I have spent far too long worrying about how my family will react to my having a boyfriend. The fears of disapproval and disappointment have weighed on my shoulders for a many years. This fear has led me to be secretive and selective in sharing my daily life with my family. I have finally realized the atmosphere of mistrust and opaqueness on my life is rooted in my own actions. My family is following my directives in how they handle my life.
Discovering the Root of Vulnerability
The challenges of dating as a gay mormon are many. The amount of time I have to deal with cognitive dissidence is overwhelming. Living a double life in the church is hard enough but having to be secretive with my family is the hardest.
My brother text me after I posted on Instagram of my weekend at a cabin. He was pointed in his questions. After questions of who's cabin I was at, my brother asked, "Are you seeing anyone?" I knew he knew. If he was being so direct with his questions, I would return with candid answers. "Yeah, I see lots of people everyday. Lol, but yes, I am." He questioned further, "Is that the one you're always going on hikes with?" "Yes"
What followed felt like what I imagine speaking with a therapist would feel like. His questions explored why I felt uncomfortable speaking to the family about dating. My brother asked a lot of good questions. "So are you not sharing out of consideration?" "So maybe you're more nervous for what people will say?"
I Set the Tone
I learned from my brother's questions that I set the level of openness and comfort with the topic of being gay. I never talk about dating because I think they will be uncomfortable. In reality, I am showing them with my silence, that I am uncomfortable (when I am not). If I am more positive and open with my life, I can set a more positive and open tone.
I can be quiet and lie to my family about my dating life. They are smart people. They will know when I am be evasive. They will, in turn, be quiet and evasive when speaking to me about dating. Then I will sense their evasiveness and the spiral downward will deepen.
I can be positive and happy about my life. They are loving people. They will know that I am happy. In some ways, they will in turn be happy for me and be positive when speaking to me about dating. Then I will sense their positiveness and the upward lift will increase.
Building More Positive Conversations
It will be a process. I have a lot of built up inner doubt and feelings of discomfort to overcome. I will begin to work on sharing happy gay moments with my parents. I will work on sharing my fun gay activities with my siblings. I will work on building more positive gay conversations. When I lead the way, my family will follow.
I am reminded of something a fellow MOHO blogger told me when I was writing my coming out letter. The blogger, El Genio, told me, "Opening up about something like this to your family can be a truly nerve wracking experience. Just remember that the things you say in this letter will largely determine how they react to your coming out, and to how you deal with this issue for the rest of your life. This is your best chance to set their expectations and determine the ground rules of future interactions."
I am reminded once again that I can set the tone for my family interactions. I have built a shamed toned in the past. I am ready for a more positive tone now and in the future.