When Relatives Collide
A couple weeks ago I got an email from my mother. In this email she explained part of her reasoning in how she’s trying to come to grips with my Bisexuality. For those who do not know, my mother is of a very deep conservative devout Lutheran nature. This nature has only been intensified since my father retired from the U.S. Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel and immediately enrolled in Seminary to become a Pastor for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. His path to ordination saw him and my mother both become further entrenched in the religious dogma that is as close to Catholicism as a Protestant Denomination can be.
It is within this framework that my mother has advanced from the belief that all non-hetero-normative people are hellbound abominations of nature to this evolved belief instead: ” I believe that brain anomalies, chemistry imbalances, or dysfunctions are responsible for homo or bisexual feeling or desires.”
When I read that line, I screamed at the computer screen. A long string of obscenities poured forth from my mouth like the rushing floodwaters from a broken dam. Tears were a river down my face, dripping unceremoniously from my chin. I called Mrs. AP in hysterics, and only through her loving kindness and soothing tenderness was I able to reach a point where I was able to talk calmly again. I kicked Mrs. AP the email to get her thoughts, and did my absolute best to soak in her response and understand why these sentiments from my mother affected me so deeply.
In retrospect, Mrs. AP is very likely to be correct in her opinion that I should never have come out to my parents. Her opinion is that sexuality should be kept to the bedroom unless within proper safe congregations of friends who either already know or won’t give a flying fuck. By and large I agree with this sentiment — who’s fucking prerogative is it to know what I do or don’t do in my sex life anyway? — but at the same time, the framework around which many people build their interactions with others are based on assumptions about the proclivities of said others. My reaction to my parents for most of my childhood and all of my adult life was to hide from them. When I came out, I was weary and wanted the kind of freedom that I thought full disclosure could bring. As such, I proclaimed not only my Bisexuality but also my Polyamorous nature in one fell stroke. Thus did I permanently damage the relationship with my parents.
Truth be told, our relationship had been strained for years. Much to their consternation, I never have been one to call my parents just to chat. It’s not in my nature; I look to my friends to share in my high and lows, trials and tribulations, and my parents have never been inside the circle of friends. They are authority figures, issuing policy from on high while demanding obedience. Yes, they are available for love and support, but they have never been the kind of people with whom I could feel comfortable just talking about daily life and it’s cornucopia of concerns. This stems, I’m sure, from the combination of growing up with a military father, a strict mother, and the innate knowledge that what I believed deep inside did not coalesce with the beliefs they sought to instill in me. As early as first grade, when I was trying to read books they found “damaging” because of the mystical elements within the fantasy genre, I knew I was at odds with their beliefs. Hiding my thoughts to avoid conflict became second nature in dealing with them. From a distance, this has been easily managed by simply not engaging in much communication.
In one small way, I think I wanted my coming out to push my parents away. In bigger ways, I wanted to test them. I wanted to shock them out of their bubble and have them realize that their Victorian Era beliefs about human sexuality were incompatible with the modern world and that they could embrace change by embracing their son. My hopes had built up on that, hinging on the presumption that parental love could overcome religious conditioning.
I was crushed when they proved me wrong.
I was crushed again when my mother, nearly 3 years later, declared to “believe that brain anomalies, cheistry imbalances, or dysfunctions are responsible for homo or bisexual feeling or desires.”
She claims she wants to reconcile. I cannot reconcile how she can hold these beliefs, these very beliefs that have been refuted in the medical community and still think that a common ground can be reached in this area. Frankly, when I read that comment from her, I thought she was accusing me of suffering from a mental disorder as a way to deny my personhood. I felt that she was calling me broken. In a way, it felt like a clever way to disown that aspect of my personality while still trying to convince me that it’s not my fault, as if somehow I should run from who I am.
Mrs. AP is right in her stance that, for my mother, this is progress. It’s not the full extent of the progress I would like to see, but my mother is approaching 60 years old and was raised by deeply Christian parents. She has continued to tradition, and as is common in the Southeastern United States, appreciation of the fluidity and dynamism of the human sexual range is astoundingly low. Considering this, yes, my mother has made progress. If the recent fantastic wins for Equal Rights in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington state are any indication, the country as a whole is making strides as well.
I want to find a way to patch things up with my parents, but I’m faced with the challenge of knowing that I will either have to fight tooth and nail to educate them or reach an understanding where we agree to disagree and just don’t discuss certain subjects. It’s a dilemma, undoubtedly.
This is one of the challenges of being non-hetero-normative within the United States. I didn’t sign up for this, I didn’t make the choice to face these kinds of situations, but here I am. Fighting. Struggling. Overcoming.
Thank goodness I have Mrs. AP to help me, else I’m not sure I’d stand much of a chance.
Stay SINful, friends.