I have never been one for birthdays or anniversaries. Call me a pessimist, but the whole thing seems somewhat arbitrary to me. Do we really need a day to celebrate… normalcy? I don’t know.
A year ago, I wrote my parents a letter that would become the basis for this project. It was overly long and questionably received, but it was truly the first step I took towards coming out as publicly as I have. For the vast majority of my life, I resigned myself to the likelihood that I would never be open about any of this stuff – that to be queer did not mean I had to be queer publicly. To me, gay pride was like my birthday – it seemed arbitrary (why be proud of something I can’t control?) and like a celebration of something that was almost boring to me.
From ages 18 – 25, I was only out to a specific group of people. It was something spoken in hushed tones, kept entirely out of my familial and professional circles and reserved for my friends only.
Then, I decided to bust down the door.
So here’s the sledgehammer I used to knock it off its hinges – one year ago today.
As a general note, names have been changed, and I did shorten this for some semblance of brevity as well as privacy. I spent some time in the original letter discussing the sexualities of some friends and acquaintances – some who are not as open as me – and so I omitted those references.
Mom and Dad,
This letter comes with as much love and respect that I can possibly muster for you both. I attribute so much of my strengths to the example that you set for me from a young age until now. You have taught me to work my very hardest in the worst situations, to rely on my personal strength rather than complain, and to follow through on my commitments. You have overcome incredible obstacles to raise us with such fervor, and I hope I tell you often enough how much I appreciate your sacrifices.
I decided to communicate with you via letter, because it is important that all of what I need to say is said without interruption. So often, I find it is difficult to successfully engage in these types of discussions, as emotions tend to dominate the conversation. If I am to continue living a healthy life, both mentally and physically, I must communicate some things that I have been unable to fully express to you. This was due to my own cowardice as well as the genuine threat to my psychological livelihood by your reactions.
Since my Freshman year of college, I have been involved in several romantic relationships with men. I apologize for being dishonest with you for so much time about this fact, but it is the absolute truth. I have often found myself in an utter state of confusion about my sexuality, unable to understand where it is that I truly belong. I have consulted texts and requested advice from organizations and individuals all over the political/ideological spectrum and have found no place to call “home.” Every friend or family member that I consulted had a different opinion, and soon, I became skeptical about any information that I received about the topic. I wanted to discuss this with you back then, but after the disastrous result of Mark’s coming out, particularly in the negative language used against him at that time, I decided to continue figuring this out without your input. I did this both selfishly and protectively. I selfishly did not want to go through what Mark went through, and I wanted to protect you both from the embarrassment of having “two gay sons.”
This has been an active part of my life for eight years. That is one third of my life. I have been lying to you for one third of my life. While I was honest with you in my sexual confusion, I did hide these more specific details. I hope that fully explaining my journey will shed light on why I chose to remain hidden.
I have “been in love” twice in my life, as I see it, and both instances have been eye opening concerning my understanding of my own sexuality. My sophomore year in college, I fell in love with a fellow male student, who was equally embarrassed and humiliated by his sexuality. We started confiding in each other and began a romantic relationship, entirely in secret and hidden from our peers. After a month or so, he broke off the relationship by telling me that he actually did not believe he was homosexual. This break up was absolutely devastating to me, and it brought me to the brink of my sanity. In fact, my sexuality has always been intrinsically tied to my esoteric fears. I fear death, because I do not know what lies beyond that door. I fear living a life with openness concerning my sexuality, because I do not know how others will view me. That uncertainty is unbearable to me. And frankly, it is driving me crazy.
The second time, I fell in love with Emma. We began our relationship as something purely physical. Emma cheated on her then-boyfriend (of three years) with me on a regular basis, and we quickly became an emotional refuge for each other. I was bluntly honest with her about my bisexual desires, and she shared her hang-ups as well. However, it could not last. We loved each other, but not on the level required for a healthy lifelong relationship. We broke it off when I moved to Atlanta, and while we tried to reconcile it several years thereafter, Emma eventually met and married someone else. It would have never worked though, and I know that now.
Those were the only two relationships I had in college. Over the course of my three years in Atlanta, I engaged in two relationships with men and one with a woman, and several smaller dating relationships with both genders. They were all fairly unremarkable in their result (I broke off all three), but they had a profound effect on how I understood my own sexuality. Each one ended when I became increasingly anxious about where they were headed. With the two men, I did not want to be in an “out” gay relationship, as I worried that it would reflect negatively on my work with the Autism community (despite the fact that some people in the community knew about my sexual identity and didn’t care). I also just didn’t want to be viewed as gay, that simply.
For a while, I swore off relationships completely, and I became convinced that I would never feel committed to another person, male or female. As you know, I considered building a family on my own, without a partner, and this is still a possibility for me.
After eight years of actively struggling with these realities, I have decided to continue pursuing relationships with men, exclusively at this point in time, as I feel a man offers me the most legitimate chance at a healthy relationship. When looking for a potential partner, I want someone who will emotionally and physically care for me, and who I share a deep and passionate connection with. Your son would never, ever pursue an unhealthy or damaging relationship. Mark and I differ in our views towards our individual sexualities. He is firmly gay and will never be in a relationship with a woman. I personally don’t identify with the label, but my saying this should not be misread or misinterpreted. It is possible that I will find a woman with whom I have a connection with on the level of Emma, but at this point in time, I do not think that is likely. I think it is more likely that, if I make a lifelong commitment, it will be with a man. However, I do not know how I will continue to develop. Either way, it is vitally important that you accept and understand these complexities, because I cannot live any longer with misconceptions involving my feelings and intentions. I will not be able to have a healthy relationship with either of you if you chose to actively lobby for me to pursue a heterosexual relationship, even though that might seem simpler and less shameful to you. You get to have an opinion about the direction of my life, but you do not get a vote. My life will not be run by committee.
All of this obviously had an effect on my faith. Frankly, I am at a loss with my faith, as I do believe in God, but I do not understand why he would prohibit homosexuality. Homosexuality cannot be undone or changed, and I hope that neither of you hold that archaic and naïve belief. To me, it is the only sin in the Bible that is truly a conundrum, as the restraint involved in avoiding it has a profound effect on how that person lives his or her life. To me, this leads to two possibilities: either we are misinterpreting God’s true views towards homosexuality, or the Bible is wrong. I have read the Bible cover to cover, and I cannot fully reconcile some of the things within it as well as the Church’s interpretation of it. Some viewpoints held in the Bible are thrown out with modernity, while others remain steadfast. For instance, God commands slaves to remain obedient to their masters (Ephesians 6:5, also Colossians 3:22, 1 Timothy, Titus, Philemon). I wonder why God, when we now know what a horrible thing slavery is, would ever tell slaves to remain obedient to their masters. Why would the Bible encourage this practice? Why wouldn’t God command slave owners to release their slaves, for it is morally abhorrent to require a human to serve another with no rights or dignity. The answer? It was written in a different time period, and while the overall value might be valid, the application no longer makes sense. Think about those three female slaves of that despicable Ohio man, who kept them captive for over a decade. They disobeyed their master by running for their lives. Are we to believe that God will judge them for not obeying their master?
I cannot stand the treatment of homosexuals and the discourse surrounding their morality by the Church. If it is meant for me, I will be in a healthy romantic relationship one day, one that will lead to a family with children. I hope this is something that you will all celebrate in. You have three dissimilar and unique children. You are so blessed to have that. We are all healthy. We love each other in a profound way and remain close. We actually like spending time with each other and unconditionally have each other’s backs. What a blessing!
I expect there to be a time of transition as you learn to deal with these realities. I suspect you will both be quite shocked and disappointed, and you are certainly entitled to those reactions for however long they last. I realize this news may be devastating to you, and I will not deny your right to have that reaction and opinion about it. If this is your reaction, I ask that you do not contact me until you are no longer in that state. It is toxic for me psychologically and personally to have any conversation about this that is not both civil and calm.
Ultimately, however, if you wish to have a continued, deep relationship with me, you must accept this part of me fully. This acceptance can look different depending on your continued beliefs. On the most accepting end, I would love it if you shared in my joys and heartbreaks as I navigate my romantic life and, if it ends that way, my eventual romantic partner and family. However, if you cannot reconcile your convictions with this, then I still ask that you allow me to live my life how I choose without any pressure, verbal or otherwise, to change my path. This means including my future family in whatever form it takes without any of them feeling guilt or shame from you based on your beliefs. I realize this may sound harsh and unfair, but this decision is coming from watching families crumble by the “I love you but hate that part of you” attitude many parents and siblings take towards their gay family members. It creates a resentment and hostility, and I have never seen anyone walk away content with those decisions.
Furthermore, I will begin to have more openness about my romantic life, in the appropriate manner. You know that I don’t agree with self-aggrandizing posts on social media or the like, so I’m not suddenly going to become this open book for the whole world to comment on. However, if I wish to tell others about an important romantic relationship, I will do so without any hesitation.
I hope these details about my life do not sully that impression you have of me. This will take us to the limits of our relationship, but I think we will ultimately be stronger as a result. I hope you agree.
I love you both. I hope we can use this as an opportunity to grow our relationship.
Your loving son,