Thinking of You: More Encounters with Family
When we got home, there was a card waiting for us. It was from a relative of one of ours.
One side of our family, mine, is almost entirely Catholic. The other side, Ami’s, is mostly Mormon. I’m not going to identify the relative who sent the note because much as this card hurt us both, it came from someone whom we both want to continue to have in our lives. And while it was one person who expressed the thought, it could have come from a number of our family members from both sides. We will call the writer Chris.
The front of the card said, “Thinking of You,” and the envelope was addressed to both of us. It was from one of the relatives we had visited on our trip. Inside there was an affirmation that we were always welcome in Chris’s house. Then it said, “I don’t think of your relationship as a marriage! nor do I like how you’re living it!” That first exclamation point was obviously inserted as an afterthought. It was signed “Love, Chris.”
To say that the card hurt us is an extraordinary understatement. Even days later, this card makes me cry.
When we visited, Chris had made no indication that our family was anything but a family, and seemed to very much welcome Frances. There were gifts for her, and at Chris’s request, we agreed to send a portrait of Frances to go with the other family photos Chris had on display. Everyone got hugs on the way out the door.
So what happened between the visit and our return home that made Chris write that card? I suspect guilt at having defied his or her church in some small way for having welcomed us. I suspect shame–maybe Sunday came around, and at church Chris worried that some other congregant might know and think poorly of Chris.
If I were to write a response, it would say something like this:
Thank you for welcoming us to your home. We very much enjoyed our visit and do plan to return.
However, we do have to say that we do not believe in the Catholic (Mormon) faith, nor do we like how the church is behaving. It has hurt us in both personal and practical ways, and has hurt many other people in our community as well.
How have the queers hurt you, Chris? I can ennumerate the ways that the Catholic and Mormon churches have hurt us. 1. Proposition 8. 2. Question 1. We’re just trying to have our own private lives while your churches are pouring money into state ballot measures–money collected from congregations all over the world–in order to keep us in our closets, keep us ashamed.
That Chris wrote the note to both of us–her biological family member, with whom she might feel an entitlement to express her opinion, as well as to the in-law she doesn’t believe in–implies that s/he feels a moral latitude to correct gayness in the world at large.
The subtext of that note is this: you should feel ashamed of your relationship. God and I think so. You can come to my house, and we’ll all pretend to be a family, but you need to feel shame while you are in my home.
I will not be ashamed.
Chris, you are a member of my family. I will visit your home, and I will participate in your life to the extent you allow, as long as you never express or even imply your opinion on the subject to our daughter. I will keep quiet about your private correspondence to us, and I will not send my response, out of deference to your esteemed place in the family.
But I will never be ashamed or act ashamed of my family or whom I love. This is where the charade ends.