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Sat Dec 10, 2011, 12:45 AM

Literature, advice for family members coming to terms with a gay son

Hello All. I've been around for awhile but I mostly lurk. I appreciate DU and this form. This post is seeking advice about how to deal with my sister, who seems to have a difficult time with me being gay.

First, a little background. I am in my mid-twenties and have been in a stable relationship with my boyfriend for nearly three years. We have lived together for awhile in the same town as my parents. My parents and (only two years younger) sister know I am gay. My mother and sister, both religiously conservative, did not take it well, but my mom has been making an effort. My dad never seemed to have a problem, which I attribute mostly to him not having the same religious beliefs as my mother and sister. My parents have gotten together with my significant other and I several times, and have been friendly. My sister has yet to meet him and does not acknowledge him in conversation at all.

I recently spent some time visiting my sister and parents. My boyfriend was not invited and I didn’t press the issue. I did bring up him fairly frequently in conversation. My parents at least minimally included him in discussion when appropriate. My sister completely ignored his existence as if my statements containing his name had never been uttered. It came to a head when she brought up how I had to come to her graduate school graduation ceremony again without inviting or acknowledging my other half. That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. I made a point of including him in my plans to attend her graduation which she again ignored until she finally scolded me for not asking her about what I planned to do.

Due to that experience, I resolved to no longer leave who I consider my life partner out of family events. We have been together almost three years and I consider him a part of my family. I will no longer leave him behind in order to not “rock the boat” with my family. We will spend Christmas together this year; it looks like we will spend it with his immediately family, as they are much more open and accepting. My family will have to evolve and adapt.

I am not particularly close to my family, because I feel that I am so different, but I would like to make an effort to improve the relationship. Any advice? Any resources or literature you all would recommend? Thanks in advance.

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Reply Literature, advice for family members coming to terms with a gay son (Original post)
knowledgeispwr Dec 2011 OP
William769 Dec 2011 #1
knowledgeispwr Dec 2011 #2
Fearless Dec 2011 #3
knowledgeispwr Dec 2011 #4
Fearless Dec 2011 #5
pinto Dec 2011 #6
knowledgeispwr Dec 2011 #8
Rowdyboy Dec 2011 #7
knowledgeispwr Dec 2011 #9
Rowdyboy Dec 2011 #11
WillParkinson Dec 2011 #10
knowledgeispwr Dec 2011 #12
HillWilliam Dec 2011 #13
knowledgeispwr Dec 2011 #14

Response to knowledgeispwr (Original post)

Sat Dec 10, 2011, 01:21 AM

1. I used unconditional love.

My father had already passed away when I came out, my mother barely batted an eye but my brothers & sisters thats another can of worms. Rednecks all of them! I told them I would accept nothing less than unconditional love, that meant all of me not just part of me. This was back in the early 90's. To this day I still do not speak to my sisters they are homophobic jerks! My brothers it took a couple of years but they came around (you may not want to hear that, but sometimes it takes a while to break that barrier). When I finally reconciled with my brothers (on my terms unconditional love) they actually became my best friends & realized Gay people are not as different as them. My sisters I will probably never speak to again as long as I live, but hey it's their loss.

I guess what I am trying to say is your free to be who you are. They need to accept you on your terms not theirs. Lifes to short enjoy it with the people you love.

This was my experience, I hope sharing it with you can help guide on the path you need to take.


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Response to William769 (Reply #1)

Sat Dec 10, 2011, 01:38 AM

2. Thanks for sharing, Will.

I appreciate you sharing your story. Hopefully my family will come around, preferably in the near future.

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Response to knowledgeispwr (Original post)

Sat Dec 10, 2011, 01:40 AM

3. "I resolved to no longer leave who I consider my life partner out of family events." +10000!

(I'm a bit better in the advice area than the others so I hope there are others out there who can speak to the others.)

I'm in somewhat the same boat, except it is my parents who don't accept my partner but my brother and sister do. I am also in my mid 20's and my boyfriend and I have been dating just under two years. And we love each other like crazy!

Anywho, good for you! Your sister's beliefs should NEVER hurt your happiness. Period. It's your life and your love and your partner. Not hers.

Personally I'm a little bit of the hothead when it comes to my boyfriend not being invited or talked about etc. in conversation with me. Having not been really exposed to him, all my parents understood about "the gays" were stereotypes... dark soulless caricatures of what what real relationship material gay guys are (and I don't mean to sidestep those who are not "relationship gays" who may be reading, but the OP is talking about a relationship).

I like to think of my parent's ignorance about "the gays" as equal to being afraid of the dark... its the not knowing... the shadows... the bump in the night, that drives your mind to be afraid of the dark. The same is true with GLBTQ people as it is with being afraid of the dark, except that people, like your sister and my parents, also have people whispering thoughts to them (by upbringing) that trigger negative thoughts about "the gays" and create wildly untrue caricatures of what "the gays" are.

It is my opinion that she is fearing the worst and not realizing the myriad of good that your boyfriend is clearly doing in your life. IF she is generally accepting of new ideas and open to them in general (not necessarily the gay topic) then I would suggest that you kind of give her a little nudge...

Talk about him. Talk. Talk. Talk. Not necessarily JUST about him or even just to her... but include him when relevant in every conversation with everyone including her.

{"....Oh how was your weekend Dad?"

"...Not bad your mother and I... How was yours?"

"Good... "John" and I when skiing... we had lots of fun..."}

The inclusion of "we" and "us" is necessary. It provides a simple reminder, sharp at first, but increasingly dull, that you both are together.

Don't be obvious...

{"Well MY PARTNER DAVID B. KERFLUFFLE THE THIRD and I went skiing..."}

...But, don't shy away. If she responds poorly, just let her. Bite your tongue and don't judge her. But don't change your approach. Your partner is part of your life and don't hide that. Hiding will HURT your relationship with him in a lot of ways.

At the same time, since your dad is good with it... focus on him! Get your dad and your partner together, eat out, find a common interest even if it's just politics or the weather or baseball or whatever. The best thing you can do is strengthen your allies! Get your dad firmly on your side. Then when conversations come up, he'll end up talking about your boyfriend too. Possibly about the fun they had together. He'll also inevitably help with your mom. She will be more comfortable with it if she sees him comfortable with it. And if your sister shouts at your dad... big deal. Psychologically that hardens his support for you.

Bring friends into it too. If you and your sister are out with your friends or you are all in the same place say for the holidays or something, talk about your boyfriend in front of her to your friends. Show her by example that it's ok. That no one else seems to care that you have a boyfriend. Peer pressure and family pressure are the best tools you have. Forget yelling. That builds walls and pushes her away.

And most of all... take your time. It won't fix itself in one day or one week or maybe even one year. It's a process. Don't push too hard, but build your allies and hopefully she will crumble under them eventually.

A word of warning though. She will not change her mind by this technique if she respects someone who is homophobic more than your family or you or your friends etc. She will in that instance side with that person or those people. You can't make her choose whose opinion to value and you should not try.

No promises. In the very least though, you'll strengthen your relationships with your parents and your partner and that is a very good thing too. And really, kudos on finding a keeper... that's really most of the battle. The rest are just skirmishes.

Oh and PS... in regards to the bringing the partner to the graduation... very tough call. You don't want to push too hard on this if it's soon in my opinion. The worst thing that could very well happen is that your parents blame you for "ruining" her day. And that would push back the acceptance of your partner quite a ways. It's your call though.

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Response to Fearless (Reply #3)

Sat Dec 10, 2011, 02:06 AM

4. Fearless! Thanks for such a thoughtful reply!

It's nice to hear someone at a similar point in their life. Also, congratulations on your relationship! As you said, having found that special someone makes other issues seem minor.

Right now my sister does not live in the same city and we do not hang out together. We don't talk much, but when we do, I do try to bring up my partner casually, as you suggested. She pretty much acts like I hadn't said a thing about him. It's like she hears something completely different from what I said. When she can't help but respond to something directly, she makes a point of cutting him out of the picture. It may be possible that her particular brand of traditional and conservative faith is the most important value system to her. I know she held me in great esteem until I came out to her (in spring of 2008).

My sister's graduation won't be until next May, so there is some time.

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Response to knowledgeispwr (Reply #4)

Sat Dec 10, 2011, 02:37 AM

5. You're more than welcome...

And I'm glad that I made sense so late at night!

Don't give up hope on your sister though if you don't have to. Focus on the other members of your family who do support you or at least are neutral. Bring them closer to you and your partner.

My parents did the same thing that your sister is doing at first. They ignored everything. Denied everything. Wouldn't bring him up to save a burning school filled with children (ok maybe I'm being a bit dramatic). And, to be honest, I'll tell you that they are not where I want them to be yet either. They are not comfortable now with the whole shebang. But they acknowledge him as a person after a lot of hard work. And there have absolutely been times where I just have to cool off and leave them alone for a month or so (which was particularly easy when I was in college).

If your sister feels like you are pushing her, she will pull away, maybe for good. Just take your time. Build your allies. And most importantly live your life and be happy. Don't dwell on the negative. Stay positive! And talk to your partner too and keep him informed about how the issue is in your head, what your goals are, and how he might help you proceed. Believe me, I've had more arguments with my boyfriend over misunderstandings and misconceptions between what I think and what he thinks about something than any other topic. For me the hardest thing to learn was remembering that little voice in my head that keeps ticking away and commenting about an issue after we finished talking about it is not something he can hear too!! You'd be surprised how far behind you can leave him if your mind keeps dwelling on an issue. LOL!

Maybe the day will come when she will come around. And maybe they day will come when you decide that it's no longer worth your effort and pain to try to bring her around. Either way there are loads of people in the same boat as you. Loads! And we're all pulling for each other!

As for me it's bedtime on the east coast (not to cut it short, but I have work in about six hours and should get some sleep)... If you ever want to talk feel free to PM me or find me lurking in the forum! Plus I know there are tons of people here with good ideas too... just not all DU3 adjusted yet!

All the best,

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Response to knowledgeispwr (Original post)

Sat Dec 10, 2011, 04:08 AM

6. A suggestion - Normalize it, day to day, as a role model for your family.

Easy to say, I know, sitting here on an internet discussion forum. Yet it is what it is - normal. You two are a couple. I hope the family comes around...

(aside) Had a great glimpse into my family's dynamics one day from my sister. She made an off-hand comment that my BIL, her husband, dropped by the house to talk football with my partner. Playoffs were underway and my partner's team was in the running. As was my BIL's. The two of them had that interest in common. A casual little bit of family stuff, yet it really touched me. I had little clue to how my BIL viewed our relationship.

Hope all goes well with you and yours. ~ pinto

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Response to pinto (Reply #6)

Sat Dec 10, 2011, 08:51 AM

8. Thanks pinto.

I am doing my best to try to normalize my life. One positive thing that often happens when my partner and I meet up with my parents is that my partner and my mom will often end up talking about cooking, a shared interest. Although I am not quite sure how far along her conservative religious beliefs may have adapted to having a gay son in a relationship, I do know that she likes my partner as a person and is friendly and pleasant around him.

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Response to knowledgeispwr (Original post)

Sat Dec 10, 2011, 05:06 AM

7. All I can offer is personal advice , based on my experience with my family....

Do not allow your partner to be left out of your family events. Your sister HAS to learn, he is your other half,whether she likes it or not. It simply is, so live with it.

If there is a family event and he isn't specifically invited, you don't go. You don't apologize, you don't explain-you just don't go. If he isn't welcome, you aren't welcome. When he is welcome, you'll be there.

For the first 15 years of our relationship, when my sister called our house and my partner answered she gave no acknowledgement of who he was, she simply asked for me. Then one day I realized how badly I was disrespecting him by allowing this bullshit to occur. It ended. Now she talks to him when he answers the phone-just like he's a real person. Just like I talk to her husband when he answers the phone.

My family went through all of this over the last twenty years-confused parents, angry siblings, nieces and nephews....Next Sunday my partner and I will drive three hours to a family reunion of my siblings who all love him. We'll eat, laugh, hold babies and enjoy each other. I never thought it could happen but my rural southern redneck family surprised me. Hope yours will too.

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Response to Rowdyboy (Reply #7)

Sat Dec 10, 2011, 08:59 AM

9. Rowdyboy, your realization...

...sounds like the realization I recently had when I went with my parents (without my partner) to visit my sister. He wasn't invited and my sister did her usual thing of completely not acknowledging him. When I got back and thought about it, I realize how awful it was towards my partner, and I became angry. I talked to him about it and told him that he was not going to be left out any more.

Luckily, his immediately family is much more accepting. I actually talk to my partner's mother quite frequently. Hopefully my own family will reach that place.

Thanks Rowdyboy!

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Response to knowledgeispwr (Reply #9)

Sat Dec 10, 2011, 12:25 PM

11. Yeah, Michael's family welcomed me openly from the beginning.....

Which sort of embarrassed me because I saw how rudely my own relatives were acting.

That you have some support from your parents support is helpful. You can and must educated them all-its not just you anymore-its the two of you. Whether your sister wants to admit it or now.

Hope you guys have a smooth go of it....

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Response to knowledgeispwr (Original post)

Sat Dec 10, 2011, 10:09 AM

10. You've been more than willing...

If anything you're willing to go more than halfway. If they can't make the effort to move toward the center with you then you'll just have to hold your ground until they do so.

It will be tough. What other option do you have? If they can see you're serious maybe that will make them a bit more rational.

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Response to WillParkinson (Reply #10)

Sun Dec 11, 2011, 01:35 AM

12. Thanks for the affirmation, Will.

I have been trying. I do realize that they may never fully come around. I know I have to live my life for me.

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Response to WillParkinson (Reply #10)

Sun Dec 11, 2011, 01:44 AM

13. Realize that it might take years

but be strong. In my experience, they eventually come around, blood being thicker than water and all.

It was two weeks before my dad died when he finally sought to make peace with me. He said, "I tried every way I knew how to get you to admit being gay. I tried to irritate you, embarrass you, to make you lose your cool. You never broke."

I replied, "All that did was piss me off. We're way too alike, you and me, for that kind of thing to work and you know it. This is how *I* feel right now: If you had asked like a man, I'd have told you like a man. Either way, I've been content in my skin."

The tension finally left, all at once. He'd been trying to say he was cool, but being very clumsy with it. But you'd have to understand my complicated dad.

Have faith that some need to open their minds, some need to find a way to admit being ok, and a few may never grow that much. Either way, be content in your own skin. Love your partner and love yourself.

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Response to HillWilliam (Reply #13)

Sun Dec 11, 2011, 01:54 AM

14. Thanks for sharing about your dad.

I have finally reached a point in the last couple of years of being content in my own skin after my adolescence and early college years in self-conflict and denial. Despite my family, in most ways I am happier than I've ever been. Accepting and being comfortable with myself and my beliefs, as well as having an amazing partner are the reasons for that.

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