Family Values

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Dear Darcy:

I grew up in a VERY conservative Christian home. My entire life was dominated by my church. I went to a Christian school my whole life then four years of Bible college. I wasn't allowed to closely associate with anyone outside of our circle so every person, friend and close family member grew up believing the same things I was taught. I knew I was gay from age 14 and I was terrified. I hated myself and was deeply depressed. When I was 22 I got married hoping that maybe once I settled down the gay would go away. Of course it didn't. After only four months of marriage I came out. My husband just left.

[My husband] left me with all the bills, no money, no car and only a part time minimum wage job. My family and friends were so upset that I was gay and getting a divorce that they completely shut me off. For the next 3 months I drowned myself in debt. My bills were more than twice the amount of my monthly income. I had no food, I rode my bike to work. I was evicted from my apartment and finally ended up in the hospital because physically and mentally my body broke down. During that time not ONE person came to check on me or asked how I was doing. I asked my parents for some money for food once and they said I would just use it to go to a gay bar or something in that lifestyle. My friends wouldn't even come near me. It's been two years now. I still don't talk to any of my "old friends". Things with my family are somewhat better though they still hate the fact that I'm gay and refuse to let me talk about it whatsoever.

I realize I am bitter. I am SOOO bitter and angry and I don't want to be. But I try and try to forgive and forget and I can't. These were the people that I loved the dearest and they all hurt me so deeply I feel like my heart has been replaced with a heavy stone. I'm sorry this is so long, I've just never told this to anyone. I keep my feelings to myself but it's been eating me alive. I'm not trying to milk free therapy from you. I just thought if this was a free site then maybe I could ask you what I can do to help myself forgive and ease the pain rather than trying to drink it away. Thank you for your time. I really enjoy your articles and answers. They are always direct and honest.

ANSWER

I can’t even imagine how betrayed you must feel by your family.  Yours is a story that reminds me of how easy my coming out was and my heart aches for you. With that said, I’ve had endless drama with some family members (unrelated to my sexual orientation) and have ultimately found peace in the disconnect that comes from being out of their lives.  You’re right to think about wanting to forgive them. That Christian upbringing wasn’t entirely bad as I’m sure that’s how you learned the importance of forgiveness.

Buy the book Forgiveness Is A Choice and follow the book as a step-by-step guide through the process of forgiveness. Ultimately, that will be your ticket to peace. Depending on where you live, you can also get free or low-cost counseling as a member of the LGBT community at places like Callen-Lorde (linked to here). Even if you don’t live in NYC, they’ll be able to connect you to someone in your area.

At the same time, you have to do what so many young adults in our community do: Begin creating your family of choice. Your family of choice is comprised of people who support all aspects of you: Your sexual orientation, career choice and general lifestyle choices. And the only way to do this is to begin making gay friends. Find an LGBT organization that you can volunteer for. You can also apply for an entry-level job in an LGBT-owned company or organization.

Forgiveness is a long process. It involves revisiting all the pain and anger that you've been trying to let go of, and then finding compassion in your heart for the other's perspective, regardless of whether you agree witth that perspective or not. I've personally used this book to bring me to the other side and it has been amazingly effective. Don't rush the journey.

Until then, know that you are being tested, and that you wouldn’t receive a test that you couldn’t handle, however painful it is. You've already made it through 2+ years, so clearly you're made of strong stuff. You are young and you are resilient. You will get through this. In the meantime, please let me know if I can be of further help. I’m just an email away.

Writer’s Stats: Female, Lesbian.