Papabear Note: I'm back!
(Latest letter, July 27, 2015)
Remember the letter I sent you some months back? Anyways. I was really surprised that the letter got so much attention that another person decided to write a blog regarding said issue... I guess its time I ought to say what's been going on now.
Two weeks ago, I recently came out to my Mom on Facebook after the announcement that the US said that we can marry anyone we like. The constant outcry on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media is kinda what drove me to this state to tell her, and I couldn't stand the pressure any longer.
As per usual, she told me that she could not wrap her arms around it. (Embrace me, being gay) But to be honest, I kinda expected that. Her having Christian values and whatnot makes things difficult especially with one is a "non-denominational" Christian. Or in this case: part of this church.
Anyways, I have Facebook screenshots, text messages and even recorded phone calls in case I'm missing anything, and she doesn't believe that I was born this way. She has hampered me down with, "come back to the light of truth", and "bad company corrupts good character", which in my opinion, I don't think being gay considers being a bad character, unless for instance you happen to do things that qualify as being a "prick", excuse my language. I have tons to share with you if I could. But I don't think its necessary. She basically told me that I'm grasping for an identity that and she told me to develop the one I have. But I have told her time and time again that I'm not heterosexual and I've suppressed it years ago, and started questioning since October of last year.
I did not yell or argue at her. I was being very patient and listening to what she had to say, however eye-rolling it may be to listen. But I wouldn't retort back if someone were to say "you're going to hell", because that's not the kind of person I am. I love my Mom, whether if she were to disown me or not. That's what love is, its not just "I love you, on one condition", its UNCONDITIONAL. And I don't want to push her away because I love her very, very much. And I feel like I'm being selfish choosing my own happiness against what society is all about. Even though, THAT'S THE IDEA, right?
So what do I do? I love my Mom very much and I know she can't accept me being gay. I mean there are a couple other family members who won't accept it, not just her. But she's the MAIN one. I don't want to disappoint her. What's your wisdom on this?
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Yes, I remember your letter :-) And I’m very proud of you for coming out to your mother. Recently, an article was published in Discover magazine (“The Irrationalist in You,” July-August 2015) about how to argue effectively with people who hold views that you understand to be incorrect. One study surveyed people who believed that inoculating their children was dangerous, even lethal. Despite showing them all kinds of scientific studies proving them to be wrong, they still held their original beliefs.
People often hold beliefs not because of evidence or experience but, rather, because of cultural influences and how they were raised. They form cherished systems of how to perceive their world, and when you challenge those beliefs they become fearful because you are questioning their entire worldview. Your mother believes that being gay is a choice and that by accepting Christ you can reject that “choice” and become straight again.
You know this is wrong-headed thinking, but what to do? Well, kudos to you for declaring you love your mother unconditionally; that’s great. But you get a light thwok on the noggin for feeling guilty about choosing your own happiness over “what society is all about.” Society is wrong and it is wrong a lot. So why are you trying to conform to something that you know is wrong? Be as courageous as when you told your mother about your sexuality and stand firm in being yourself.
The Discover article offers several strategies for arguing your case. The first one you already mastered, and that’s listening patiently to what the other person has to say. You also nailed another strategy on the head that the article lists, and that’s discussing the topic in person, rather than online or in a letter.
Another strategy is to relate to the other person on their level, which means using the Bible to argue against her argument. There are about half a dozen passages that Christians use as ammunition against the LGBT community. Four of those passages are from the Old Testament, which the New Testament is supposed to overrule. In other words, Christians should follow the rules in the NT, making rules in the OT obsolete (a good thing, because it contains silly rules such as forbidding the planting of different crops side by side but allowing polygamy). I've actually heard some Christians declare: "I'm an Old Testament Christian." That's nonsense because, if true, it actually means you're Jewish. Christians should follow the new Word of God, not the old.
As for the few NT passages referencing homosexual acts: those were really geared against the Romans, who often engaged in nonconsensual sex with boys and with their slaves. In other words, the NT was really talking about aggressive sex where a man forced himself on a boy or other man. Here is an extremely useful article about this.
Learn the Bible and also the historical context in which it was written and you will be able to use your mother’s Christian perspective to explain that God doesn't command Christians to condemn homosexuals (even the Pope said we shouldn’t judge, noting, too, that Christianity is supposed to be about compassion and love, not being judgmental and hateful to others).
In conjunction with this (and, actually, perhaps before you do the above), ask your mother, specifically, what she knows about what the Bible says about homosexuals. I mean, she needs to point out the passages and reread them. According to the Discover article, when people are asked to explain their beliefs and support them, those beliefs can be swayed toward a more moderate position. You would be surprised how many anti-gay Christians don't even know the Bible and many haven't even read it or have only read parts of it (for a very long time the Catholic Church actually forbade the laity to read the Bible, and many Christians still allow the clergy to interpret it for them instead of reading it closely for themselves [in case you're wondering, yes, Papabear has read the Bible cover to cover]).
Finally, getting passed the Bible, ask her what she knows about the LGBT community. What does she think gay people are all about? Does she think it’s all about having big sex parties? You know what I’m doing right now as I type this? I’m watching reruns of “The Big Bang Theory” as my partner of 10 years plays solitaire on his laptop. Let the bacchanalia begin! Also, just FYI, same-sex couples have a lower divorce rate than hetero couples, according to one study. On that bit of evidence, one might say gay couples are more moral because they tend to not divorce.
One last point made by the article in Discover I’d like to emphasize is the importance of assuring the other person—in this case, Mom—that she is important, valuable, and to be respected. It is vital that her sense of importance, her ego, remain high so that she doesn’t feel under attack or that you are denigrating her in any way. I don’t see this as a problem for you, since you clearly value having her in your life.
All of this is no guarantee you will sway her mind. You can only do your best. It might be that she and the couple other members of your family who have a problem with LGBT people will never understand you. Even if that’s true, it doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t love you. You can agree to disagree and still be a family, so keep that in mind. It’s not all or nothing. The best situation would be that she is the one who “sees the light,” but if that doesn’t happen, hopefully she will still leave a light on for you and always accept you as her son.
Cover art by Charleston Rat has been completed for my upcoming book on the fandom.
Illustrations on "Ask Papabear" are by Dan the Bear. Check out this talented illustrator on FurAffinity or send him an email.