Gay People Do Exist – Coming out to my Grandparents

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Gay People Do Exist! Coming Out to My Grandparents

My grandparents were/are committed Christians. They’ve taught 3rd and 4th grade Sunday school for as long as I can remember. On the infrequent occasions when I attended their church, from kindergarten until I was about 12, I always pulled up a chair and sat between them while we were going over the lesson as a class and eat doughnuts my grandma faithfully bought every Sunday. They taught me about God, prayed with me, and told me of God’s grace. We sang songs such as:


“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

I had a girlfriend of three years before I came out in April of 2008. I was dealt the harsh truth: Jesus loves you unless you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, intersex, or queer. Jesus couldn’t love gay people, because gay people didnt exist!

My first nephew was born nearly a year and a half ago; my grandparents are now great-grandparents! They bask in their new role with zeal and eagerness along with awe and wonder as they babysit him three days a week. They revel the time they spend with him as they play their newest silly game of peek-a-boo.
He giggles with delight as he covers his eyes. At his young age when his eyes are covered, it doesnt matter if his head, shoulders, knees, and toes (eyes, ears, mouth, and nose) are showing — he is invisible to you and you are invisible to him. This is how he understands visibility: seeing = mutually engaged. My grandparents, however, should know that covering their eyes doesnt mean that another person doesnt exist!

Not unlike my nephew, my grandparents cover their eyes and gay people go away; they cease to exist! By association, I ceased to exist. Me coming out as (non-existantly) gay meant that I had succumbed to “the world’s view”! I was defying what God had revealed in the Scriptures.

I am not gay because there are no gay people! Get it? Got it? Good! I am a straight person dabbling in homosexuality. Describing myself as gay belied my lack of faith in what God had told them (sic)! The only thing they failed to do was question my faith in God completely because I, a heterosexual mind you, loves and advocates for the equality of gay people. Completely un-Christ like, I know!

The kicker is this: While my grandma never got so far as to tell me this in this heart-to-heart, fuzzy spirit-filled conversation, she has said she believes THERE ARE ex-homosexuals!?!? So, there are ex-homosexuals, but not homosexuals? It is a logic nightmare!

From this, I learned the simple, unvarnished truth: My grandparents are bigots. While progressive in a couple of ways, their racist views that have since long passed and their current views towards homosexuality are representative (reminiscent??) of many people in their generation who view the Bible as the infallible Word of God and the Scriptures inerrant.

Our three hour talk had somehow strayed into a series of invectives about my character and crescendo'd when it's affect on familial affairs were brought up: I was told that if my girlfriend of nearly three years and I ever got married (never mind that this conversation took place in 2008, and the fact that I lived in California and she in Virginia - at the time it wasn't even a logical possibility) I would no longer be allowed at family gatherings. My grandma said, "Homosexuals are fine as long as it's not in 'this' (meaning her) house."

At this point I knew: I knew that it would only be a matter of time before, as a lesbian, I would be forced to choose between fidelity to my sexual identity and acceptance and approval from my fellow Christian grandparents (and, by extension, the rest of my family). I knew it spiked a fear of further mistrust and oppression. I knew from the intense intuitive emotional reaction I had that the homophobic bigoted view of my grandparents were irrational and unjust.

And unfortunately, I learned the hard way that the divide between the gay and straight Christian community that I grew up in was large and all-pervasive. I was told that gays and lesbians are more depressed, arent normal, and that I definitely was not one. Believing that God allowed me to born with such desires while condemning me to hell/annihilation lead me to a year of suicidal ideations. My grandparents were able to shove me back in the closest, rationalize away my existence and effectively ignore an entire class of people with their childish thinking of peek-a-boo, I don’t see you.

Up until then, I figured my grandparents would always love me. At that moment however, I learned the harsh truth that love is not unconditional. My grandparents claimed to love me, but she only loved the person they thought I was and the person they hoped I would be. My grandparents certainly dont accept who I am, let alone tolerate the possibility of it even being mentioned. I haven’t given up the hope that my grandparents may someday move past their homophobia, but my existence no longer hinges on their acceptance either.

I just wish they would have been more willing to remain a part of this grandchild’s whole life – not just they part that they can accept. I wish they would uncover their eyes and see me, their grandchild, and the injustices I’ve suffered. I want them to know that I do, indeed exist!

[END NOTE: TODAY I DO HAVE A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH BOTH MY GRANDPARENTS AND MY FAMILY. UNSUPRISINGLY, I REMAIN UNOPEN AND ON GUARD. NEVERTHELESS, I DO ATTEMPT TO CONVEY MY GENERAL INDICTMENT OF PREJUDICE BY SPEAKING EUPHEMISTALLY OF “HUMAN TOLERANCE.” I CITE LOVE AS A MOTIVATOR OF KINDNESS, AND I MAKE PASSING REFERENCES TO THE VALUE OF SHOWING UNDERSTANDING AND ACCEPTANCE TOWARD THE FULL DIVERSITY OF HUMANITY.]

Aslongasitstranslatedcorrectly,

~ SoACTing

48 thoughts on “Gay People Do Exist – Coming out to my Grandparents

  1. I am sorry that you have to be only partly yourself with your family. That isn’t reserved to sexual orientation, but it certainly becomes very clear, doesn’t it?

    I find that same “peekaboo” game with the fact that I was molested. My siblings think that if they don’t admit that it happened, or that if it did it must somehow be my fault, that then they are “okay” and safe. They don’t need to change anything in their lives, and pretend our family is perfect, or at least they are perfect, as long as the never write, say or think the word incest.

  2. Julia,

    I plan on responding more in full later, but for now I just want to say thank you for your openness on a such an emotionally driven topic in both the gay community and sexual abuse community that so often seem to be brought up alongside each other in religious communities at large.

    ~ SoACTing

  3. SoActing,

    Let me start by unequivocally stating that I do not believe sexual abuse is a cause of homosexuality. Personally, I believe people are attracted to and creating loving relationships with the people that they are “hardwired” to love. So, my next comment does not mean that I think that sexual abuse victims who are gay became gay because they were abused.

    That huge disclaimer taken care of, I think that there is the tendency in the church, by leaders and family members to treat gay members, and sexual abuse survivors (especially incest survivors) in many of the same ways. I don’t think that sexual assault or molestation makes anyone gay, but I do think that as they take stock of who they are, either it is easier to “come out” because the family ties are so tattered that they do not seem important, or it takes a lot longer for a gay person to claim their sexuality because the abuse has made them unsure of themselves and their own judgment.

    I know those things happen in both gay and invest survivor communities. Society’s reaction to either is heartbreaking. When someone struggles to get beyond abuse, and to then be themselves, as gay members of society on an equal footing with everyone else, it is so much harder.

    I sometimes wonder why there is such a huge overlap with church members who are incest survivors and homosexuals who were abused, and the only answer I have come up with is that it is a “false positive.”. I think there must be many more invest survivors who are not gay, and gay members who are not incest survivors. Those people may just not be as likely to speak out if they haven’t yet, “come out” as incest survivors or as homosexuals, and so they don’t get help because they are afraid of the possible consequences.

    I think that fear of consequences, which leads LDS members to remain silent, is one of the least Christlike things that the church encourages. My family encouraged me in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about the incest in our family, and it sounds like your grandparents would really like it if you would do the same with your sexuality. I sometimes wonder how many extra generations it will take to stop abuse of all forms, including shunning gay family members, because the church stays silent, except to say that abuse shouldn’t happen. Of course it shouldn’t, but when will there be a clear policy of what should happen, and how church leaders are going to lead local leaders into leaving past teachings behind?

    Julia
    Poetrysansonions.blogspot.com

    (PS Sorry for the errors. My phone is not letting me go back and edit, so everywhere it says invest, I mean incest. Gotta love autocorrect. 😉 Apparently even my iPhone is part of the conspiracy to not talk about incest.)

  4. Julia,

    Thank you for providing such insight into your life. You gave me a lot to think about, and I’m eventually going to incorporate these comments into their own post on my blog. With that said, here’s two hopefully not too long comments.

    There were several reasons I ultimately decided to post this on MSP. Aside from the fact that I want to be another voice in the gay community, I figured this story could resonate with those in the ex Mormon/post Mormon community who know all to well the brick wall that one comes up against amongst family members and friends who are still deeply embedded and invested in the church.

    When exiting the church (and I’m sure I’m not saying anything new here) – as lifelong beliefs are being shed and new beliefs are beginning to take form – the “peek-a-boo” game in the church is like quasi-doctrine, and in order to avoid discomfort, a believing member has to discount those that leave the church by accusing them of being offended, sinning, and/or unable to endure to the end. Hence, the church has a built in system of effectively ignoring ex-members and pretending they don’t exist and/or their issues with the church are a product of themselves; therefore, negating the issues to trivial and superficial. (Ergo, “The church is perfect, the people are not.”)

    In short, when you noted in your first comment, this “…isn’t reserved to sexual orientation…” I felt like my goal had been met; I wanted my post to cross boundary lines an apply to more than just sexuality.

    When I responded and said “…thank you for your openness on such an emotionally driven topic in both the gay community and the sexual abuse community…”, FWIW, I didn’t take it as you saying that sexual abuse or even incest causes homosexuality. I, myself am a sexual abuse survivor (which I will elaborate on in the next comment), and so when I saw that you were able to be so open an forth coming with being molested and a survivor of incest in unapologetic terms, as cliche sounding as this may be – it gives me a profound sense of hope and encouragement when fighting my own battles.

    “I think that there is the tendency in the church, by leaders and family members to treat gay members, and sexual abuse survivors (especially incest survivors) in many of the same ways.” (I apologize in advance for the over-generalizations I’m getting ready to make!)

    Not only do I find this to be true in the church, but also in society at large. The reason for this, in my opinion, is because all three are still misunderstood. I hear women talk about “bad experiences” without ever putting a name to it. I read stories of the tremendous pain gay people go through before “coming out” to family members. Your first commet jumped out at me because you put a name to your molestation and incest, which I believe counters the presiding cultural narrative that sexual abuse is something only perpetrated by strangers in dark alley’s. And when gay people tell their stries they counter the cultural narrative of gay’s being promiscuous deviants.

    The church and society want sexual abuse to be scary and foreign because, god forbid, how would we keep going if it looked familiar like our own family or boyfriend? If gays can be monogamous, up-standing, hard working individuals, how can parents continue to indoctrinate their kids about the depravity and wicked ways of a “same gender attracted” (sic!) individuals?

    The church and society don’t want the alternatives. They don’t want to believe that sexual abuse can happen to any female (or male) because it means it could happen to then. They don’t want homosexuality to be genetic because it means their child can’t be cured and their Bible is wrong.

    I appreciate that you can be so candid about you being sexually abused and an incest survivor because it’s something nobody wants to look at or hear about. I like the fact that you don’t tiptoe around it because doing so will never change the fact that it happened. I’m glad you don’t feel as if you have to hide it. And by you putting it out there, I believe you can help more people than you realize, myself being just one of those people!

    ~ SoACTing

  5. SoActing,

    I am glad my words resonated with you. I find that trying to share my experiences, and the tolerance, love, understanding and empathy that comes with reaching out to others plays a huge roll in my feelings of self worth and satisfaction.

    In many ways I guess I am lucky that even though I put a face to what an incest survivor looks like, and that there is one in your ward, your stake, etc., I can do that education both inside and outside the church. (Although as anyone who has followed my personal blog knows, physical issues have put me on an extended Sunday sabbatical until I recover from the surgery they will be doing next week.) I sometimes feel I have to prove my credentials to both current myers and ex members of the church. The funny thing is, when I decided I didn’t care whether either side identified with me, that I was going to be me, and too bad for those who thought it was their business how I spend my Sundays or study time, that both communities seem to accept me as the unicorn in their midst. (Not everyone of course, but usually once people figure out that I care about them as a person, my personal religious practice matter about as much as the length of my hair. Certainly people express amazement that it is almost to my waist, or worry that I am growing it that long to please someone else, but it doesn’t have an impact to whether we can be friends, care about each other, and support each other on our journeys through life.)

    Thank you for sharing such personal details about yourself, and the journey you have made and continue to make. I hope we will become friends, I think we both have a lot to offer each other. 🙂

    Julia
    Poetrysansonions.blogspot.com

    (BTW, I am looking for guest bloggers for after my surgery, if anyone is interested! 😉 I think a few different perspectives to shake up my blog would be fun, especially when I am on pain killers and am likely to think ANYTHING is funny.)

  6. Julia,

    I stated in my last comment that “I, myself am a sexual abuse survivor…”. I would like to expound on this a little bit further as well as provide a bit of additionl insight to anyone who may read these comments in regards to gay issues and sexual abuse issues.

    I was planning on waiting much longer before bringing sexual abuse issues in conjunction with homosexuality into the spot light because my blog will eventually be about being a lesbian in a mixed orientation relationship with a Mormon; and how studying Mormonism lead me to reject Christianity. Sexual abuse has nothing to do with it. There also seems to be a tendency by those on the religious right to try and take hold of anything to prove that homosexuality isn’t natural or genetic and will point to sexual abuse as the main catalyst that made me gay; a notion I unequivocally reject!

    Suffice it to say, I was molested when I was 14 by the man I call my dad who raised me from 18 months old. Two years later I was raped by a man whose identity I still don’t, and will probable never, know. However, what follows only deals with the first incident.

    “My family encouraged me in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about the incest in our family, and it sounds like your grandparents would really like it if you would do the same with your sexuality.”

    In the OP I stated that my grandparents believe that homosexuality doesn’t really exist while simultaneously claiming that there are ex-gays. Like I said, “logic nightmare!” My grandparents would want me to go one step further than “don’t ask, don’t tell” and denounce it all together.

    “My siblings think that if they don’t admit what happened, or that if it did it must somehow be my fault…”

    Continuing with the logic nightmare: Like you, my mother said that me being molested didn’t happen, and if it did, then I provoked it. On a separate occasion she attributed me “being gay” to me being molested. If you follow this argument it makes no sense due to the fact that she doesn’t believe I was molested in the first place! How can she then turn around and claim that molestation caused (sic!) the gayness??

    And one more bizzare piece of logic: My grandma has never affirmed or denied whether the molestation too place. However, she has implied that sexual abuse caused me to be gay. But you have to remember, she doesn’t think homosexuality exists. How does sexual abuse cause something that doesn’t exist in the first place??

    ~ SoACTing

    P. S. Sorry about the typos!

    P. S. S. Though not germane to our exchange, I do plan on delving into a few issues with claiming sexual abuse causes homosexuality. But for now its sleep time!

  7. I was never sexually abused. But after some initial discussions when I first came out, my father eventually hardened his position on this issue. I’m sure he sought “guidance” from LDS general authorities on how to respond, then found and followed the advice of people like Dallin Oaks.

    As a result, I was notified of the following. “The family has discussed “your situation.” You are free to choose your life as you wish. However, we don’t want to hear about this subject anymore. We don’t want you to talk about it or bring it up or ever refer to it. If you send any of us anything to read about it, we will ignore it. And don’t even THINK about bringing “someone” to any family function. If you do these things, you can continue to participate in the family.”

    I pointed out that everybody else in the family had their dating and marital relationships honored and celebrated, did he realize how unfair it was to tell me I couldn’t even TALK about mine and to refuse to even acknowledge them? Yes, he said. But life is unfair, he said. Get used to it, he said.

    That is the only time in my life that I’ve ever been so angry with him that I got up and walked out.

    I am sure he has cried a lot over this situation. I’m sure he and the rest of the family believe they are doing what God wants them to do (as advised through his “prophets, seers and revelators”). And he has stuck to his position. I have sent him links and letters that refer to it, in an effort to show him that he doesn’t need to feel as bad about it as he does. He has ignored them.

    Needless to say, my contact with family since then has been minimal. Two sisters haven’t spoken to me in over two years since I first came out to them. Contact with the rest has been very rare. But on the rare occasion when I do see my dad or talk to him (once every calendar quarter, on average), I likewise ignore his “instruction” and I do mention things about my life, about who I date, etc. And true to his word, he ignores those mentions. So we have reached a stalemate of sorts, I guess. Him and the rest of the family trying to shove me back in the closet, and me refusing to go. I’ve told him that if he wants me as part of his life, he’s going to get the real me, not the fake one. So far he has kept up contact, which I guess is a good thing. The rest of my siblings, though, have gone radio silent. I can’t remember the last time any of them initiated any contact, even the one sister who seemed relatively tolerant at first.

    I recently visited for an hour with Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the 70 and told him of my family’s actions. He is no friend of the gay community, but even he raised an eyebrow and said he would not have “gone quite that far.”

    So much for “families are forever,” eh?

  8. Rob, if you and I were friends, I would consider it only polite that I not send you anti-gay material, or brochures from Evergreen, or repeated articles from conservative commentators implying that you can change your orientation. I wouldn’t feel like you would appreciate it, and would worry that it would strain our relationship – and also would consider it not my business to harass you about how to run your life on this subject.

    Would that be an appropriate stance for me to take with you – if we were hypothetically friends in email contact with each other?

  9. Seth R.,

    I’ve read over your comment a couple of times, and I’m still kind of chewing on it a bit. Interesting point; one that I have not thought of before.

    ~ SoACTing

  10. Ron,

    I am sorry that you have run into the negative side of “forever families.”

    I think sometimes the “believing” members of a family think they have a right to “love us to death” if we don’t agree with them. I have learned that sometimes those who are most in denial about either family problems, the fact that there are things they can’t control (like sexuality) and even worse for them, they can’t control whether we choose to talk about something that they want to be in denial about.

    One counselor who specialized in incestuous families told me that families of any type, where keeping a secret and having it stay secret is the most important thing to keeping the family intact, will do almost anything to punish a family member who disclosed the family secret.

    I don’t know if that helps at all or not. Please know that there are lots of people who come “out” about a huge variety of things, and our biological families never forgive us. That doesn’t mean that we can’t find a family of friend’s who can give us so much more, because they have no investment, no stock, in keeping the family secret(s).

    If you wanna email, text, ect., my personal blog is poetrysansonions.blogspot.com

    Hugs – Julia

  11. Thanks Julia, I think you’ve described my family pretty well. Early on, my dad pleaded with me not to tell my siblings because he believed it would threaten “family cohesion.” His parents were neglectful and sometimes abusive alcoholics and so a strong unified family of his own was always a HUGE thing for him. I’m child #2 out of 6 to go “off the range.” And sadly, he was right. Not because of anything I did, but because my siblings reacted so vociferously.

    Just today I got a letter from dad. Unfortunately it said what I had suspected: that he can NEVER believe anything gay is acceptable, either to himself or to God, it would violate everything he’s ever believed his whole life, and in fact if the church itself ever changed and accepted gay relationships, he would consider the church to be in apostasy. I’m still debating whether it’s worth my time to ask if he really believes the 9th Article of Faith or not. But at least he’s still talking to me.

    Seth: Fair point. A little back story may help your perspective. The only material I ever sent my dad about this topic was right at the very start of our discussions when he was learning about it and had indicated a willingness to read what I sent him. At no time did I pester him with unwanted content thereafter. He basically had one brief and superficial look, rejected it, and said “I’m not willing to look at any more.” So I haven’t sent any more. Just a personal letter a couple of times a year and they don’t dwell on “that subject” by any means.

    If it were me, I wouldn’t mind a bit if somebody sent me stuff about Evergreen, etc. as you state. But I’m a lawyer and I like jousting. Others might not like it, though, and I get that. I wouldn’t assume they’d all react like me. But it’s not that I’ve been bothering my dad with such material. It’s his statement in advance that he’s not willing even to read anything that he doesn’t agree with or to even consider new ideas. To me that goes beyond just “this issue.” It’s a general mind-set of rejecting the opportunity to learn, which seems to me inimical to “the glory of God is intelligence.”

  12. I understand Rob. I don’t have all the details and context.

    Personally, my own views are that gay sex is unacceptable, and I’m not worried about gay attraction. And I disagree with the notion of gay marriage for a variety of reasons. The position the church is moving toward, basically.

    However, as a father of a gay son (if I found myself there), I would take the following stance on it.

    I want to have a relationship with my son and talk with my son. I want to make it clear I love him. I also want to know what is interesting to him and important to him. So I’m willing to hear about his relationships – even if I find those uncomfortable. I wouldn’t appreciate being “proselyted” to his social views (just like my dad doesn’t appreciate me bombarding him with anti-Republican rants when I visit for the holidays). And I would not appreciate him trying to win over my other children to his views – IF they are underage. If the children are adults, their opinions are their own business.

    I would want to meet my son’s boyfriend firstly for practical reasons (in an emergency, that person is going to be an important contact), but also because they are important to my son and I’m interested in that – and I’m not going to live in denial. I’m an adult for pete’s sake.

    However, I don’t think I would be willing to provide a room for my son and his partner to stay in together over Christmas in my house. Just like I wouldn’t provide a room for him and his girlfriend. However, I would provide a room for one of my heterosexually married kids.

    That’s not equal treatment. I understand that. But it is what it is and I’d expect my son to accommodate my views as much as I accommodate his.

    Anyway, that’s me.

    For what it’s worth, I think this LDS Newsroom interview with Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Lance Wickman was a little bit softer on your situation than your dad is being Rob.

    http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/official-statement/same-gender-attraction

    I don’t know if you had that interview in mind already when you made your remarks or not.

  13. Rob,

    I thought I posted a reply to you…turns out I didn’t. I’ll definitely be getting back to you a bit later!

    ~ SoACTing

  14. Seth @ 12:

    I wouldnt appreciate being proselyted to his social views

    Gay children proselytize their homophobic parents in order to have continued relationships with them. If my parents gave a room to my hetero married sibling and her/his partner when visiting, but would forbid the same for me and my partner, then I’d be unlikely to visit due to the discrimination. Thanks to my proselytizing as a teenager, though, that is unlikely to happen.

    And I would not appreciate him trying to win over my other children to his views IF they are underage.

    And what if HE is also underage? Would you enforce a “no talking about gay things” policy in the house, because it might make his siblings too gay-friendly?

    It sounds to me like when you consider yourself as having a gay son, you imagine him as an adult already, after your homophobia has already created a detriment in the relationship — and you negotiate accordingly. Maybe you should try to imagine having a teenage gay son who might look to his father for support and acceptance.

  15. Alan,

    I think this is important when talking about family relationships. Most of our family patterns are pretty well set long before high school. Whether it is the grooming that goes with a family protecting an abusive and abused member(s), or the general denial of a part of a family member’s basic make up.

    Maybe I can illustrate what I mean by taking it to a place without words that are likely to be “triggers.”

    Let’s say I grew up in a family where green wasn’t an okay color. Everyone has an investment in making sure no one sees any hint of green in our family. There is one small problem with our family though, our living room is a bright, bold, obvious green. So, we have a family crisis, and there aren’t that many ways to resolve it.

    My family decided that my disclosing the “blue” of my incest memories as the reason that the room is green. If I was willing to cancel out the “blue” by pretending it never happened, it would make the rest of my family more comfortable. I am the easy one to focus in on, because I was the one talking, going to counseling, looking for answers. So, since green is unacceptable, and blue is part of making green, and I won’t hide the blue, it must be my fault.

    From my perspective, this completely ignores that the entire house is yellow. Even the siblings who were not groomed to be molested, they were still groomed to completely ignore the yellow on every wall. Since they have been groomed to see that yellow as a simple white, they automatically go to the “obvious” answer that the entire room full of green is my fault.

    Maybe I pushed the metaphor too far, but I think that if we looked at the colors in any family that rejects a family member, no matter what the reason, that there is an underlying family culture that gets ignored. The personal decisions each family member makes, always gets filtered through that family’s color lenses.

    I can’t predict what would/will happen if one of my children, nieces or nephews tell me that they are a homosexual, but I think I can say that I am more likely to hug them, and their partner, as a starting point. I would rather talk with my children about their sexuality, and how much I love them, than to send them away feeling that I think they are less important than their heterosexual family members.

    I have no idea what the conversation between my gay friend’s and Christ will be like, but I am sure that my conversation with Christ will include how much I love and care for all of my spiritual brothers and sisters. I want to be able to tell Christ that I saw each of the colors separated from each other, and that I could step back and see my gay friends for who they are, not for who I am afraid other people might think I am because I care about them as a person.

    I may be rambling too much, but it is almost time for post surgery pain meds. I tend to ramble when I hurt. Lol

    Julia – poetrysansonions.blogspot.com

  16. Alan, the word homophobia is nothing more than name-calling and says absolutely nothing useful.

    And yes – if underage, I expect the standards of the LDS Church to be followed in my house.

    I don’t see that as unreasonable.

    And it seems to me when you talk about “create a climate of” whatever, you are making a lot of assumptions about me and how I would approach things.

  17. Seth, let’s say you have a gay teenage son. He’s 16 and wants to date another boy. You expect the standards of the LDS Church to be followed in your house, so you… do what? Forbid it? Your daughter is 16 and wants to date a boy, and you okay it. So your hetero child is allowed to date, and your homo kid isn’t. In my mind, that’s a homophobic household. Would you prefer the term “heterosexist?” They’re interchangable.

    lot of assumptions about me and how I would approach things.

    Are you saying you would let him date?

    I was with my LDS mom the other day, and I mentioned that Mormons marched in Pride parades this summer. She said, “Well, you are supposed to love, even if you don’t support–” and I cut her off and said, “Actually, these Mormons don’t think homosexual intimacy is a sin.” She had to process that the church membership is not united on the matter.

    Admittedly, I don’t really think of my mother as homophobic even if she might hold the personal belief that homosexual intimacy is a sin. I guess it’s because she has a history of behaving in increasingly antihomophobic ways over the years, toward me, toward other gay folks, toward church members. If you would like me to refrain from referring to you as homophobic as a kindness, then you’d also have to demonstrate a positive trajectory. Otherwise, it is important to refer to homophobia as homophobia where it exists, similar to how one might refer to racism as racism where it exists.

    Claiming that you’d love your imaginary gay son, and would “be willing to hear about his relationships even if I find those uncomfortable” isn’t enough. Especially in light of countless other posts I’ve read from you disparaging gay people. Perhaps you’re all bark and no bite, and the fact that a gay son of yours might even want to date a boy is a testament to something. I’m just not sure what that something is.

  18. Seth,

    These are honest questions, without an agenda.

    Would you rather have your teenage son or daughter talk to you about their sexual feelings, whether homosexual or heterosexual? Who else would you like your teenagers to turn to for information and discussing sexual matters if/when they are looking for other information and opinions.

    I have pre-teens, and I think a lot about how I can make sure that I am at least “on the list” of people that my kids come to with questions and ideas. I have no idea what the questions they have will be, but what they ask isn’t as important to me, as being one of the sources of information they think it is important to have.

    I am not claiming I am doing a perfect job, but it is part of the gift that I want to give my children. I want them to know they can come to me at any time, with any questions.

  19. Alan, you’re basically taking the position that anything short of condoning and supporting the behavior is “not love.”

    I reject your position entirely.

    No, I would not support same-sex dating.

    I guess this is what it comes down to – you, Alan, are also withholding love based on ideology. Just as much as Rob’s dad was. Rob’s dad seemed (and Rob can correct me if this isn’t true) to have difficulty offering love based on his feelings of disapproval.

    But it seems to be equally true Alan that you are unable to accept genuinely offered love if it doesn’t also involve capitulating and agreeing with your ideological position. Love doesn’t work if the person to whom it is directed doesn’t accept it. And you seem to have made your acceptance conditional.

  20. Basically, the message seems to be – “you have to approve of gay sex – otherwise you’re not allowed to love us.”

  21. I was notified of the following. The family has discussed your situation.

    Unless “the family” consists of your dad alone, I sincerely doubt they are in unanimous agreement with what your dad wrote you. If you want to convince people and build a reasonable consensus, you don’t start with the point of greatest conflict. Strengthen relationships with your mom and your siblings — since you’re a grown-up I imagine you have adult siblings, and if all your siblings are minors, they won’t be for long.

    A couple of years of cooling off (even further) may be very beneficial to your relationship with your dad. If he wants to play a manipulative game like “If you tell me about your life, I will pretend like I don’t hear you” it is totally appropriate to respond by saying that until he’s willing to hear about your life, you won’t talk to him at all. Frequently parents have a difficult time making the transition from having an adult-child relationship with their offspring to having an adult-adult relationship, and you can help that transition along.

    Look at my Mormon family reunion. Two of the dots on that family tree diagram are same-sex partners. I designed the diagram and got tons of compliments from my traditional/faithful Mormon relatives and not a single breath of a complaint about it. I was careful to ask each family member how they want their own individual family group represented on the diagram — and to respect what they chose.

    As I said in my post, our family includes gay people, atheists, liberals, conservatives, people who believe the BoM is literally true, etc., etc. — and we all had a fantastic time building our family ties and our kids’ memories because we put the family first before any ideology, religious or otherwise. If my Mormon family can do it, maybe others can too.

  22. you have to approve of gay sex otherwise youre not allowed to love us.

    It is important to understand where your own life choices end and another’s begin. As I said @21, we got along because we were willing to respect such boundaries.

    I’m sure some people at the reunion didn’t think highly of others’ lifestyle choices (such as practicing Mormonism…), but if you want to have a strong family, you need to choose to prioritize — and choose that your family ties are more important than your desire to judge other people.

  23. 12 -What is gay sex, anyway? Plenty of straight couples have oral sex. In fact, a person can be a temple going couple and have oral or an_l sex. There was one letter in the 1980s but I’m pretty sure it’s not considered doctrinal.

    Most families don’t talk about which sexual practices are okay in straight marriages, it seems to me that what consenting adults do in the bedroom is their business.

    Why only send material to GLBT family members? Why not send it to everyone to make sure everyone in the family is definitely not having (gasp) oral sex?

  24. Incidentally, I take a dim view of steady dating in high school – period. No matter what gender mix you’re talking about. I don’t care much for the idea of pairing-off in high school either.

  25. youre basically taking the position that anything short of condoning and supporting the behavior is not love.

    How did I take that position? What I said is, if you allow your hetero kid to date, but not your homo kid, then that would be a homophobic household. Just because there’s homophobia, doesn’t mean there can’t also be love. In fact, perhaps the majority of homophobia in the Church these days is littered with love. All it means is that a lot of gay people and their partners have working relationships with their Mormon families these days, but aren’t welcome in the Church due to the ideological divide.

  26. Just a side note…

    How would a parent of a teenager even enforce the no same-sex dating rule in the first place?

    I mean, I went over to my guy friends’ houses to hang out with them or go do things all the time. As a parent, there’s no way I’m going to prohibit that. So I’m not really sure what hypothetical we’re talking about.

    Am I going to make known disapproval for my teenagers getting romantically involved with a member of the same gender?

    Yes.

    But, now that I think about it, I’d be disapproving of them getting romantically involved with a member of the opposite gender too in high school. I just don’t think tying yourself down and limiting your relationship options at that stage of life is healthy in general.

    So it may be this hypothetical is strictly academic anyway Alan. Lots of teens don’t even formally “date” anymore. The landscape is changing on relationships in a lot of ways. So maybe this is an ultimately fruitless disagreement we are having.

  27. 26-I think it’s a great idea for my teen to marry the first person they steady date…definitely not exploring their sexuality before marriage. They marry (hopefully around 18 or six months post mission). Since they’ve made a lifetime commitment to the first person they’ve dated, they absolutely must not get divorced. They need to stick it out sixty years of misery to prove what? That they never make bad decisions?

    Honestly, this aspect of mormon sexuality is messed up in my opinion. It’s not healthy, and not realistic (it was barely realistic in 1980, it’s even more in 2012). Many of the mormon teens I knew whose parents had Seth’s ideals became very good at lying. Some still married in the temple…it’s a strange system where being unrealistic and inflexible is honored. Oh, and say one thing and do another is also honored.

    Seth, why should anyone follow this folk/culture doctrine about sexuality, one developed in the 1960s and developed by someone who came of age in the 1920s (Spencer Kmball)? Which may or may not be firm LDS doctrine? At the same time opposite sex steady dating is discouraged, anyone who has been abused or raped is also told it was their fault and they were responsible.

    I’m digressing from the OP, except that I think the doctrine about sexuality is not healthy, and in some cases (like rape and abuse) is harmful.

  28. Well, if your kid suspects that you’re homophobic, then he (or she) will probably date without you knowing… perhaps even without you knowing that he (or she) is gay. Most parents figure it out, though. Assuming the kid was raised in the Church, there will be a point at which the kid will feel unwelcome at church due to wanting to date the same gender, and things will go one of two ways: (1) the kid leaves the Church to begin dating, (2) the kid stays in the Church because he or she is not currently dating, but will eventually have to make the decision to leave the Church (unless lifelong celibacy or a mixed-orientation marriage sounds appealing, and for most gay folks, neither is).

    Meanwhile, there can be plenty of love coming from a lot of directions… from parents, from other Mormons, from bishops. What I perceive as “love” would not include traumatizing the kid into thinking gay intimacy is a terrible sin, that their body is broken in some way in this life, and I don’t suspect this is how you’d treat your imaginary gay kid, Seth. In the end, leaving the church just becomes a logical course of action because of the rules of the institution. Basically, the institution filters out gay people because of the threat that same-sex relationships pose to patriarchy.

    I know you probably can’t see this, Seth, or vehemently disagree, but you might read about what “sin” amounts to from an anthropological perspective. “Sin” that kicks a person out of the group is something that intolerably threatens the whole in some fashion — in this case, what is threatened is the patriarchy. I’m pretty sure gayness is more fundamental to the way the human species exists on Earth than Mormon patriarchy is, though.

  29. aerin, are you trying to say here that the concept of the group date is a purely Mormon invention?

    Alan, and aerin, seriously – I know I’m the only active Mormon you have handy around here… but is that really a good reason to attribute to me every last mean thing you’ve ever heard about in Mormon culture?

  30. Seth,

    I have watched the back and forth of this conversation. I find it most ironic I asked several questions, with an attitude of trying to understand, and no one even pretended to answer my questions. (18)

    I am an “authentic” LDS woman, who went through hell in gaining my testimony, and I still have it. In fact, part of the reason I asked, “Would you rather have your teenage son or daughter talk to you about their sexual feelings, whether homosexual or heterosexual? Who else would you like your teenagers to turn to for information and discussing sexual matters if/when they are looking for other information and opinions?”

    I have had two of my friends from Primary “come out” as gay men, several years after returning from honorably served missions. We don’t talk a lot, partially because they live out of state and I decided I needed a six month Facebook fast. These two men are twin’s, and I have known and loved them as friends since we were in nursery together. My other best friend,from my primary days, asked to have her name removed from the records of the church on her 18th birthday. They have all expressed their frustrations about the lack of discussions about sexuality within the church, or within their families.

    I recognize that most kids will at least be curious about a variety sexual experiences depending on the natural inclination that they come with. Just as my husband has a strong attraction to long hair, if one of my children wants to understand hair attraction or fetishes of any kind, I want them to come to me and/or my husband to discuss sexual feelings they don’t understand. If I can talk with them calmly, and explain what I know and don’t know, then I have the chance to make sure that my children know they can always talk to me about anything. I also will be more likely to understand the best ways to support them so they aren’t left feeling alone amd lost as teenagers or young adults.

    While homosexuality is the “boogeyman” fear, I am much more worried that one of my children will be molested or raped. I may not know all of the best ways to help my children, but as long as they know that I am willing to listen and look for answers with them, so they don’t blame us, as their parents, for cutting them off from a part of themselves through thundering silence.

    I do not think that a home that allows children to ask questions is going to make my children gay. I do think that creating a home that has an underlying invitation to think, askin and find answers together will teach my children to be strong, loving and hopefully open minded adults.

  31. Rob,

    Out of sheer curiosity – is there a particular reason you met with Lyndon Whitney Clayton specifically as opposed to one of the other 70’s??

  32. Julie, I think that one of the reasons you didn’t get a lot of response is that you are so darn nice that neither I nor the others in the discussion had much cause to argue with you.

    To answer your question in #18, I would like my children to discuss things with me. Sorry for not addressing that direct query.

  33. Seth,

    On a personal note, one of the ways I actually found Outer Blogness and the Bloggernacle was due to some comments you had posted on Mormon Coffee. This was a couple of years ago so I can’t remember the exact post, but I believe (and I’m paraphrasing here) you had posited the idea that Christians are being hypocritical when they accuse Mormons of relying on feelings as indicators of truth while simultaneously positing that they themselves (Christians), somehow don’t rely on their feelings. I was a Christian at the time, but it was one of the things that forced me to take a hard look at Christianity and ultimately reject it. (Eventually I’ll do a separate blog post on my own blog going into more details – Just thought I’d throw that out there).

    Back to the topic at hand – When you say you disagree with the notion of gay marriage for a variety of reasons, is one of those reasons because you think government shouldn’t be involved in marriage at all??

    ~ SoACTing

  34. Seth,
    I have the sometimes useful and sometimes annoying (depending on who you are) of trying to find a middle ground to start from and working out from there. 🙂

    So, the next step in my question would be, how do we encourage preteens, teens and YA to see their parents as useful sources of info and insight. I think we already have that model clearly laid out for us.
    1) Teach the gospel (I believe answering and asking questions is part of teaching the gospel since it sets the pattern for communication with Heaven Father and Christ.)
    2) Pray with and for our children so that they have chances to feel the Holy Ghost and know the peace that a true answer brings into their lives.
    3) Inform and correct those who are breaking commandments, family rules and expectations, etc.
    4) Give an out pouring of love, unfeigned, so that your children don’t mistake correction or the setting of boundaries, as a cruel or malicious act.

    All of these only work in making a harmonious family, is if all four are done with genuine conviction, without coercion or unrighteous dominion. So, I guess each of us, as parents, has to decide if we can consistently follow all four of the steps. If you can’t (yet?) them I know I would be putting my own spiritual house in order, since my children are most likely going to follow my example. If the example I am setting is that it is okay to polarize and box people in, then I would expect that polarization will come with any disagreement of thinking or living.

  35. Ah yes, Mormon Coffee…

    Man… it’s been years since I was over there. Most recently, I think they’ve been crowing about the whole dustup with John Dehlin – perfectly oblivious to the fact that the conservative Evangelical world has it’s own “John Dehlin’s” and even bigger problems with them in some cases.

    I can’t say I’m happy to hear the influence I had on you. That would make you the second Christian I know of who started doubting their testimony of Christ due to my remarks on Evangelical anti-Mormon venues. I’ve tried to be more careful since then, but my excitement for the issues still gets the better of me.

    I still hold my opinion that government ought to get out of the marriage license business entirely and let people handle things however they want and believe whatever they want.

    But I see gay marriage as a repudiation of our broader social contract in several ways that I’ve mentioned before on the Irresistible Disgrace blog recently. I think Alan was sort of referring to one of those discussions with his criticisms of my position. So I oppose it for other reasons besides just my “libertarian argument.”

  36. Julie, I think the first priority of a parent is to make sure the kids have a stable situation where they know the love is unconditional, and not going to change. Kids are quite competent and resilient when given a stable home situation. They can figure out a lot of things on their own if given it.

    Alan is quite incorrect in his prediction that my approach would be to berate and make my kids feel bad about who they are and their actions. That is not the approach I want to take with any issue – for the simple fact that it didn’t work with me at all as a teenager.

    I don’t make it a practice to divulge the gory details of my past sins online. But let’s just say that I think that Boyd K. Packer’s “sing a hymn” advice was about the most unhelpful advice I ever got at church.

    I’m sure a few here can figure out the rest of what that implies.

    I found that an obsession with fighting sin, combating it, driving it out, combined with shaming tactics tended to just drive the problem deeper. My parents weren’t really all that bad about it. They tended to have a soft touch in dealing with it. Nor do I have stories of abusive unforgiving bishops conducting youth interviews. But my own deep sense of shame, obsession with combating what I didn’t like about myself, sense of furtive secrecy, tore me apart as a teenager. I literally hated myself (and arrogantly thought too highly of myself at the same time – figure that one out).

    And the more I obsessed about driving out the behavior, the greater hold the behavior took on my mind. Guilt was something you could get addicted to. It felt sort of twistedly good to mentally self-flagellate. As if by telling myself what a horrible fellow I was, I could somehow atone for the behavior.

    Ironically, when I got older (and consequently no longer had the energy for the emotional outbursts of adolescence) and just stopped caring about the issue as much, it got better. Once the thrill aspect was gone from it, a lot of the appeal vanished as well. I found the best antidote for personal hangups was actually getting involved in something fun or useful and not really worrying much about the sin. It tended to fall more into balance that way.

    Yes, I’ve “been there.” And I really don’t want a repeat with my kids (who are exhibiting one or two of my own personality traits).

  37. Seth,

    I know the comments got kind of mixed up, but I am pretty sure I asked my question about how you wanted to have your children learn about things, was not related to any assumption of how you might do that. I wasn’t trying to score points. I know a number of the kids in my seminary class who believed their parents hated them, not because they were abused or beaten, but because they were never offered the genuine love st the end of matter that needed some correction. I think an outpouring of love is the biggest things missing from most parent/child relationships.

    Julia

  38. No Julie, I didn’t think that was what you were doing. But my comments have to respond to the overall discussion as well as to you.

  39. Seth and all,

    First, sorry for the terrible sentence structure, spelling errors, etc. I had spinal surgery on Tuesday, and while that is no excuse for not editing, I think they might have something to do with why the first draft of my comment was better than the “revised” version. (With an English teacher, who also develops reading and writing curriculum, for a mother, most of my unwanted guilt revolves around spelling, editing precise word choice and completing an entire thought before being “done.”)

    I know that sexuality is a huge road bump for any family. Whether a teenager or young adults is heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or completely uninterested in sex, the discussions about sexuality is filled wIth many subtle colors and distinctions which are not always obvious who is looking in. To start with, a parent’s experiences (especially if they now think they made the wrong ones at the time they made those choices), the mores of a society and how much conformity is seen as valuable to parents and their children, both inside and outside the family. Often this is shaded with parents who think that conforming is more important, although certainly there are many children who wish their parents were more aware of, and willing to conform to society’s expectations. The list of potential disagreements and variety of view points is what makes parenting a teenager or preteen do much fun.

    If we accept that there will be friction no matter how our children express their sexuality, then I think that finding a lubricant that gives the friction fewer opportunities to create situations where relationships are burned beyond repair. Personally, I believe the formula above is Heavenly Father’s pattern for creating strong relationships with His children, even when the child feels lost. Heavenly Father is always patiently loving His children, listening when His children approach him through prayer or actions, consistently giving gentle directions that always carries more love and understanding than rebuke.

    I personally think that no matter which kind of sexuality I need to have with my children, when they are teenagers, I need to be building that relationship with them in grade school. I don’t believe that a relationship with the required level of trust can be created when a child turns 12.

    The ways that build that trust come in small moments, not in long lectures. It is answering honestly about how their youngest sister was conceived and what to expect when she was born. It is using accurate terms to describe body parts. It is all of the questions answered, when I could have brushed them off by telling them they will “understand” when they are older. I am not perfect, but I would rather have my children asking me their intimate questions. If the question seems inappropriate, I ask the child why they want to know. Oftentimes what they want to understand is appropriate, they just don’t have the vocabulary to know how best to ask.

    I am not hoping that I will need those strong relationships because they have difficulties with their sexualities or sexual choices. I would be happy to simply have taught them how to be good parents who value creating strong relationships with their children (my grandchildren) because they value our relationship and want to give that gift to their children and grandchildren.

    On the other hand, I don’t think that sharing information or creating trust makes my children more likely to make bad decisions. I don’t think that explaining birth control or why a friend at school has two moms. I share my values, and why being kind is very important, that Heavenly Father wants us to follow His commandments. We have gone back to the scriptures and The Proclamation to learn what those things are.

    Those messages always end with a discussion on the Atonement and that only Heavenly Father should be judging other people. We always talk about the difference between making our own wise choices, but that we should be looking to remove our own beams, and leave other people to work with Heavenly Father about the sand in someone else’s eye. (It is a long story, but my oldest son was telling the story that he learned in primary. He told them that if we are making a bad choice it is like having a balance beam in your eye. He said it is better to get rid of the balance beam before you worry about someone else who has chalk or sand in their eyes.)

    At this point I am not sure if I have helped the discussion or not. I am not going to edit since I am groggy enough that I would probably make it worst. Sorry if I rambled too much.

    Julia
    Poetrysansonions.blogspot.com

  40. Well, it’s not like my wife and I are exactly sheltering our kids from information.

    We had a new baby at the end of June this year, and a couple days ago, my seven year old point-blank asked us: “so, are you having sex again?”

    We told her bluntly it was none of her business. But you get the idea. We haven’t exactly been sheltering them from these kind of subjects.

  41. Seth,

    It sounds like you are on the right track! I wasn’t trying to say that I thought you were doing something wrong. I apologize if it seemed that way. I tend to like to give a complete thought (sometimes called rambling on) and it gets worse with pain. After I have my dressing changed I will reread what I wrote. What I intended to say is that families that create safe spaces to talk about anything and everything are more likely to share their thoughts with the parents when they are older.

    Julia
    Poetrysansonions.blogspot.com

  42. aerin,

    If you consider that digressing, well then, digress away

    Having never been Mormon but having studied all-things-Mormon (and currently in a mixed orientation relationship with an ex TBM), Kimball’s book, to put it as nicely as possible, was an incredibly hard pill to swallow!! Doubly so having been a victim of sexual abuse myself!!!

    Personally, I can’t wait for “The Miracle of Forgiveness” to follow the same path as “Mormon Doctrine”! When I first approached DL (Dear Lover) with:

    “…chastity is of more value than anything else in the world”; “your virtue is worth more than your life”;

    “Also far-reaching is the effect of loss of chastity. Once given or taken or stolen it can never be regained. Even in forced contact such as rape or incest”(well, I’m sure you know how the rest of this goes..), I was in a state of mortified, jaw-dropping, disgust, and shock that he couldnt see the far reaching implications of what this was all saying!

    I’m still at a loss to understand how people can find solace in either book, however I have grown to understand that people interpret the same things in very different ways!

    ~ SoACTing

  43. Seth,

    I’m not a frequent visitor of that blog either. The echo chamber of ideas is deafening! Unfortunately, I have to admit that when I first started studying Mormonism in 2009/2010ish, I’d probably qualify for the quintessential “anti-Mormon” – a label that I’m certainly not proud of. My studying wreaked a lot of unfortunate and unnecessary havoc on my relationship with the closest person to me, something I deeply regret. But the only thing I can do is apologize and learn from it, right?

    For what its worth, I’m not sad that I lost my testimony of Christ; I feel like I’ve gained so much more!! I dont currently believe in a god right now (my beliefs are influx), but when I do say my prayers I make an effort to pray a little bit more to the Mormon God in the name of the Mormon Jesus that if any religion is true – I want it to be Mormonism, not Christianity – because, well, the Christian version of Hell seems a lot more permanent and a lot less forgiving! (Please note the dripping sarcasm 😉 I am curious though as to who you consider to be conservative Evangelical John Dehlin’s??

    ~ SoACTing

  44. Ah… SoACTing, you’re not going to make me go look for examples of liberal Evangelicals who don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus and who make a lot of noise and publish books in the Evangelical world, are you?

  45. Chino,

    Thanks for the laugh! Seems to me that anyone watching fetal masturbation SHOULD be prosecuted under a subset of child pornography laws (pre-natal porn, anyone?)!! TOUCHING themselves at such a young age – APPALLING!

    Also, it appears to back up the Christian stance that babies ARE born WITH sin! Gasp! Poor wicked, vile, SINFUL creatures!

    ~ SoACTing

  46. I wanted to share a thought that became more clear after a dream (long naps, pain and pain meds) made for quite a few interesting thoughts and interpretations of some gospel principles. Maybe this is only a unique thought for *me* and most of you already think about the gospel this way.

    As i was falling askeep I was thinking sbout this thread, and I realized that there are no societies that treat the victims of rape, molestation, incest, childhood interest in sexuality or puberty’s hormonal changes/challenges, in a way that helps both the perpetrator and the abused.

    Men, if sexually assaulted in any way are taught to pretend that it didn’t happen, since their manhood and sexual orientation is called into question. Since weakness in a man is pretty universally a “turn off” to women, and may disqualify a man, by the prejudice woman’s family, there is almost no space for an unmarried/unpartnered man to even admit the abuse happened. Even as a married/partnered man, he is unlikely to disclose initially to anyone other than his spouse or partner, and then only if he trusts her and their bond. If he thinks she will leave him if he discloses, he will often carry the memories and secrets of abuse to his grave, without anyone else knowing about it.

    Some cultures are slightly more tolerant about women disclosing a rape or sexual abuse, but even in the most tolerant societies, a woman is expected to have some sort of “proof” if she expects the person who perpetrated the abuse to be punished. In less liberal societies, a woman who is unmarried, and not a virgin, can expect a harsh punishment. If she is “lucky” she may simply be sent away, or sold as a sex slave. If her loss of virginity brings “shame” to the family, she may simply be killed. By. Her. Own. Family.

    There are so many permutations of this, with wildly different “penalties” for victims and those who perpetrate the loss of “virginity” that anyone, who has been a victim of sexual abuse, must find their own ways to become a survivor. What saddens me most is that studies increasingly show that more than a majority of abusers were abused at some point in their lives. As an incest survivor, I don’t want to see this pattern passed on to future generations. I am realistic though, so I know that statistically, at least one of my sisters and four of my sixteen nieces will suffer some kind of sexual assault.

    So, back to the dream that came from this line of thinking. In the dream I was surrounded by a group of women. We all had on tattered clothes that were filthy and smelled like sex that hadn’t been washed off. The stink and the shame on every face was the same. Some women were grandmothers, some young children, and every age in between. Part of me wanted to run away from the group, pretending I didn’t see them, so I could keep going to my “home.” I might have successfully gotten by when I caught site of a face I had always known, my mother. When I came closer I called out to her and asked her why she was with this group and why she didn’t leave.

    She gently guided me into the group, and I started being introduced to each woman. By the time I had met each of the 200+ women, I finally got the nerve to ask them why we were wearing rags, why we hadn’t washed, and why they were waiting for me. One of the women, named Rebbekah motioned for my mother and me to sit down on a blanket with her. She explained that she was a great-great aunt, and that she had been repeatedly raped, as an old woman, by German soldiers during WWII. She then asked several other women, of varying ages to come and sit with her. They each told me about their experiences with rape by soldiers from many countries during many conflicts.

    Next I was introduced to several children, all under the age of eight. They had been molested and beaten by adult male relatives. The details were diffetent, and their birth dates covered many generations. All of these girls had been killed either by the men that raped them, or by family members who killed them to protect their family’s good name.

    After that, groups of women came and sat with us on the blanket and told me their stories. Some were killed shortly after being assaulted because their virginity was gone. Others were forced by their families to marry the man who was the rapist. They didn’t feel they had a choice, and so they lived with the man who brutalized them; having their babies, attending to their “husbands needs” and trying to keep their husband’s from beating them until after the sabbath.

    Then I met a smaller group. These women had clothing with fewer rips, and with a different scent. It was not a good smell, but it was different. As I listened to their stories I realized that the ripping and damage to their souls was much worse than their clothing would show. These women had tried to hide their abuse from families and husbands, and with that they let go of any hopes, dreams or aspirations that might have come. Almost all of them had chosen not to have children, if they could help it. They felt that if they had children it would be cruel to create more victims who couldn’t defend themselves. Everyone in that smaller group had taken their own lives. As they said this I recognized the scent that I couldn’t place earlier. It was the smell of rotting blood, mixed in with the smells the rest of us carried.

    As I held my Mother’s hand, I asked her why she was there. Had she been molested and raped, and I had never known. She told me that there were times in her life that she had sex without starting it, or really wanting it, but that she did not consider what happened to her to be abuse. I asked her why she would put on the torn and tattered clothes, accept the stench of our abuse, if she didn’t have to be there.

    My mother stood up them and asked that all of the women who were part of the group, who hadn’t personally been assaulted to please stand up. As I looked at those women, who stood up proudly, I realized they hadn’t been part of any of the groups that came to the blanket to share their stories. My mother then told me that each woman who was standing had chosen to be there. They came to “Mourn with Those That Mourn, “To Comfort Those In Need of Comfort.” They chose to join us, not because we were in rags, but because they loved each of is, and felt that their ministry to victims of all forms of sexual violation went beyond the short time they were on Earth.

    As I looked again at these women, my ancestors and fellow daughters of God, I finally understood that the clothes and smells were not what worried them. Instead they moved among each other with great love and peace. As my mother motioned to me that it was time to go, I stopped and asked her why they were still in rags so many years after they died. Didn’t Heavenly Father have something better for them? If Christ looks in their hearts the way I did, I could not understand why He would force them to stay in tatters.

    When we were a little way off from the group, so that I could see the whole group at once, my mother told me to look back. Then I truly saw them. They were surrounded by angels on every side. Their clothing was beautiful. White, greens , purples, blues and pink accented their beautiful dresses and smiles that testified to their true worth to the Master. I watched them for a time, I am not sure how long, before my mother gently turned me towards the Earth, where my time was not yet finished.

    As we started descending, I had the Spirit whisper to me, “Now you see as We see. The clothes and lives of your ancestors bear testimony against those who hurt, betrayed and abused them. When those abusers are brought to account for their sins, their testimony will be confirmed and will remain incontrovertible proof, damning them forever. Until that time comes, Christ has invited all men and women to comfort each other. The rags of those who willingly put on the tattered mantle of Christ, to follow His charge in serving others, and those who wear those tattered clothes because of abuse that others have committed, will also have that witness be self evident when they are brought to be judged.

    Until that time comes, Heavenly Father protects all who wear the tattered robes of abuse and the stench of their abusers, while taking away the sting of those who were sinned against. You have seen them in the beautiful robes which the Father has already prepared for them. Their mansions in the Kingdom of Heaven are equally spectacular. The robes they will wear as they step into the place that had been prepared for them, those that mourned and those who chose to mourn with them, will be filled with the love and tender mercies that will make the abuse, on the earth, nothing but a prologue to what will be available to them.

    Don’t forget that you are their sister. You also have the birthright of a Child of God. When you feel the earthly stink of abuse, or the tatters of unbelief, meanness and gossip, don’t forget that Heavenly Father has your clothing, mansion and comfort waiting for you to claim. In this life you may only be able to mourn with others, to comfort those closest to you, but always you can Stand as a Witness at all times and in all places. No matter how bruised and broken your body, no matter how threadbare and ripped your clothes may be, you can refuse to hide, refuse to give up, and refuse to see yourself as the world sees. We are all invited to Stand as Witnesses, that includes you. You are invited to join your ancestors in the beautiful robes of eternal glory.”

    As I woke from the dream I could still glimpse my mother, walking beside me in the tattered clothes she had chosen to wear in solidarity with me.

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