Thursday, October 16, 2008

the reality of outside... and how to 'come out'

This weekend my little bro goes through the temple for the first time. He reports to the MTC in November. I'm doing some interesting compartmentalization with this as I interact with him: expressing my support for these mile-stones in his life, separate and distinct from my own feelings on those matters. I am finding that my own change of belief hasn't affected my ability to swap stories and experiences in a non-offensive non-confrontational way. The hassles and humors of mission life, the funny little mishaps of temple attendance.

But this weekend...
This will be the first family temple event where I will be waiting outside. I knew it was coming, I guess I will find out just how ready I am for this. My mom asked if My Lover wanted to attend the session and I think he will. I think he should. He can represent us, be the one on the 'inside' to show our support. She knew not to invite me; by the seams no longer visible under my clothes, by the flesh that flashes where there should be a glimpse of white cotton she knew that I was no longer wearing garments. It wasn't a 'you're not invited' gesture, I think she just didn't want to put me the position of having to say "I can't go" and I appreciate that. What I am more anxious about are the reactions of the rest of my siblings (and cousins, uncles, aunts, etc...) when they realize that G is on the outside.

Holding to tradition, I am sure we will all go to dinner afterwards at the Mexican restaurant across the street. Happy, excited, noisy... And I'll be happy, excited and noisy too. I think. I hope. I may be faking it. Perhaps many of them will be faking non-bafflement at why I wasn't inside. Maybe we'll all just happily avoid the big Non-Temple Attender Issue.
Or maybe not.
This brings me to my point... How do I explain?
I think I'll try to come up with a couple good one-liners for this weekend in case I am asked. Maybe something like "oh, I'm just working some things out." (Yeah, that's lame. Any suggestions?)

But eventually, sometime soon, I should find a way to discuss with my family 'what is up with G'.

They don't know about this blog. (I think!)
Initially the secrecy was in part to avoid painful accusations of being deceived, of being unfaithful, etc... But, well... I got a parental email the other day that accused me of just those things. So my secretiveness didn't protect me from that. Perhaps it's served it's purpose and it is time to start opening the door.

Here's a tentative plan. I'll start with my mom, because she is the one who has been the most hurt by seeing the writing on the wall yet not knowing the WHYs of it all. Perhaps I'll email her links to John Dehlin's (extensive) essay on how to stay in the church after a challenge to the faith, and to Richard Bushman's paper on Losing Faith Over History (thanks, Adam, for that one). Sort of laying some ground-work from a fairly faithful viewpoint. Depending on how things go over that email, I will then let her know that I have a blog where I talk about my feelings on these things, perhaps start her off with links to the posts I wrote about returning my temple recommend, where I come to a watershed point, and then where I finally decide to take a break...
Just for starters.
Just an idea.
Sorry... I'm just kinda talking/typing out-loud here. thanks for bearing with me.


adam said...

Wow good luck with all of this. I definitely think it is best to be as open as possible about these things. Many people do and will avoid any kind of issue, but I think we can all talk about the elephant in the room, so to speak, feel a little awkward by it, and acknowledge the awkwardness together. Some people are going to react negatively despite what you say, but I hope your extended family is supportive!

adam said...

Speaking of "coming out" - I know it's not nearly the same issue, but I feel somewhat similar in expressing to friends or extended family that I don't support prop 8...

G said...

thanks adam.
yes, it was my differing view on the same sex marriage props that accentuated my "non-believing" status.
(which sucks... there ARE believers who think the same way I do.)

Anonymous said...

When I left the Mormon church I swore I would never go and wait outside a temple for anyone, for any reason. It just sounded so humiliating to me, so second-class status. That vow lasted until my next sibling got married, when I found myself willingly hanging around in the waiting room with my younger sisters and adorable baby niece while the faithful grown-ups went through the sealing ceremony upstairs. It felt odd, and I'm sure any of my sisters who didn't know the whole story thought it was strange that their returned-missionary brother wasn't in the temple proper, but... I wasn't sorry to have come.

As for talking with my family members about Mormonism, I've noticed a similar ability in myself to partially revert back to my former Mormon self and chat about the milestones and challenges they are facing. Sometimes I think I let myself get too sucked into it, though—I want my family to see me and accept me for what I am (i.e., an ex-Mormon) and not preserve any kind of fantasy that I'm still Mormon, or that I will ever be Mormon again, and I'm afraid if I'm too good at "playing Mormon" for them, it'll take them longer to become used to the fact that I'm their loving brother/son/uncle... and I'm also a gay ex-Mormon.

Good luck with your family! It's always a fun ride. My advice, which I have rarely managed to follow myself, is to be unapologetic, open and matter-of-fact. And try to show them that you still love them, even though you're an evil, unrepentant sinner and whatnot.

G said...

thanks, jer!
yeah... I worry a bit about the ease with which I can revert back into "mormon speak".

"unapologetic, open and matter-of-fact"
whew... if ever a phrase DIDN'T describe me that would be it. But really, that is my aim, my goal, what I WANT to be.
thanks for stoping by, and for your kind words! :)

Chandelle said...

Wow, big plans. I have only one suggestion and that is to avoid sending your mom or anyone else a lot of links, or posts, or papers, or anything like that. It's impersonal and they'll be suspicious and fearful of the information or opinions you are presenting. Speak from the heart - speak with love - just speak. Everything else can come later.

Chandelle said...

Also, I don't think there is anything wrong with saying that you're "working through some stuff right now" with people like cousins, casual friends or family members that you don't have an intimate conversation with. And even with close friends and family, it's okay to put them off with something non-committal during such an important time as this. Let them enjoy this moment. You can even tell them, "That's something I'd like to discuss with you later, but for now I'd just like to say that I'm working through some things. I'm happy to be here, though." Always end on a positive note.

The Girl Who Did Everything Right When She Came Out :)

amelia said...

i don't really have any advice. i haven't figured these things out for myself. except for the fact that i must be more honest than i have been. in spite of my insufficient advice, i wanted to extend sympathy about the parental email. having received similar parental correspondence recently myself, i know how difficult it can be.

Numismatist Facts said...

I agree with Chandelle, the less said the better. The same goes for writing and sending emails. Also, my vote is no on pointing them to this blog.

I have waited outside while two daughters went through the temple, one to get married and the other to be sealed. I made the wedding gown and the temple dresses that they wore. The last thing I said to my daughter when she walked inside the door was "remember that I'm waiting outside and I love you". Both of them carried a special hankie that had my tears on it. However, this was what they wanted and I supported them 100 percent.

When I quit wearing garments many years ago my mom questioned me. I just looked at her matter-of-factly and said that they would look a little silly hanging out of my shorts. She knew not to press me. No discussion.

When my nephew went on his mission a few years ago I earned the designation FA (favorite aunt). He got weekly letters and monthly packages, more than he got from anyone else except his mom. It was easy to support him because he I knew how important it was to him.

As for the rest of your family, again I believe that the less said, the better. When you get right down to it, it is nobody else's business except yours (and your husband). The one thing you don't need right now is badgering from well-intentioned people while you are going through your own personal struggle.

Just my opinion, and again, sorry so long.

angryyoungwoman said...

My note of advice (if your family is anything like mine): expect them to be upset and even angry. They probably interpret your leaving the church as a rejection of them and are hurt. Expect them to accuse you of all sorts of things and to tell you that you are doing EVERYTHING wrong (of course you can't feel the spirit, you aren't paying tithing/wearing garments/obeying the WoW, etc). Expect them to tell you that your opinions aren't really your own, it's just a phase and you will grow out of it. Expect them to take everything you say as either an attack on them or an attack on the church. Expect them to be passive aggressive for a while. It'll all calm down in a few months when they figure out that you may have thought this out for yourself. They'll never agree with you about it, they might never even respect your decision, but they might be kind enough to avoid the subject altogether.

djinn said...

Good luck. I tried to just exit as quietly as possible, but don't have as happy a story as others mom never really forgave herself for my disbelief, and so found it necessary to bring it up at pretty much every conversation after she hit about 50, (i probably could have done better my self, as I'd only say things like "I just don't believe." I had no intention of changing her thinking, what good would it do? So, there were no converstations. She also stopped, pretty much, talking to me like her daughter, and rather treated me like a weird sort of outsider that she had to keep up an obviously false happy mormon facade for. When I say no conversation, that's pretty much correct. I remember her recoiling in horror at something very generous I did for my brother, saying something along the lines of "but we're (meaning Mormons) the righteous ones." I don't think I ever got over that. Hope your family can show you a bit of kindness.

My brother is about to get married in the Temple and, wow, do I travel 800 miles to support him and simultaneously get treated as the scary outsider? I don't know.

Chandelle said...

"I had no intention of changing her thinking, what good would it do? So, there were no converstations. She also stopped, pretty much, talking to me like her daughter, and rather treated me like a weird sort of outsider that she had to keep up an obviously false happy mormon facade for. When I say no conversation, that's pretty much correct."

Oh Djinn, you just outlined my husband's experience with his mother to a T. We also refused to have any in-depth conversations about our experiences and reasoning, and I think she took that the hardest. She wanted to argue about it, to try to convince us. When that didn't happen, she just shut him out.

When I left the church, a lot of the depression I'd experienced dissipated. My SIL, who believes that without gods we'd all be killing each other in the street, wondered why I suddenly seemed so much happier, and more peaceful, less confrontational. She said that she didn't understand why, when these are intrinsic attributes of the church (happiness and peace, snort), I would be feeling them only after leaving it. She was completely appalled and confused. So I get it, about the "we're the righteous ones" comment.

djinn said...

I have to give credit to my Father, though. He continued to treat me like a person, and stand up for me when Mom was pushing a bit too hard. Thanks, Dad.

djinn said...

I must mention this fun new vibe in the Mormondom within my family; when I tried to open up a conversation with a sister-in-law, she took huge umbrage -- Her side of the conversation went "We're mormons. We're accepting of others. Any hint otherwise (I said something like "we may feel differently on certain issues..." shall be met with quite a bit of vitriol. Oh, and you must be mental." I was rather astonished.

adam said...

I am growing ever more grateful for my family after reading this... granted there has been some avoidance in the past, but some of the comments here have been painful.

"they might be kind enough to avoid the subject altogether"

I'm sorry that people have to avoid these issues in order to protect themselves. I can't imagine what it is like to have parents or siblings that have an "agenda" for one to get back into church.

G said...

thanks, everyone, for chiming in.

chandelle... yeah, a whole bunch of links probably isnt gonna help. I just have no confidence in my ability to express my own feeligns, especially VERBALLY, with any sort of success.
now I'm swinging back to the 'no need to say anything' point on the dial. or at least say very little.

numistmatist facts, I really appreciate you sharing your account, your way of supporting and giving love while on the outside is an amazing example. as for pointing family to this blog... I do have some ambivalence about it. It would probably change the way I write, knowing they might be reading, right now i feel a little more freedom to be open with my thoughts and I might lose that. But I feel conflicted about having so much of myself be a secret from my family. They have NO idea about a huge part of my life... but, really. do they even want to know? Maybe it's best I stick with the benign shallow (mostly) non-confrontational family blog... maybe that is really all they WANT to know.

wow, djinn... that is sort of my worst fear, a reaction like that. I am hoping to be treated with kindness, given the benifit of the doubt, but this is so highly sensative... I really don't know. Even if they just avoid the subject (like AYW's fam) I'd be okay. it's the prospect of on going needling that is daunting.

Mostly, this is about my mother. siblings and such, they will be curious, maybe some low-level concern... But it is my mom who has attempted to grill me on the subject a few times, who really REALLY wants some answers. Her (very high) level of concern and curiosity is effecting the way we communicate right now, creating an emotional booby trap that springs at the most random times.

anyhoo... thanks again, for all your suggestions and support.

djinn said...

Oh, the story gets better. (For certain values of better.) My Father in law decided I was the antichrist for not taking his grandkids to church, and found it necessary to tell me so-repeatedly. My Mother in law liked to make references to saving my children from burning buildings (I, of course, being the burning building) I decided that I would simply never be alone in a room with them. Worked like a charm. Strangely enough, Father in law gets along really really well with my (heathen) children. Go figure.

djinn said...

How did I handle this? I decided to pretend that they weren't so bad, sent them birthday presents, mothers day presents, christmas presents, was thoughtful, invited them over, went to my parent's house, (did not go to in-laws house, would only meet on neutral ground, one mustn't be stupid--I also observed my children around my in-daws and figured out that thier animosity to me did not extend to my kids, so there was contact. ) Basically refused to be totally shut out. I think it just confused them. Unfortunately my children, after a certain age, simply refused to go to my mother's for reasons which should be blatantly obvious. Oh well. They like my dad.

djinn said...

I remember bringing my mother, at the airport, a little basket of her favorite foods when she last left for a mission. Nothing helped. Now I'm all upset.

djinn said...

Hey G, I have an idea; you could present a story, say mine, to your mother and tell her that you love her and you do not want that future. She gets to decide.

G said...

god, djinn... you are an uber trooper! you take the friendly fire and just keep on truckin.
you seem to have gone to extraordinary lenghts to be friendly, to be loving, to be accepted... it sucks beyond words that it was never enough for you mother. I'm so sorry.

djinn said...

Mu mother has since passed away, and bizarrely enough, I am now, uh, simultaneously not quite accepted and looked up to a great deal. I have a fair amount of power in my family, which I use very carefully. So, all that work did pay off, somehow. Plus, years later, my in-laws confessed to their other children, but not to me, that they thought the world of me and my husband.

Lessie said...

Oh wow, G. I'm really sorry you have to go through this. You know what a coward I am. I have no advice. My sister knows I'm not going to church anymore. She was talking to me on chat the other day and told me that maybe if I went back to church my marriage would be saved (snort). However, she hasn't been nearly as passive-aggressive as my mom has been (yet).
Djinn, I think you're incredibly brave as well. For some reason, since my mom died, I've felt a little more comfortable owning up to my disbelief. Oh, and thanks for your comment on my blog. I'm sorry I haven't responded yet, but I appreciated it.
G, I'll talk to you later. Solidarity, sister!

flygirl said...

Wow G, I totally feel for you in this situation. I used to dream about telling my family, lie awake thinking about it, and just worry and wonder. Eventually I felt like I just had to say something. I told my mom first, and she said she already kinda knew it, so she didn't freak out but handled it really well. My dad was taken by complete surprise, but thanked me for telling him and being honest with him. He even said something about wondering if it was hard for me to tell him, and how he didn't want things to be awkward or for me not to want to be around them anymore. I thought it was pretty amazing that he could even think of my feelings at that time, instead of just thinking about himself. I didn't give a lot of details then, but we said we would talk more about it another time. We never have. In some ways I would really like to talk to them more, let them know more about the new me that they don't know. But we have a generally good time when we spend time together, so the fact that we don't talk about it is okay most of the time, and they seem to still respect me.

It sounds like your mom would like to know what is going on with you, so who knows, you may be pleasantly surprised as I was, that sometimes people do want to know what's really going on (at least to a point).

Good luck.

Elizabeth-W said...

My vote is with Chandelle, too.

TAG said...

Hey - I'm glad to have found your site. I'm on my own journey out of the church but I guess I'm lucky that it's just my husband, kids, and I - dh and I were both converts. So no one says to our faces that we're the anti-Christ, but then again, no one really cares at all.

Good luck.

Numismatist Facts said...

If I may add one more thing, always remember that your mother is most likely going through her own version of loss at the same time you are. Once I realized how much my changes had hurt her it made it easier to work through it. Unfortunately, there was nothing either of us could do about it.

Anger doesn't help the situation, it is more likely to open the door to more anger and bitter words.

Those in my family who still believe can not comprehend my loss of belief. They have faith that I will somehow come to my senses and return to the fold. That gives them comfort and is okay with me. No harm done on either side.

Lately I have found that curiosity has crept into our conversations. We even have been fielding their questions about our Buddhism, which seems to fascinate my Mom.
On the other hand, there are those few that I have just set ground rules that no politics or religion can be discussed.

It does get easier, although there will always be rough spots in the road. And please know that you are often in my thoughts.

djinn said...

I know my mother loved me; her way of expressing it was by being horrified by my choices; so one must be prepare for the future and interpret it (no matter what) generously.

djinn said...

Oh, and I disagree with nunismatic facts (forgive whatever misspellings I'm inflicting on you) It never got easier for me. To this day it isn't easier, and I am trying out, desperately, to figure out how to make it so-- other than random early Hole songs.

Eris said...

I am the Numismatist's daughter and I would like to add my $.02 here - as the still-Mormon-child-and-sibling-of-non-believers (is that an appropriate way to label?). I guess because I was not raised "in the church" so to say, I am not overly sensitive to my family not being LDS... I love the Numismatist and would never judge her choices, just as I know she never rolls her eyes at my temple recommend (except when she sees it next to my ACLU card).

My only true hurt has come from my sister's behavior. She was sealed in the temple after I was married, and it was a very lovely experience. About 2 years later she and her husband left the church. They did not tell me (which I guess they had no obligation to) but my BIL, whom I adore, still stood in the circle when my 1st son was blessed even though they were no longer wearing garments or attending church. Six months later when I found out, I was very hurt that they did not respect us enough to opt out of this ritual. But mostly I was devastated that my family members did not trust me enough to share this important news in their lives or believe that I loved them enough to love them regardless.

A long post, but I hope it helps you to know that I just wanted to be a part of my sister's real life - not the one she believed I expected her to live. Be honest with your family members and allow them to know the real you - I can't guarantee that it will go well but you seem to be the type of person who wants to lead a genuine life. Best of luck. My prayers are with you.

David said...

Don't do it by email and don't send any links. Have some courage and do it face to face. You are only delaying the inevitable anyway.

Not being responsible for our own actions and not facing conflict head on is the reason this society is going to the dogs. Just stand up and do it one on one - face to face, and get it over with

becca said...

wow, this feeling of coming out and being on the outside is such a familiar feeling, i feel it in my guts as you write about it. jake and i call it "coming out of the mormon closet".

i always felt that this process was so private, and i wish that people had to the good sense not to pry about it--but they don't. of course.

for me the most frustrating part of the process was having my actions being mis-interpreted. of people thinking that you just "gave up" or you must not be following to rules in order to get the proper guidance.

more and more i have come to terms with the fact that people will simplify my spiritual decisions, and the best way for me to combat this problem has been to show support/respect for their spiritual decisions (which i really do feel, and i hope they would offer me the same feelings).

as for what to say to explain, my thoughts were/are so complex that i always felt that is exactly what i had to say. if i tell people "it's a little bit complicated for me" they tend to get the hint that i am not interested in explaining myself, that i am still figuring out the answers for myself. of all the answers i've given, this one seems to make me feel the most at peace with myself, and it has had the most luck with getting people to step back.

at the end of the day,really, i think the best way to combat a really complicated problem like this is to show the same respect for people that you would like to be treated with. the ones that are worth the time and effort sprout up like beanstalks, and the people who are unable to comprehend this are naturally weeded out.

and through all of your uncertainties, i bet that people are going to admire your courageousness. the route you're taking is not the easy one.

djinn said...

So, how'd it go?

djinn said...

Eris, perhaps your sister just wanted to hang onto your friendship for just a bit longer. Enough of us have gotten dumped by our families (Real quote from family member "I'm so sad that we're not going to be a forever family." -- here the subtext? You ruined it for the rest of us) you should perhaps cut her some slack, consider it a favor, plus, she did eventually get up the courage to tell you.

Eris said...

You miss my point and make it at the same time. Your (and her) assumption that we would no longer "be friends" because she left the church is completely unfair to me. I was hurt that she felt she could not share something so important in her life with me.

I am deeply sorry for the hurt that so many of you have endured in this type of situation, but my purpose in posting was to demonstrate that families are not always so unkind in their reaction and many of us just want to be a part of your life. I guess what I'm saying is, give us a little credit here.

djinn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
djinn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
djinn said...

OK, redo. I'm very sorry your sister didn't trust you enough to tell you about this major change in her life. I'm making my own resolution, due to you Eris, to try to give those that I might be leery of, an extra generous helping of kindness, because my fears may be (and probably are) based on nothing more than circumstances that have nothing to do with the individual person involved, or even if there's history, people have this annoying way of changing on you, ofttimes for the better. Good luck with your sis. Has she read this set of comments? Does she understand how hurt you were?

djinn said...

I'm pledging, on this blog, that I'll try to make up with the sis-in-law in question. (see deleted comment for helpful explanation.) Who knows what was happening in her life at the time?

D'Arcy said...

Hey G, sounds like you already have lots of advice. I'll listen closely.

In May I went with my sister, her husband, and their four children to be sealed in the temple. she had been inactive for the last 17 years and attributed her return to my example over the years. I was her escort.

It was shortly after this that I decided not to go to the temple anymore, to take off my garments, to let it go.

She called the other day and wanted to know if I wanted to go with her for a session.

I've gotten a few other invites too.

I haven't told those closest to me yet that I can't go inside...

I also had a really good friend get married last month and I didn't go in, I didn't tell him why, but the question was there.

It's almost mournful, isn't it? At least for me. I have the recommend in my wallet, good for another year, I know what goes on in there, I don't feel like the sinner that many think I am, and yet, no going back. It's really hard to let that ability to go in a nd out go for me. I've felt sad about it (but not about missing out on the temple "work")

G said...

wow, thank you, everyone, for sharing your stories and advice.

and for a (not so) quick answer to 'how'd it go?'... ironically, my husband discovered the night before the temple session that his recommend expired last month. given that, and the 4 hr round trip drive... well, we didn't go. I settled for calling my little bro to tell him that we couldn't make it but would be thinking about him.

and then I cried a few times during the day anyways.

G said...

flygirl, your parents reaction gives me hope, thankyou!

tag- thank you! hmm, hopefully somewhere between being called an anti-christ, and just not caring you will have satisfactory experiences with your member loved ones as you go through this :)
good luck yourself!

numistmatist facts, thank you again. yes, I really do get the sense that my mother is deeply hurt by this, and I hope to at least be successful in giving her enough information that at least she is not in agony trying to guess.
as for ground rules about politics and religion... I am discovering that my family really just doesn't talk about anything ELSE!!! (a bit awkward, that.)

david- thank you for your suggestions. I do hope for a healthy open relationship with my family.

hi becca! thanks for your suggestions!
yeah, one of my fears has been being misrepresented or reduced to the moral of the story (good girl gone bad, or something like that.) But I'm becoming aware that my silence on the matter hasn't prevented that from happening.
"It's complicated"
heh, yeah no kidding. And I am still figuring it out too :)
thankyou for your words.

eris, thank you for stopping by! so good to get a view from a family member on the other side. I've come to realize that when a person leaves the church, it can be like a really nasty divorce with plenty of hurt feelings on both sides and a real strong tendency for family and friends to feel they need to pick a side. I'm sorry you were hurt by your sisters reticence to tell you.
Even though it may have seemed disrespectful to you, I think I understands why your BIL still participated in the baby blessing- being excluded from participation in the rituals of the church can be painful on many levels. perhaps he was hoping that this non-essential-for-salvation tradition would be an acceptable way of still participating.
Just my thoughts on the matter.
thankyou for your suggestion.

hey d'arcy! yes... there is definitely something mornfull about being an outsider, particularly after having once been an insider.

(djinn- LOVE your new icon! :)

djinn said...

It's a banksy. He's a graffiti artist.

Eris said...

G: Sorry it was still a tough day. And thanks for the input on how what might have been a sincere motivation for my BIL's participation. I will defininitely try to work on seeing it that way. And I am hooked on the blog, so will be lurking and posting often.

djinn: Thanks for asking about my sis. We are very close - she tends my kids one night a week so I can continue school and we go to the gym together and play with mutual friends together and I offer to be her designated driver whenever she needs one. It's a great relationship now that we are both being who we want to be!