A QUEST FOR ACCEPTANCE
The “coming out” experience for me and I would guess most of my fellow GLBT community members was the beginning of a quest for acceptance from our families and friends. For me, it was a mixed bag which led to both comfort and heartbreak. While most of my friends in Dallas, where I lived at the time, were accepting and understanding of my confession of gayness, my family – in the throes of a new-found fundamentalist conversion – warned of the dire consequences of my “decision.” My mother cried and carried on, doing as she always does, blaming my wife for not being a better woman.
I overcame my anger at her for attacking my dear wife and informed her that it had NOTHING to do with that. I reminded her that I had come out to her many years earlier, between wives. My mom was not religious in those days, but still mounted a strong objection on the grounds of what her family would think if they found out. And when I married a few years later, she was sure that my wife would change me and told me so. I didn’t believe her, but years of brainwashing made me hope that she was right. Of course, she was wrong.
All of that aside, after 14 years passed I could not deny the facts of who and “what” I was any longer and embarked on living a life of truth. In time my mother at least said that she accepted me as I was, but my dear brother with whom I had been so close in my early 20s became the greatest obstacle of all. In response to repeated bouts of drug-related failures in his life, he “found” Jesus, and now, a repentant sinner, was determined to “straighten me out.”
The assault began and has lasted for over 20 years, destroying any sort of meaningful relationship that we might have had. Under the idea of quest, he and I have waged a holy war of sorts to get each other to understand the error of our respective ways. He constantly reminds me of the angry and vengeful god he worships, hoping to scare me into compliance with his belief system. I stubbornly refuse to believe that God is either angry or vengeful. I believe God to be kind and loving. It is an impasse that has led to dead ends and a period of “cease talk” between us.
I hear similar stories from my friends in the GLBT community all the time. My tale of family discord is by no means rare. In fact, it is common. We all have a parent or sibling or aunt or uncle or grandparent who is absolutely adamant that God is going to send us straight to hell, and who wants to “punish” us into compliance with their religious views on the issue.
While my brother never misses a chance to vote Republican and is a big fan of Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck, at least he is not an activist. That role falls to one of my Okie aunts who is a Republican activist. You will see her out with her friends carrying signs in front of the State Capitol in Oklahoma City decrying gays, abortionists, welfare mothers and sundry and other liberal sinners. It is her belief that everything that doesn’t conform to her narrow view of morality should have a law of prohibition placed upon it.
This brings me to a movement within the GLBT community I have both observed and at times participated in. That movement is to get the various Christian denominations to recognize gays as acceptable. Oh, yes, I’ve walked both sides of this one over the past 20 years. Sometimes I have tried to belong to Gay Christian Churches and Organizations in hopes that my family would see that I could be a good Christian and still be gay. Nobody would buy it. In the eyes of everyone, including my mother, these were not acceptable churches and were “misleading me” with their interpretations of the Bible.
Now, before I run off anyone who is a Gay Christian, I admire those who are able to balance their faith with being gay. That has proven impossible for me on many, many occasions. God knows I’ve tried and tried and tried. But invariably where I end up in these attempts is being swayed by some religious-but-not-spiritual leader to believe that the problem isn’t that their church doesn’t accept me as I am, but instead that I need to change in order to be acceptable to God. So, I try that. That is the unkindest cut of all and leads me to a very dark place where, honestly speaking, I feel the only solution is suicide. God doesn’t love me, so I should die. Okay, I admit that’s ridiculous. But feelings are feelings.
What I have finally come to believe is that what I wanted all along was for “the church” – that would be The Pope of Rome or some other religious leader — to come to embrace me as acceptable and tell my family to get off my back. You know, the kind of spiritual leader who would admonish the faithful to stop judging and leave it to God. That’s what I was hoping for. Instead, all I have found is a bunch of mean-spirited religious leaders who want to stone me to death.
Now, there have been some recent exceptions, notably the Episcopal Church. But we all know the firestorm that ignited. And what I have come to realize is that, if God Himself descended from the heavens and appeared miraculously to every man, woman and child in the world, most if not all right-wing religious fundamentalists would claim it was a trick of the devil. So guess what? There’s no relief from this mindset. These folks have got their hearts frozen in place.
I do find it interesting that so many who consider themselves to be Christians fail to mind the cautionary tale that is contained in the crucifixion of Jesus. It was the simplest thing in the world for the religious leaders, that is, the Priests of the Temple, to persuade the masses in Jerusalem that Jesus of Nazareth was evil and meant them great harm. The story recounts how the crowd actually called for his execution in a most cruel manner.
Yet we see an entire group of people in our society who blindly follow their religious leaders without the slightest hesitation or question of what their religious leaders’ “agenda” might be. If you’re looking for signs in the Bible, this story of religious leaders’ complicity with a corrupt King Herod and The Roman Empire should be carefully studied. Bet you won’t hear a sermon about that next Sunday.
But I digress. After all these years, I have finally learned the thing I was overlooking in my quest for acceptance. Like Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers, it has been there all along. It is something that Barrack Obama might want to take a look at. In our desire to please everybody, we often fail to please ourselves and those who are worthy of our efforts to please. In our mad rush to gain the acceptance of those who will never under any circumstances accept us, we take for granted those who do.
It is time for us to take a look around ourselves and find those who accept us and are willing to join us in our cause and let go those who refuse under any circumstances to accept us. I know it is a hard thing to do because it means a change of vantage point. But everything begins at the vantage point, and that is within ourselves.
The hardest person I had to win over and convince that it was “okay to be gay” was ME! After years of religious and spiritual searches and psychoanalysis, I have finally come to realize that I make the decision about who I am and say whether or not it is okay. Until I can accept myself as a gay man, nobody else will. It doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks about it.
I have lived all these years and have amassed all of this experience and knowledge about myself, and I know I’m gay. I know that I was created this way and no amount of tinkering by myself or others is going to change it. So as I go forward, I focus my efforts on the things that are important: my physical safety and personal freedom to be who I am. As far as what people who don’t even know me have to say, that is their opinion. And this is mine!
I am Jack, and I AM WHAT I AM.