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.