Tuesday, November 29, 2011

To my family: Thank you for making me SO wrong.

Sometimes I get a glimpse of what it must have been like to be my friend a few years ago...
I forced myself to go to church. It made me crazy. I was a mess of anxiety leading up to it, and then a slightly different kind of mess after it. BJ would ask me every single week, "Why do you do this to yourself? You don't have to go. Just stop. It's hurting you, so stop."

My reply was always, "I HAVE to. What will people think of me? It will hurt my family if I don't go. It would be better that I was dead than to not be what they want me to be," and I'd keep on doing what I thought everyone else wanted me to do. He never told me not to. I know it killed him to watch me constantly putting myself in that situation, but he let me find my own way.

In the meantime, I kept finding evidence that I was right: My family would disown me if I didn't do what they wanted. They never came right out and said, "If you are honest about who you are, it will hurt us," but I believed it. I can only imagine how it would have messed me up if they had said it. I couldn't handle the thought of hurting them or making them unhappy, so I'd keep trying to please everyone else, while slowly killing myself. I made myself crazy trying to live the life everyone else wanted me to live.

And then one day, I got it. I made the decision that I was not going to let fear or guilt run my life. People that tried to use fear or guilt to manipulate me were just gone. I didn't talk to them anymore. If a situation felt manipulative, I walked out. I got it.

I stopped going to church. I got honest. I told my family and some friends how I really feel, and who I want to be, and who I am deep down inside. It didn't create the hell I thought it would - in fact exactly the opposite happened.

I found REAL relationships. REAL love. My family is amazing.
I have had some friends call me to repentance and tell me how much I am hurting myself and others by not doing what THEY think I should. Fuck them. I don't need them in my life, because I know what it feels like to have REAL love. (ok. not fuck them. More like... goodbye, I'll miss you. I'm here to be your friend if you ever change.)

I don't know why my family got it. HOW they got it, because I know that many MANY members of the church do NOT get it. They keep right on being manipulative, controlling, emotionally abusive people. They keep right on hurting the ones they "love" in the name of "love". And most of them never see it. They don't even have a clue of the pain they are causing.

I tried to explain this to my parents and sister once. My mom kept telling me that, "I can't imagine saying those kinds of things to someone I love. EVER," She thought she was normal, and the stories of the things people have said (and continue to say) to my friends are odd.

"I'm not that amazing... Most people would have handled things the way I handled things."

No. Mom. They don't.

Here are some of the amazing things my family did that most won't do.

My records are currently in my parents' ward, because they couldn't find me... When the clerk asked my sister why they were there. She told them, honestly, exactly why, "Jen isn't a part of the church, doesn't want to be, and it's just better if her records stay here. She doesn't want them where she is living." I cried when she told me, because that means... She is listening to ME. She doesn't have some preconceived notion of what is best for me, she isn't trying to control me or change me or to get my bishop to get me back to church. She cares about ME enough to hear ME.

I was visiting my parents when their bishopric stopped by.
I was in the kitchen, from the living room my mom shouted, "Oh. HI Bishopric!" It was a message to me, "Jen, the bishopric are here. I know how much these guys could possibly freak you out. Don't know how to handle it other than to just let you know by shouting it out, and emphasizing it awkwardly." I froze in the kitchen, waited a bit, and then I left. As soon as they were gone, my mom called me and we laughed at it all. This doesn't seem like much to my mom, but it is HUGE to anyone that has left the church. Most people don't treat us with that much respect.

(Incidentally, the bishopric were coming because my sister's father-in-law talked to the bishopric to get them to go reactivate his son. My parents are not just awesome when it comes to me... They are also awesome when it comes to their son-in-law. To the bishopric they said, "Actually, this is exactly the problem. His parents can't figure out how to stop being controlling, crazy people, and they keep pulling stunts like this one in order to get him to do what they think he should. If he decides to go back to church, we'll all support him. In the meantime... just let him be.")

My dad and I have had many discussions. We talk openly. He's aware that he can't answer many of my questions, so he doesn't try. We just talk about them... And in the end, he always says, "I love you, and I trust you," and I think he really means it. I FEEL that from him. He has told me he totally supports me not going to church, because he wants me to love ME, and the church just gets in my way. He knows me, and loves me, and it still makes me cry happy tears when I think about it.

My youngest brother posted this on my facebook wall, "So apparently there's a guy that used to work at BYU who is working on a documentary about being gay and Mormon, called "Far Between" It's not out yet, but it seemed like something you'd be interested in." I am aware of the documentary, I even know the man that he is talking about. (I even considered submitting my story of being asexual for it, but I don't think I will.) What amazed me is that he is paying attention to things that interest me. I care deeply about LGBT rights, and he knows it. Again... he may not understand how impressive that is, but I want him to know... That's impressive.

On Thanksgiving, I was nervous about seeing extended family. (As it turns out, I didn't have to be. My dad didn't want me to have to deal with awkward questions... He told my grandparents I've left the church, and told them I was happier. He told them he supported me and my decisions. And he wasn't just saying it, he MEANS it. Do you know how amazing THAT is?) I was trying to get more honest with my extended family, so I talked to my grandma about fishing and riding on Sundays. I talked about my roommate BJ, and she remembered meeting him. He and my grandpa talked about fly-fishing. As I was leaving, my GRANDMA  just said, "You are happy, so you must be doing something right, just keep on being happy."

In the process, before I left, I was not happy. I was miserable. It is hard to face the possibility that I might lose everything if I am true to myself. I questioned whether it was really worth it. If I had known the kind of people that I have surrounding me, I wouldn't have had to question. Unfortunately, in the process of leaving, you don't know the kind of people you have in your life until you've stepped out and been honest, and then they show you. You have to face the fear of losing them before you can make the choice that might make them leave you.

As I've shared my life with my brothers, I've been surprised to hear them say, "I just want you to be happy," and they mean it.

I believed for so long that when people told me they "just wanted me to be happy" what they really meant was, "I want you to be happy as long as you do it my way." There ARE a lot of people like that in this world. The church can create that idea. (There is only ONE TRUE way to happiness, so if you aren't doing what *I* think you should be doing, you're not happy... even if you think you are. I just want you to be happy, so do what I tell you to do, and if that doesn't make you happy, then repent.)

These are just a few examples... I have stories like these happen all the time. It is more than just what they do, it is who they are and how they treat me ALL the time. (Hard to explain, but I'll try.) My parents actually mean what they say. They really do love me and trust me. I know the way my extended family is treating me is directly related to the wonderful way my parents are treating me. Their love and respect is making all of the difference in the world. I couldn't make them do that. I didn't get to choose their reaction, but if I DID get to choose, it would have been exactly like this.

I suppose what I want to say is, "Thank you."
Thank you for loving me. Thank you for listening to me. Thank you for not getting caught up in the stories. Thank you for trusting me to live my own life. Thank you for not trying to change me. Thank you for accepting me. Thank you. Sometimes, I'm still afraid of what you'll think of me, and I'm still afraid you won't love me... and yet, you have never left me. Thank you. Thank you for wanting ME in your lives. Thank you for not expecting me to continue to wear the mask or pretend in any way. Thank you for listening when I hurt. Thank you for being there with me through my confusion, and thank you for not thinking you know the way my confusion should be resolved. Because of you, my angry phase was much MUCH shorter than it could have been. I didn't have to get really angry to get out. I could leave (somewhat) quietly. I didn't have to fight against you in order to live my life. I thought I would. I was geared up for a big battle. I was geared up to lose everything. Thank you for making me SO wrong.

I love you. I am so grateful for you.


  1. This is a wonderful post. I love your family through what you've said about them here. I wish there were more people in the church who had their attitude. What a great example you are for being honest and they are for respecting that all can not fit inside of the box.

  2. This makes me so happy! You are so sweet! I love you lots and lots. The picture you posted is so fitting with you in the middle and we are all loving you. hehe :) Thank you for writing this.

  3. Thirty something years ago I held the sweetest, tiniest little baby girl in my arms. I didn't know what trials, hardships, joys, ups and downs would come from that precious little girl but I did know that my life was forever changed because I loved someone more than I ever thought possible. I had some preconceived notions about what a family looked and felt like and that's what I tried to bring about, but eventually I figured out that what a family looked like, didn't matter. What a family felt like did.
    I know you think we aren't normal, but I think there are a lot of people like us, who just love their family no matter what they look like to the rest of the world.
    Thank you for being so patient with us while we grew up as parents. Love you tons!

    1. Thank you for sharing something so beautiful. I can really really relate to this post and I sincerely appreciate the authenticity of it. I also love this "I had some preconceived notions about what a family looked and felt like and that's what I tried to bring about, but eventually I figure out that what a family looked like, didn't matter. What a family felt like did." I feel gratitude that that kind of love and kindness exists and is given freely even in a culture that doesn't always value it for what it really is.

  4. Great post! What a difference it makes when those you love really do listen to you and show you respect for your decisions. Thanks Jen, for sharing.

  5. This is such wisdom that you have and so willingly, lovingly shared. To your family, to those of us who read....(and to the comment your Mom offers)....

    Such beautiful insights. I'm so grateful for your family too. Through what you share, they have touched me in a way I wouldn't have expected.

    (Sorry if this doesn't make sense; I just don't have the words to express the way I'd like.)

    (And the smiles of radiance on all of your faces are delightful.) :)

  6. This just makes me so happy for you! w00t!

  7. "I believed for so long that when people told me they "just wanted me to be happy" what they really meant was, "I want you to be happy as long as you do it my way." There ARE a lot of people like that in this world. The church can create that idea. (There is only ONE TRUE way to happiness, so if you aren't doing what *I* think you should be doing, you're not happy... even if you think you are. I just want you to be happy, so do what I tell you to do, and if that doesn't make you happy, then repent.)"

    Nice to know there are many, many ways to be happy. Good for you!

  8. Becky & Sandi - <3

    CTW - Thank you. I feel very lucky. I don't think the

    Mel - I hadn't even noticed that, but yes, the picture IS perfect. Thank you for being you!!

    Mom - One of the benefits of writing this has been hearing some of the other positive stories. I'd say that most stories are not the really negative ones. It seems like most people will never disown their family, but they make being around them hard and nearly unbearable. They don't listen, and keep trying to guilt and shame and coerce them to go back to church... They don't even see what they're doing as harmful - they think they're being helpful. (Kind of like Elliot's dad. Although his parents are a little more extreme than most.)

    Tom - YES! The world feels safer when people listen and show respect.

    Sensory - what you said made perfect sense to me. :) Thank you. <3

    Macha - I know, right!

    lifelong - yep. So many ways to be happy.

    I really have learned a lot by writing this and sharing it. One other comment I got was, "It's strange that we call loving and respectful behavior amazing, and still... it is extraordinary, and thus amazing."

    Thank you all for your comments and input!!

  9. What an amazing story - so beautiful to see true LOVE. Thank you for sharing it. xo

  10. I'm glad you're happy. I'm glad you feel free to be happy. I think that loving each other and protecting each other's happiness is what family is all about.

  11. Jen! What a beautiful story! I think life is a journey that each of get to figure out who we are and what makes us happy! So glad you have that figured out! Love ya! Kristi

  12. I support you being happy! This story just makes me love your family even more.

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