter what I choose.

“You can ignore me and distance yourself from me, as you have already done, only more so,” you said.  It takes a lot of nerve to make a statement like that when you consider your own relationship with your mother and the relationship between all of our family members.  None of us talk frequently.  None of us interact on a regular basis, and in fact, I have interacted with you with more frequency than anyone else in the family.  And let us not forget who it was, that dropped everything and spent two weeks taking care of you after your heart attack and surgery, never once complaining, expecting anything in return, or even doubting the decision to go.  Don’t forget who helped you with your computer problems, or who came to you with the opportunity to purchase a new television for a good price.  Let’s not forget all the times I’ve been here when you’ve needed someone.  Maybe more than I should have.  How dare you suggest that I have ignored you for the last fourteen years when that has been patently untrue?

Perhaps there has been “distance” between us, but that is because I have been protecting this part of my life from you for quite some time.  Can you not see that as the reason for my telling you the truth now?

I do not appreciate the guilt trip and I do not accept the guilt.

As for your ultimatum, you left me with three choices:

1.        Never mention this again.  Never post anything on Facebook that could even potentially be construed as being a reference to my sexuality.  Never tell you about friends or outings or any kind of activity that gives you insight into my life if it also alludes to my sexuality.  Perhaps that works for you, but it’s not fair to either one of us, really, and it is unacceptable to me.

2.       I actively choose to cut you out of my life.  Never acknowledging you.  Never giving you the chance to acknowledge me.  Never giving you any opportunity to know me at all.  In essence being cast in the role of the ungrateful son who “turned his back on his hardworking single mother who sacrificed everything for him.”  It might make you feel better to see it that way, but it wouldn’t be the truth.

3.       My last option is to disregard your letter and continue to be honest with you.  To “flaunt it in [your] face” as it were, thus being the jerk for being so “confrontational and flagrantly offensive” when all I really want is to be real and open.

Clearly, this doesn’t leave me with any good options.

There’s something I don’t understand.  You said, “I’ll have nothing to do with anybody or anything that places Kevin Riggs and homosexuality in the same category…”, only this was in response to me, Kevin Riggs, telling you that I am gay.  Therefore, I am putting the two in the same category.  Will you have nothing to do with me?  I don’t believe that’s really what you want, but correct me if I’m wrong.

It’s not difficult to take that thought a bit further.  Your statement suggests that in the unlikely event I actually pull myself out of my dysfunction and insecurity enough to actually meet someone and fall in love and want to share the rest of my life with, you don’t want to know anything about it.  You don’t want him in your life.  So, you propose that I should pretend to be single forever as far as you’re concerned and not bring a significant other into your life.  Setting aside that you don’t agree with my choices, do you really think that’s a fair and reasonable thing to ask?  Do you suppose Erin would comply with that if you told her never to mention David or bring him around your house?  Do you really think if you forced Erin to choose between you and David, she would choose you?  I don’t.

So, you told me how it’s going to go down; now let me tell you.  As I said in my previous e-mail, I’m telling you that I’m gay, because I love you and I want you to know me.  I’m not going to pretend it isn’t true.  I’m not going to pretend I didn’t tell you and I’m not going to censor myself for you.  I’m also not going to try and convince you, or push you to change your ways.  And I’m not going to be belittled and condemned for something I know to be right.  I don’t know what the future holds or what opportunities will present themselves.  I’m sure there will be times when you will be reminded that I’m gay.  How you’re going to handle that is your choice.

I’m not going to be forced into having to choose to turn my back on you.  If that’s what you want, you’re going to have to be the one to do it.  I hope you won’t, but I’m prepared if you do.

I  love you.

I certainly didn’t want to initiate another back and forth with her.  I didn’t want to be insulting or instigate anger with her, but I wasn’t going to roll over either.  I was no longer willing to be the dutiful son and just play nice.  I was determined to establish my own boundaries.  But I had no way of knowing how she would react either.

It took her another week, and as the time passed, I really began to anticipate another less than concise but nonetheless preachy response.

Instead, I got this:

I love you very much.  As I used to tell you when you were growing up, you’re my favorite Kevin in the whole wide world.

Ironically, I have no memory whatsoever, of her having ever said that.  I’ll take her word for it.

I realize now though, that’s the only response that she’s going to send.  I’m choosing to interpret it, and in fact, really believe that it means she’s going to back off.  Certainly she’s displeased.  Certainly she wishes I wasn’t gay and that I would never ever mention it to her or say anything that even sort of brings it to light, but I think, after reading my letter and seeing where I stand, she’s decided to keep her feelings and opinions to herself.

I can’t ask for much more than that.

The Hardest (And Most Important) Thing I’ve Ever Done

Have you seen this?

Karin and I talked about it the other day.  She said it brought a tear to her eye.

I said, “hmmmm.”

“Didn’t do anything to you?” she asked.

It didn’t.  As we know, I’m not quick to emotional reactions to things.

But I admit, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  And I watched it again, that day.

And again the next day.  And several times since then.  I don’t really know how to explain how the video affected me, but it did affect me.

On Sunday, I sent the following e-mail to my sister:

I don’t think it will come as a surprise to you to know that when I think about our family, you are the person who means the most to me (well, you and your kids.)  You are the ones that I care the most about.  And you are the ones that I would most hate to lose.

Because of this, I have felt for some time that if I was ever going to share what I am about to share, you would be the one I needed to tell first.

I hope that what I’m going to tell you won’t change things (though I imagine it will), but for the last two years, ever since I asked you if you and David had a guardianship decision in place for your children, I have felt like it was only right for you to know this…

In the next few days I’m going to send the following e-mail to mom.  For the most part, though, I wanted to say all the same things to you… just… first.  Here goes…

There is something I have wanted to tell you for a long time, but I’ve been too afraid of how you would react.

It has seemed like it’s been more important not to upset or offend you, than it has been to be honest with you.  But now, somehow that seems wrong; it doesn’t seem fair to you and it is certainly not fair to me.

I want you to know that I love you very much, and it is because I love you that it has been so hard for me to tell you that I am gay.

I’m not going to drag this out.  I know you don’t approve.  I know you think it’s wrong and all I can say to that is that I did a lot of soul-searching, research and praying in the process of coming to terms with this for myself and I did not arrive at this conclusion easily or take it lightly.  I believe that I am right with God.  I do not believe that to be gay is a sin, an “abomination”, or that he will condemn me for it.  While I know you strongly believe that your perspective is the right one, I strongly believe that mine is and I’ve finally reached a point where I’m ready to accept that we will disagree on that.

I know that you are disappointed.  You’re hurt and you’re probably angry.  I’m sorry for that.  I know that this is something that you’re going to need some time to get used to.  I wish this were easier for both of us.  I only hope that you can still love me and show me that love, in spite of this disappointment.  That will be for you to decide, though.

For the record, I still want to be your children’s designated guardian, but I realize I’ve just made it a much tougher decision…

I love you.

~~~~~

I sent the e-mail to my sister around 6:00 yesterday evening hoping she would e-mail a response.  I put the computer down and went about doing some household chores.  About 30 minutes later, she called me, but I didn’t answer the phone.

I hoped she would send a response via e-mail since I didn’t answer the phone, but she did not.

Around 10:30 last night, when it was clear I would get no response from my sister that night and before I could change my mind and wimp out, I sent the e-mail to my mother.  I knew she wouldn’t see it before this morning and while I hoped she, too, would e-mail a response and not telephone me, as of now, I’ve not heard from her at all.  While I realized it’s possible she simply hasn’t seen the e-mail, the much more likely answer (and what I should have anticipated to start with) is that she won’t acknowledge it for a couple of days while she “mulls over” the “correct response.”

Erin called me again this morning, first my cell phone, then my work number.  She finally left a message on my work phone in which she said she wasnt’s sure she still had right numbers for me since she hadn’t reached me, that she had received my e-mail and that she wanted to “visit” with me so I should give her a call when I had time.

I sent her a text message and said, “Call me a wimp, but for the moment, I would rather have you say what you have to say in writing.  I don’t regret telling you, but you can’t begin to imagine how difficult this is for me.”

Her response was, “So does that mean you are ignoring my calls?”  😎

“Some of them.  Others I wasn’t around for,” I said.

To which she replied, “Wimp!   OK, I’ll e-mail you as soon as I can.”

~~~~~

The tone of her texts suggests playfulness (trust me, this is her being playful), but her message on voice mail was less than comforting.  She didn’t say anything about loving me, or not being particularly surprised, or anything remotely encouraging or supportive.

I have to believe that this is not a surprise to either of them, though maybe not what they wanted to hear.  But I also know that, whether they accept it or not, this was the right thing to do.  I’m pretty wrecked over the whole thing right now, but I know that once the initial storm blows over, I’ll feel much better for having done it…

Blow storm, blow!

Is There A Certain Kind of Store For That?

On the television show Glee, there is a gay character by the name of Kurt.  Kurt has known all along that he was gay and never tried to hide the fact from anyone.  After a year and half of being terrorized by one of the jocks in the school (a self hating, closeted homosexual, in denial) he transferred to another school, a private school with a zero tolerance policy for bullying.  He met Blaine who is also gay and they have become friends, though it seems apparent that the relationship is budding into something more.

Each week I watch as Kurt grows and learns from his experiences and gradually becomes a more secure, self-confident person, able to accept himself as he is and surviving the adversity he experiences.  The relationship between Kurt and Blaine is very special to me to watch because it mirrors something I very much wish that I had.

~~~~~

On the television show 90210, there is a gay character by the name of Teddy.  Teddy is just coming to terms with being gay.  He was an All American Athlete, professional tennis player until he injured his knee.  Blond hair, blue eyes, and a body that goes on for days (what does that even mean?)  Teddy had a reputation as a ladies man, which stood in the way of him having a relationship with, Silver, his girlfriend last season before she finally got over the hype and gave him a chance.

This season has been about Teddy coming to terms with his sexuality and coming out to his friends.  It’s a story that is still being told, but aside from what I see as an accelerated time line, has been very believable and satisfying.

While drunk, Teddy hooked up with a guy name Ian at the beginning of the season and then tried to pretend it never happened, denying any confusion about his sexuality, even to Ian.  Right before the winter hiatus Teddy admitted to Ian that he was gay and that he wanted to be with Ian but needed time, before telling anybody about it.  Of course, Ian agreed, they kissed and one of Teddy’s friends saw them.

A couple of weeks ago, Teddy finally came out publicly, letting all his friends know that he was gay and was with Ian, only to have something come between them and he ended his relationship with Ian.  Last week’s episode saw Teddy sulking and having his ex-girlfriend, now friend-friend supporting him by taking him to do something she already knows lifts his spirits; hitting tennis balls off the roof of some building or other.  Just as Teddy starts feeling better he hits one last ball off the roof and we hear a male voice cry out in pain.  In the next scene, we see Teddy and Silver standing over a guy, dressed in soccer attire, sitting on a bench with an ice pack on his eye.  Teddy offers an  apology, the guy asks what they were doing and Teddy tells him that Silver was supporting him after a bad break-up.  The soccer player tells Teddy that the person must have messed him up pretty badly and before he thinks about it Teddy says, “Yeah.  He did.”  There’s an awkward silence as Teddy realizes what he just said and as the soccer stud doesn’t react to it, and then Soccer Stud says, “Yeah.  Well, I’ve been there,” before writing his phone number on Teddy’s tennis ball and suggesting that maybe Teddy could give him a free tennis lesson “to make up for hitting him.”

In this week’s episode we see Teddy’s friends, Dixon, Navid and Liam talking about going to a girls volleyball game to cover the story for the school news.  Just then Teddy walks in and they shut up.  There’s an awkward moment when Teddy feels left out and the idiots guys feel awkward for having talked about girls within the ear shot of the gay guy.  Later Teddy see’s Silver in the courtyard and they talk about how he feels like he’s out in the cold with all his friends.  Silver scolds the idiots boys who confess that they thought Teddy would be uncomfortable with what they were talking about and that they didn’t mean to be leaving him out.  The idiots guys decide to make it up to Teddy and invite him to hang out.  Teddy agrees without knowing what they have planned only to realize, too late, that they are taking him to a gay bar.  When this is revealed to the audience, my own anxiety level skyrocketed as I imagined being in Teddy’s shoes.

Inside, the bar is full of muscular, shirtless guys dancing and the friends stand dumbfounded, staring at the crowd.  Everyone is awkward, the guys don’t know what to think, and then a guy comes over to them and asks if he can buy Liam a drink.  Liam storms out and stands on the sidewalk outside, as if that’s going to make him less appealing to the gay guys in the area, and soon he is joined by Teddy.  They have a nice little heart to heart in which Liam tells Teddy he’s just not comfortable in that place and Teddy tells Liam he isn’t either.

“This just isn’t my scene,” Teddy says.

“So, what is?” Liam asks.

There is a moment of silence as Teddy looks through the huge window at Dixon and Navid dancing together while the pedophiles guys in the bar watch.  Teddy shakes his head in uncertainty, not disgust, and says, “I don’t really know.  But it’s not this.”  In that moment I can truly relate to Teddy.

Liam and Teddy leave to get a burger and leave Dixon and Navid inside with their admirers.

~~~~~

Heather, as I have mentioned before, is perhaps the one and only person in the world who has taken the time to know me of her own volition.  Deb probably knows me as well as Heather does, but I pay her for that and as much as I’d like to be able to look beyond the business nature of our relationship, I just can’t.  Heather knows me because she wants to.  She wants to take the time to see and understand me.  She wants to know the truth of my existence and not just the flowery, fun, shiny, “happy” side of my life (because she knows it’s not real).

While having dinner on Saturday night, I decided to ask her a loaded question.  I didn’t know how far the conversation would go, or just how useful it would prove to be, but I decided it was worth a shot.

“So tell me,” I started, “what’s wrong with me?”

“Well!  How much time have you got?” she asked, with a chuckle.  “What do you mean, what’s wrong with you? In what context?”

“Socially,” I answered.  “Why can’t I meet people?”

I don’t remember the exact dialogue of the conversation but she asked me for more specifics about what I was thinking and it came down to this.  Stereotypes exist for a reason.  I truly believe that.  The stereotype of a modern-day gay man is one of promiscuity, lecherous even, damn near predatory at times.  I saw a movie once in which one of the characters talked about how sex, for gay men, is like a handshake.  I am not like that.  I wasn’t like that before I knew I was gay and I’m not like that now.  But I buy into the stereotype… Because stereotypes exist for a reason.  And as such, I don’t trust gay men (I mean, I don’t really trust anybody, but for the purposes of this conversation, I don’t trust gay men.)

I know it’s not realistic to compare my life to characters on television or in movies and for the most part I try not to do that, but T.V. and movie scripts are based in some modicum of reality and so when I see things that I like, but which don’t jive with my own experience it’s disheartening, to say the least.

You see it all the time on television.  Gay characters meet in the most ordinary of places under the most ordinary of circumstances and they fall in love and have a relationship, like I would like to have.  Depending on the show their might be some “cruzing”/ “club scene” hooking up taking place but rarely is that where the lasting relationships come from; kind of like reality.  But these guys go about their day-to-day lives and meet each other in the most random and ordinary of circumstances and end up in relationships.  Meanwhile, I go about my day-to-day life which includes an overabundance of ordinary circumstances and I never meet anybody who I know is gay first of all, and with whom I have a connection, secondly.  I never have a moment of realization in which we both realize the other person is “family”.  I never meet a guy, think he’s attractive and have certainty that he’s gay and he knows I am as well and then bond and have anything, whatsoever, evolve from that.

I go to work.  I go shopping.  I go to school.  I go to the gym.  I go to Big Brothers and Big Sisters events.  I go to random training opportunities a couple of times a year.  I may not be a social butterfly, but I’m honestly not a shut in, either and yet, never once have I met someone I thought could be something more and had it turn out to be so.

Heather suggested that I should look into on-line dating.  Honestly, that idea is abhorrent to me, for me. But even if it weren’t, stereotypes.  Exist.  For.  A reason.  What little exposure I have had to the world of on-line gay dating has proved that those men are looking to live up to the stereotype, and I am not.  So I don’t trust it.  I don’t trust them.  And honestly, I’m afraid of them.

Heather says I lack self-esteem…  Well, DUH!  If anybody knows where I can buy some of that, please let me know!