Last week I read No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons around our Gay Loved Ones by Carol Lynn Pearson. I'd been hearing her name a lot lately, and I'd never read her before. This was the book that was checked in at the library, so I picked it up, could not put it down, and then kept cornering people and making them talk about it with me.
Much of the book consists of letters written to her by people (lots of gay Mormons and their family members) who see her as someone who understands what they are going through. (She wrote a book in the 1980s about her husband, who hoped that temple marriage and a family would help him overcome his attraction to other men. It didn't. They eventually divorced but remained close until he died of AIDS.)
Some of these letters just about broke my heart--from kids who are disowned by their parents, boys and girls who feel so ashamed and unloved that they attempt (or commit) suicide, men and women who attend church faithfully but feel like outcasts, wondering what more they need to do before Heavenly Father will answer their prayers and make them "normal." The ones that hit closest for me were about mothers and how they responded to their children. Some simply shut down and severed the relationship, unable to reconcile their beliefs and hopes for their sons or daughters with the reality in front of them. Other mothers believed that, regardless of the pain or confusion they felt, the most important thing they could do was love their children. The more hopeful letters were at the end, which was good, because you kind of need some hope by then.
Here is the review I posted at Goodreads a few days later:
I wish every member of the LDS church would read this book.
It's a painful read, but I like to think it could help us think about, talk about, and talk TO our gay brothers and sisters in a kinder, more loving and supportive way. Because we ALL have gay brothers or sisters, or sons or daughters, or parents, or friends, or missionaries, or Scouts, or Primary students, even if we don't realize it.
When I hear people make dismissive or derisive comments about "the gays" in Sunday School, or bring up Proposition 8 for the eleventy-millionth time, I wonder how many members of the class feel the knife twist--if not for themselves, then maybe on behalf of a much-loved child or friend who does not feel welcome at church because of comments like these.
When you KNOW who you are talking about, it's harder to be dismissive, or to see things as being purely black and white. After reading this book with its letters and stories, we can't say that we don't know who we are talking about anymore.
Even if my feelings about homosexuality are complicated, I don't ever want to inflict additional pain or feelings of isolation (whether intended or not) on children of God who are already lonely and hurting in ways I will likely never understand.
I would love to hear if anybody else has thoughts about this. Do be warned--I absolutely will delete homophobic comments. Let's keep it civil, friends, even if we disagree with each other.