The night we booked our dream wedding venue, my fiance's mother called in a panic because she forgot to mail their birthday gift to me. After chatting a few minutes, the bright pink elephant in the room was broached: Would they attend our wedding?
The heartbreaking conversation that followed boiled down to they wouldn't attend because they "follow the Bible."
Days later my birthday card arrived, enclosed with a gift card, and signed "Love, Russ & Pat." Every speck of glitter that fell from it mocked us. Over 17 years they had built such a convincing facade of acceptance. With painful clarity, I realized whenever they had cryptically said they were "praying for us," it wasn't for a safe drive home or for Tim and his brother to make amends. They never outwardly said it before, but their "love the sinner/hate the sin" mentality became obvious. Which is why their gift and the card ended up in a return envelope with the following letter.
July 20, 2015
Dear Russ & Pat:
Please, don't discard this letter without reading it through. I write not to attack or disparage you or your beliefs. I would, however, issue you a challenge to really examine the actions you've taken in the name of those beliefs. Please, hear what I have to say. I think it is important you understand what has transpired and only wish to ask some admittedly difficult questions and beseech you to honestly consider them before dismissing me out of hand.
First of all, thank you for the birthday card and gift card; the sentiment was nice. I just wish it felt sincere -- if not for me, then for your son, Tim. Oh, I know you love him (indeed both of us) in the best way you know how. Just like I know a lifetime of learning doctrine to mean one thing is not easy to reconcile with conflicting truths or even admit that it may be at least partially flawed. But not to even make an attempt to understand that the love you have for your living flesh-and-blood son should trump millennia-old religious texts written at a time when slavery was status quo, women were property and eating pork or shellfish was punishable by death or banishment is disheartening. No person can take every single Biblical tenet as literal law. You may protest that you do, but you and I both know the reverse is true, even if only to a degree.
Russ, surely you never shunned your wife as unclean during a certain time of the month to the extent you wouldn't even share furniture with her. Pat, surely you wouldn't agree to Russ keeping concubines or to you marrying his brother if he should die. And I'm pretty sure Carolyn wasn't shunned, banished or condemned to death for divorcing one husband and taking another. So why do you take the fleeting six references to gay people in both the Old and New Testaments as nonnegotiable truth and law? Why won't you at least entertain the possibility that the way in which scripture on this particular topic has been taught, like so many others that came before it regarding anti-miscegenation, race, slavery and women, may be flawed and tainted by archaic bias falsely cloaked under the insidious fallacy of "love the sinner, hate the sin"? Being gay is not a choice. It is not some addiction or disease that can be cured. It is innate and immutable. You can no more successfully hope and pray for a person's orientation to change than you could hope and pray for a tomato to change into a brick.
Believe me. I wasted years of my youth trying to change because people I loved and respected expected it of me. I didn't want to face what seemed like at the time would be an eternity of ostracism and hatred and loneliness. I tried and I tried. And I failed. And it took me a long time to realize that being who I am would lead to none of those fates -- but hating myself for being who I am would. Finally, I learned that being gay is an inborn trait no different than height and hair color. After all, if it weren't, don't you think centuries of fervent efforts to rid humanity of it would have shown at least some modicum of success? Yet here we are.
I, and all gay people like me and your son, could no sooner turn heterosexual than you could will your eyes to change colors. And just like possessing eye colors that not everyone shares, being gay is just one in a pantheon of benignly healthy and natural human traits. We are born gay and someday, far in the future, we will die gay. Just as you are born with the eye color you will die with. It is a neuropsychological and biological fact. So, when you "hate the sin" in this instance, you are indeed hating the "sinner."
The only choice any of us has in the matter is how we react to what is a perfectly natural form of human life. My mother could not accept it at first. She had been raised to believe as you do that gay people like your son and me are depraved and lascivious monsters. When I was forced out of the closet to her, she faced a choice: Believe what others had told her, or believe her own eyes, heart, mind and soul. Thankfully, after a difficult struggle that took a couple of years of hard honesty and self-examination, she embraced me unconditionally. Which is why I was giving you the benefit of the doubt. Experience taught me when people reject fear and instead open themselves to love, they change for the better.
Your actions and loving attitudes toward us over the past nearly two decades had given me hope that you acknowledged us as a committed couple who commanded at least some of the respect and dignity afforded to married couples like Tim's brother and his wife. Our lack of marriage wasn't through any lack of wanting. Had we been able to marry when we wanted, we would be celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary, not planning our wedding 17 years after we met and fell in love.
So I must admit, when Tim called you to find out if you would attend our wedding and you told him you would not even consider being there for him because you "just wouldn't feel comfortable," I was (and still am) shocked and deeply saddened. Look at your son. I mean honestly look at your son. He is loving, caring, generous of spirit, honest, creative, witty, helpful and talented in so many ways. That you will not allow yourselves to celebrate and love him unconditionally as I do is mindboggling. Instead you focus on one facet of his being that others have told you is flawed and detestable and condemn him for it. He may not show it, but he is devastated that the last 20 years of what he thought was growing acceptance on your part now feels like just so much lying (a sentiment I can't help but share).
I hope this is not the case. The eternal optimist in me hopes your love for him truly is unconditional and is merely and unfortunately at odds with your faith to such an extent that you are unsure how you should act or how you should feel, but that, regardless, eventually you will land on the side of love rather than fear.
But the realist in me fears that is not the case. Deep down, I'm afraid that you are truly choosing how you've been taught to interpret your faith over allowing yourselves to love your son wholly and unconditionally. And to allow such a thing causes an astoundingly profound disservice to everyone involved.
Please prove the realist in me wrong. You are missing out on what should be a truly wonderful relationship with your son that is more than just awkward small talk made to hide your uncomfortable truth in a desperate attempt to keep him in your life. It would be real. It would be honest. It would be unconditionally loving. You would want to celebrate him as much as I do, not hide away who he is like a dirty secret.
As an aside, we don't want to destroy marriage or "redefine" it. We want to join in its exalted status. To declare to each other and the world vows of love and fidelity to one another and only one another. You may feel uncomfortable with it, you may even loathe the very notion. But it is fact. Now that we legally can, we will be getting married this fall. I just wish you had chosen to be there and celebrate with us and the rest of those whom we hold dearest in our hearts.
But that moment has passed. The damage is done and I fear there is no going back. Regardless of your motives or justifications or future attempts to reconcile, the simple fact is you chose the words of an ancient book and the fire-breathing vitriol of preachers over the love of your own child.
This is why I must regretfully return your card and gift; I just don't feel comfortable keeping them.
With sincere love and respect,
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