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    A cat that catches mice

    I’ve started and jettisoned this post about a dozen times over the last week or so; actually, I think I’ve been stopping and starting it for the past year, but Michael may have given me an in to the point I want to address.

    I can understand why conservative Christian parents and elders would not want to bankroll or otherwise support a life they regard as sinful. The Bible says what it says, and I don’t think there’s any getting around that it doesn’t approve of sexual relationships outside marriage–that’s not what I mean. What I find bewildering is when children come out to their parents and are told that they’re inevitably headed for addiction, a string of abusive relationships or worse, and an early demise. I mean, the flat declaration that there’s nothing whatever affirmative or affectionate about homosexual relationships at all.

    You would think that sheer pragmatism would prevent parents from talking this way. After all, isn’t the idea to bring the child back to the fold and convince him to be chaste, or what have you? I doubt that I’m alone in that the major thing that made me feel ready to come out to my parents was the knowledge that I wasn’t just going to spend the rest of my life looking to score–who the hell is going to start a potential family feud to deliver that message?–I wanted a relationship, and whether they approved of its nature or not, I wanted them not to have to feel I wasn’t being taken care of. In that context, I think a lot of kids, hearing their parents decry homosexuality as inherently selfish and exploitative, conclude that they have no idea what they’re talking about and stop listening to them all together. I’m not trying to help the conservative Christians win back gays; I know my homosexuality isn’t going anywhere, and I think that’s the case for most of us.

    On the other hand, there are people who are plain screwed up in the head, and if some of the gay ones can’t handle their sexuality, using religion to give their lives a purpose beyond finding ever-more-imaginative ways to destroy themselves sounds to me like a good plan. When parents prophesy the worst for such children and push them away, it seems to me that there’s a pretty high risk they won’t figure that out before they reach the point of no return. You’d think it’d be obvious that staying warmly involved with the rest of their lives, perhaps avoiding discussions of homosexuality because they’re obviously not going to go anywhere, would be the better strategy.

    7 Responses to “A cat that catches mice”

    1. caltechgirl says:

      Hi Sean. Love your blog. This is my first trip over here, but I’ll be back.
      Religion aside, I think a lot of parents want to protect their children from a lifestyle that they don’t understand and one that seems dangerous (what with HIV, gay bashing, etc.) so they try to persuade them that the life they live is just plain BAD. It’s a kind of knee jerk reaction I think. The ultra-christian rhetoric is just another set of things to say in this regard. I know lots of folks whose non-Christian parents gave them the same lines initially.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Thanks. I suppose I should have made that point myself–namely, that I was talking about conservative Christianity because I was familiar with it from my own upbringing and remember something of its rules (though, of course, even “conservative Christianity” is a broad category that includes a lot of sects that don’t always get along).

    3. Jim Ausman says:

      What a thoughtful careful considerate way you have of making your points. I really admire your writing style, especially on such a contentious and personal subject.
      And I agree with you, that parents who really love their children should try to stay in their lives, rather than condemn them and push them away.
      But so many people are so twisted up and conflicted about their own sexuality that they can hardly deal with it in themselvs, much less in one of their own children.

    4. Mrs. du Toit says:

      Well, it’s hard for me to grasp why a parent would distance their children for something like this, but I have a hard time understanding how people can believe in angels, too.
      I tried to come up with something that my children could do/decide as adults that would make me separate from them. Other than becoming psychopath child molesters or rapists, I can’t really think of anything.
      If one of them grew up to be a drug dealer I’d refuse them entry into the house, but I’d visit them in prison.
      But I think you’ve touched on a bigger picture that focuses on an aspect of society that has changed (A LOT!) since I was a yoot.
      People couldn’t live together. When my sister first moved in with her boyfriend, people didn’t do things like that. My mother “disowned her.” My mother’s generation grew up in a time when you a single man visiting the home of a single woman, left the front door open. If you drew the curtains, your reputation was ruined, and you were run out of town.
      The gay people I knew as a teen and in my 20s, kept a fake bedroom. If they had any contact with their parents at all, they kept their relationship, and their gayness, a secret–their partner introduced as a “roommate.” The problem is that there is a lot of peer pressure from within the gay community to “come out.” And that coming out is going to put a lot of people at odds with their parents. No one HAS to come out and people need to be advised and counseled that there may be reactions you will not want to deal with. What’s the line? “Never ask a question you do not want to hear the answer to.” Ditto on this. Never tell anyone about yourself if you can’t risk the reaction.
      I think, maybe, we’ve gone a little too far into the other extreme. Some parents (I might not agree with their choices, but respect their right to make them) do not approve of homosexuality or extra-martial relationships. And these parents have the right to say to the adult child, “we will not condone your relationship by maintaining contact with you while you are engaged in it. Repent and all will be well again.”
      That’s a kind of tough love, on a an issue of deep conviction.
      An adult has the right to make whatever choices they want, but they don’t have the right to require that everyone accept it, condone it, or support it. And I think where we’ve gone overboard–too far to the other extreme–is raising a generation of people who believe that they can do whatever they want without consequence. And more importantly, that your self esteem and your sanity comes through parental acceptance.
      I don’t buy into the idea that a demoralized and destitute individual got that way because their parents distanced themselves from him/her. At some point, at some age, the past is the past, and people have to grow up. If they are demoralized and ruined because their parents don’t accept them, there is only one phrase of truth I can offer: GROW THE F*CK UP.
      Yeah, it would be great if society could get over this issue, but the more important one is that approval (no matter what it is) isn’t external. It has to come from the inside of the person. Their failure to cope with who they are or what they feel, is no longer the fault of the parents.

    5. Sean Kinsell says:

      Jim Ausman:
      Thanks–you and caltechgirl are very kind. I only hope that my response to Connie doesn’t shake your confidence in my charitableness. :)
      Mrs. du Toit:
      You know, Connie, as much as we agree on the general problems in gay culture, I think this one is actually handled pretty well overall. Even the frivolous 5-easy-steps advice columns in gay magazines and websites usually make it clear that whether to come out is a personal decision that should be made only after carefully weighing several factors.
      I think the main problem is that too many individual people want it both ways. They want to avoid conflict with their parents by not being up-front with them and to benefit from urban gay institutions, to be regarded by acquaintances as having fully owned their sexuality, and to be able to complain alongside the rest of us that gay activists are handling our advocacy poorly.
      Well, sorry. Pick one. I have plenty of friends who are closeted, and the extent of their gay life is going discreetly to bars, and it doesn’t bother them. They don’t bleat that they can’t come out to their parents because GLAAD hasn’t done enough to make homosexuality accepted, because they’re still not sure they’re really gay (after ten years of exclusive homosexual activity), or (my personal favorite) because Mom and Dad are supplementing the income from their Lite PR/publishing jobs so they can live as lavishly as they did growing up, and they’re afraid of getting the plug pulled.

    6. Sean Kinsell says:

      Okay, before I get into the other topic I think is important here, let me just say that, having gone to school with a lot of rich kids, I have no problem with their expecting to be carried by their trust funds or cash from their parents while they establish their reputations in their chosen field. I certainly have arty friends from school who’ve done just that, and who can blame them? Or blame their parents for wanting to use their money to smooth their children’s way in life? What I object to is the formulation, “Well, I would come out to the ‘rents, but without them, I’d have to drive a used Civic and live in Hoboken.” Cry me a river.
      Okay, the other topic I think is important here is this: we can all agree that if you’re sitting across the table from an adult who dropped out of school and has been dealing drugs, he should not be allowed to get a free pass for his behavior by mewling about his underprivileged childhood.
      However, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t look at a swath of the population that ends up dropping out of school and making a black-market living and say, “This is a pattern that involves a lot of people. Is there anything we can do as a society that might make fewer people end up this way?”
      Similarly, I think it’s a legitimate question to ask about gays. There’s nothing inherently self-destructive about homosexuality–I think I can pretty safely say that after ten years out, with Japan to compare to home.
      But if it’s true that too many gays have a persecution complex, it’s also true that conservatives frequently trot out gay issues to get the troops whipped up. (For a small but telling example, Connie, think of that commenter on Kim’s site a few weeks ago who fulminated about gay marriage when it had nothing to do with the topic of the post.) I have an ego that is, shall we say, resilient; and even I get down sometimes at being so many people’s favorite bogeyman. There isn’t anything that can be done about it, and I figure living well is the best revenge, so I don’t bitch.
      But it doesn’t fail to bother me, and while I think people are ultimately responsible for how they end up, I have a hard time being too sententious about people who have to spend a year or five struggling to find their bearings after they figure out they’re gay.

    7. Mrs. du Toit says:

      “Everyone’s favorite bogeyman”.
      Gotta think on that.