Sunday, October 16, 2005

Letter to Dad

Letter to Dad
By Michelle

Dear Dad,

I know that you don't want to hear this, but it's something I have to get off my chest. I think about you a lot, and every time I do, I am reduced to tears.

We live on separate coasts, living lives that make us both happy. Every week that I call you, I hesitate to pick up the phone. It kills me to have to talk to you about the weather and the news when there are so many other things going on in my life. I want to tell you that it's my partner's and my anniversary in a few weeks. I want to tell you that I just joined an anti-hate campaign. I want to tell the reason that I have to cut the conversation short is because I am headed out to my lesbian reading group. I can never tell you any of those things. You know I am a lesbian. You know that I consider myself married to Julie. But we can't talk about it without you saying mean things and me hanging up the phone and crying. I often wonder why we talk at all. It seems that the only reason we talk is because I am your daughter and you are my father.

I tried so many times to talk to you about my life. Remember the time I told you that Julie was considering getting pregnant? You said to me, "A pregnant lesbian? That's an oxymoron! There's no such thing as a pregnant lesbian. It's against God!" I hung up the phone and cried for hours. Do you remember all of the times you reduced me to tears with your lectures about being gay? After years and years of insults, I decided it was best not to mention the words "gay" and "lesbian" around you. Now we talk once a week and we talk about the weather and the news. I only allow myself to mention Julie casually. I can tell you that Julie and I are going grocery shopping, but I can't tell you that we are renewing our wedding vows.

This pretending has driven me further away from you than you could ever imagine. I love you tremendously for who you are yet you cannot offer the same to me. Sometimes I lie in bed at night and think about the good old days. I remember all of the fun we used to have together. I think about the walks through Metcalf Park [in Providence, R.I.], the trips to Rocky Point and the joy of simply having you as my father. You really did your best to be a great father. I looked forward to my weekends with you after you and Mom divorced. Then, in high school I came to live with you, and that's when things went sour. Things went downhill when I became an individual. If you ever wonder why I ran away from home, it wasn't because I was a hormonal teen-ager.

You didn't like it that I was a lesbian. I bet you can't even count how many times I felt so hopeless because of your words. You never laid a hand on me, but your words were enough to put me in the hospital. I am proud to say that I have since grown into the person who I wanted to be. I grew from teen-ager to adult very fast, and I suppose I have you to thank for that. If it wasn't for you I wouldn't have run away from home and followed the path to my destiny. I am 26 years old. I live in a beautiful house in California with Julie, with whom I intend to spend the rest of my life. I can be my own person, which you never wanted me to be.

Do you know what hurts me the most? I may not see you for years. It is a 7.5-hour flight, and Christmas would be the time that I would usually visit. I know that it is not an option for me to show up for Christmas dinner with Julie, and I refuse to have her sit in a hotel while I visit my family. As much as it hurts that I might not see you for a long time, I will never again compromise who I am. Do you know that we plan to have a baby next year? I will never ever put my child in a position to be shamed, and if that means not seeing you for 20 years, then that is what I have to do.

I love you more than I can explain, and it hurts me so deeply that you probably will go to your grave without ever knowing who I am. All I ever wanted was for you to know who I am and love me for it. I only asked for unconditional love, nothing else. I would like nothing so much in the world as to have you love both Julie and me as much as I, your daughter, love you. What tears me apart is the fact that I don't ever see this happening.

If I have learned anything from this, I have learned to love someone regardless of how he has hurt me. I will never stop loving you and not a week will go by that I don't think about the good old days between us. If you could only open up your mind and heart, we could return to those good old days again.

I understand that you were raised in a different generation. I understand that you probably listen to what bigots say about homosexuality. I understand that you are the way you are because of the way that you were raised, the social circle you have and your own personal beliefs. I also understand the true meaning of unconditional love, which is something you don't have for me. I promise that I will raise my own child with unconditional love so that she or he will never have to suffer this awful feeling that I have.

Love, Michelle

[Author's note: This letter was never sent. It has been sitting in my desk drawer for two years.]


I think that too often when we debate about abstractions we lose track of why we're fighting. This is a story I found on the website of the Human Rights Campaign.

27 comments:

Paul (rock star wanna be) said...

Great post. Very well written.
May I bring up a counter point? You expect your dad to be open and supportive of your lifestyle, however the tone of your writings lead me to believe you arent receptive to his beleifs.

You see, many gays gripe about society not being understanding of their rights...well my observation is that if society caters to one group or the other, there will always be one group that is complaining.

Why not just identify lines that are already established and be happy to not cross them.

Lovers can come and go, but dads never change.

Just my 2 cents...

Chana said...

That's a very powerful letter.

There's one thing that disturbs me, though- her conclusion: "I understand that you were raised in a different generation. I understand that you probably listen to what bigots say about homosexuality. I understand that you are the way you are because of the way that you were raised, the social circle you have and your own personal beliefs. I also understand the true meaning of unconditional love, which is something you don't have for me. I promise that I will raise my own child with unconditional love so that she or he will never have to suffer this awful feeling that I have."

The part about having unconditional love for her father.

She mentioned beforehand that her father's words were enough to send her into a hospital.

Surely this can be construed as an abusive relationship.

Having unconditional love for one's abuser is a bad thing. A crippling, disturbing thing. And yes, this man is her father, and yes, of course (we would assume) she loves him.

But if a father hit a child or molested her we would consider him an abuser and we would worry, in some ways, about the child who loved him nonetheless.

Is it not similar if the father wounds the child all the time through his words?

Why would she (logically, not emotionally) consider herself a heroine for still loving him?

___

An aside- her choice is to have a child. I respect her choice as a person.

But inwardly- placing myself in the child's shoes- I feel that the child could be very resentful of what happens to him/ her.

Because he/she is being placed in a situation that is difficult right off the bat. Made to be different- not choosing not to conform.

It is, in a way, a burden.

This woman resents the fact (rightfully so) that her father demeaned/ hated her lifestyle. She wants unconditional love.

Can we switch that around?

What if this woman's child (and this is purely hypothetical) decides he hates being different, loathes the fact that he is theoretically teased or whispered about, and that people make assumptions about him- what if this child came back to his mother and told her that he is choosing to be straight, and what is more, he hates his mother for "doing this to him"?

Would this child deserve unconditional love? Even if he echoed her father?

To me it seems to go in circles...

Jewish Atheist said...

Paul:well my observation is that if society caters to one group or the other, there will always be one group that is complaining.

I don't believe that society should cater to any group. Accepting gay marriage isn't catering to gay people, it's granting the same rights to them as to the rest of us. Catering to gay people would be to accept only gay marriage.


Chana: Having unconditional love for one's abuser is a bad thing.

Agreed, sort of. People are complicated, and you can love a person, particularly a parent, despite some terrible behaviors. However, loving an abusive father does not imply accepting his abuse or forgiving it.

But inwardly- placing myself in the child's shoes- I feel that the child could be very resentful of what happens to him/ her.

That might be. However, this is the case for so many children. Mixed-race parents, minority parents, poor parents, sick parents, old parents, mean parents, drunk parents, nerdy parents, Republican parents, Democrat parents, or Yankees fan parents. I think parents have an obligation to provide the practical and financial support their children need, but I don't think they can worry too much about whether their children will agree philosophically with them. I also think that we have come to a time in some places in America where a child can safely be raised by two gay parents without significantly more teasing/whatever than any kid who happens to have big ears, glasses, braces, a funny lisp, or knobby knees.

Jewish Atheist said...

(oops I meant to say that parents have an obligation to provide the practical, financial, and emotional support their children need)

Laura said...

Being from Illinois, and paying attention to the Alan Keyes run for Senate last year, I read a lot about his daughter who is a lesbian. She had a lot of the same things to say about her parents. She loves them, but they can't love her completely because they can't accept her for who she is. Imagine how hurtful and hopeless that must be to be rejected by the people in this world who are supposed to love and support you no matter what?

I think this boils down to the old debate of innate vs. choice. It's easy for someone to deride another person's "lifestyle choice" and that's what many people still believe gays are doing choosing to be gay. I know many, many gay people and every single one of them says that they knew they were different at a very early age. If we, as a society, could just accept that this is who they are, who they were born and not a choice, a lot of this hatred and bitterness would go away.

Sadie Lou said...

I don't see how a parent could write their children off like that. I would always do everything I could to embrace whatever makes my children happy, unless of course the thing making them happy was detrimental to their well being or health or something.
A gay lifestyle would be a hard pill to swallow for many reasons. Number one reason being all the negitivity that would be aimed at them; it's a difficult lifestyle to have. I can't expect that my kids are all going to have an easy go at life 100% of time.
Good post--thought provoking.

Eric said...

Sadie - I'm sorry that so often I use your posts as a jumping off point, I don't think it's you, so much as it's how you phrase things that shows how different our points of view are.
disclaimer aside, here goes:

Gay is not a lifestyle. Surfer dude, Survivalist, Ski Bum, Political Pundit, Foodie, Plastic Surgery Addict. These are lifestyles. Is my heterosexuality a lifestyle? Lifestyles are choices, gender identity and attraction are not choices. I'm sure JC is gonna hop in with stories of people he knows that have 'turned' straight. Poof, they're 'cured'. Just ask yourself, could you 'choose' to be attracted to someone of the same gender?

asher said...

Why did you post this?

I got bored with it in the second paragraph. Why do gay people have to portray themselves as being the brunt of everyone's problems? Being gay is something you are, much like being left handed, nearsighted or good at sports. Why do gay people have to harp on this one aspect of their lives to the exculsion of everything else? No where do we ever find out if she is a professional, athletic or
has cats. However, she apparently thinks it's important to attend her "lesbian reading meeting".
It's pretty obvious that same sex people don't "choose" that desire but why do we have to know about it. I mean, shall I go on and on about my high blood pressure, which I didn't choose either?

Jewish Atheist said...

I mean, shall I go on and on about my high blood pressure, which I didn't choose either?

Imagine if every time you brought up your blood pressure, your Dad became infuriated and started insulting you. Imagine if people who had high blood pressure weren't allowed to get married. Imagine if kids with high blood pressure were taunted, threatened, and actually beaten. Imagine if there were groups devoted to the cause of preventing people with high blood pressure from adopting. Imagine if the boy scouts didn't allow children with high blood pressure. Imagine if the Bible said that taking blood pressure medicine is an abomination and you deserve to die.

Then you might start talking about it.

Anyway, in real life, most gays don't talk exclusively about their sexual orientation. My gay friends almost never mention it, except in passing, or when talking about how they're planning to move to Toronto to get married or something.

JC Masterpiece said...

I don't think they can worry too much about whether their children will agree philosophically with them.

So the parent who doesn't agree with homosexuality has to worry about how their philosophy affects their kids, but homosexual parents don't have to worry about this?

I have had friends who have successfully come out of the homosexual lifestyle by choice. I also know people who have children who are actively homosexual who have not come out of the lifestyle. One i know for a fact got involved in this lifestyle looking for a way to get back at ther mother because she was angry at her for what she felt was her mother driving her father away (it is long and complicated and would take quite a bit of space to explain).

Oh, and Eric, it's never a "poof, their cured" as with any other type of addiction or major lifestyle problem. It always is really difficult and takes a long time to do. That does not mean that it is always doable either. But then some alcoholics, people with major anger management problems, etc. never are fully cured from these problems, but oftentimes these are problems with genetic sources as well.

So if a person has a disposition to anger/abusiveness and alcoholism than we should accept them as "appropriate lifestyles" because they feel that they can't change it?

Obviously this is a much more complicated problem than what we have the time and ability to deal with here. There is so much more i would love to add to this (that may not be expected), but i am time limited.

Laura said...

"lifestyle problem"? That's a loaded term. I don't believe it's a "problem" that needs a cure.

I agree with JA: My gay friends don't talk about their sexual orientation. It does, however, come out in discussions of this kind because, (to use the previous example) no one would attack you on the street, or throw you out of your home, or feel threatened by you because of your high blood pressure.

Who really cares what two consenting adults do in their bedroom, who they choose to spend their lives with?

Sadie Lou said...

Laura said:
Who really cares what two consenting adults do in their bedroom, who they choose to spend their lives with?

eric..
You use what I say as a jumping off point because you read what I say with your "angry glasses" on. *wink* In other words--you know you don't agree with just about everything that I write. That being said, I think you are distorting my meaning.
Read the quote that Laura just said in her last post and then substitute the meaning to be towards heterosexual couples.
Being married with children is my lifestyle choice. I could have chosen to be single, I could have chosen to be married without children.
Why is a homosexual any differnt? Can they choose to be single? Can they choose to have or not have children? Sounds like a lifestyle choice to me and that's what I was getting at.
This letter is clearly about a woman who has chosen to have a monogamous relationship with another woman. That's a lifestyle choice and that's the lifestyle I was talkin' about.

Jewish Atheist said...

Marrying a person of the same gender is a lifestyle choice, yes, but being a homosexual, i.e. being a person who is attracted exclusively to members of the same sex, is not a choice.

Jewish Atheist said...

And not getting married because people with small minds will object is just stupid. You've got to live your life.

Eric said...

Sadie - I'll try and take my angry glasses off, but to me the word 'lifestyle' always comes up in these discussions with the implicit argument that a choice is somehow being made. If you meant that being in a committed relationship is a lifestyle, you might have said so at the outset.

And JC - I know you believe it's a choice, but a few people bludgenoing their psyches so much that they can repress their sexuality, or a few bisexual people finding religon and picking the opposite sex doesn't constitute proof.

Sadie Lou said...

this letter is clearly about a woman who has chosen to have a monogamous relationship with another woman. That's a lifestyle choice and that's the lifestyle I was talkin' about.
Well it's about being in a commited relationship with another woman. That's a lifestyle. Just as it is a lifestyle that I am married to a man and we have children. That's our lifestyle.

JC Masterpiece said...

Who really cares what two consenting adults do in their bedroom

I love this logic. It is so messed up. It leads in such messed up directions. Here are just a sampling of some of them.

On one level if two consenting adults have cut off one of the adult's arms and are eating this together as a meal, than it must not really matter.

On another level, if three consenting adults want to be married to one another, why should anyone stop them? What about a consenting adult and an animal?
How about a consenting adult and a corpse?
How about a consenting adult and a consenting minor? After all there's nothing stopping two consenting minors from having sex together, and there's nothing stopping two consenting adults. So by the logic professed here, why should a consenting minor and adult be forbidden from this?

Great logic... it's classic.

being a homosexual, i.e. being a person who is attracted exclusively to members of the same sex, is not a choice.

or a few bisexual people finding religon and picking the opposite sex doesn't constitute proof.

Except that two of the primary sexual scales accepted and used today, the Kinsey and Klein Scales, show that very few people are fully, 100% heterosexual or homosexual.

And not getting married because people with small minds will object is just stupid.

Whoever said marriage was a right? Anyone? In fact if i remember correctly it is something that requires a liscense! In fact, i know of nothing that requires a liscense that is a right.

Back to the letter. I thought that it would be quite amusing if the writer wasn't obviously in so much pain.
The victim/blame mentality is pretty evident in so many ways. I love all of the guilt trips that the author attempts to place on her father. Yup dad, it's all your fault. I have nothing to do with my running away or the seperation between us.

I grew from teen-ager to adult very fast, and I suppose I have you to thank for that.
Welcome to the real world. If it hadn't been this problem, it would have been something else.

If it wasn't for you I wouldn't have run away from home and followed the path to my destiny.
So was it choice and fault, or was it destiny? You can't have it both ways.

I can be my own person, which you never wanted me to be.
And, you don't want him to be.

I will never ever put my child in a position to be shamed, and if that means not seeing you for 20 years, then that is what I have to do.
So you think that if you keep your child away from daddy, they will never be shamed?

I love you more than I can explain, and it hurts me so deeply that you probably will go to your grave without ever knowing who I am. ... and you never knowing who he is... or maybe it's accepting?

I have learned to love someone regardless of how he has hurt me. I will never stop loving you and not a week will go by that I don't think about the good old days between us. If you could only open up your mind and heart, we could return to those good old days again.
Funny, but this goes both ways. My, oh my, i feel like a broken record.

I understand that you were raised in a different generation. I understand that you probably listen to what bigots say about homosexuality...
She obviously understands that he must be wrong and she must be right. The problem must come solely with him with none of it hers. She is obviously a victim here and has no responsibility at all. I mean, hey doesn't it say somewhere that fathers are supposed to be perfect, and if there is a problem between them and their kids it is all their fault.

Orthoprax said...

JC,

"Great logic... it's classic."

I swear, this has got to be the very first time you've ever thought about this topic or discussed it seriously with others, right? Your responses are incredibly naive.

JC Masterpiece said...

Actually, i've written a couple of papers on the topic. As i have said before one of my professors took one of my papers and asked to use it in a debate that he was going to be involved in.

Eric said...

JC - because my time is short, and I don't want to dwell on every logical mistake you've made:

Who really cares what two consenting adults do in their bedroom

I love this logic. It is so messed up. It leads in such messed up directions. Here are just a sampling of some of them.

On one level if two consenting adults have cut off one of the adult's arms and are eating this together as a meal, than it must not really matter.
...[edited for length]
Great logic... it's classic.



JC - just because you can take the words used in a premise and rearrange them and add in some more words doesn't mean you're following that premise out to its logical conclusions. In fact you've introduced all sorts of non-sequiters into the argument. The language is very specific. "Two consenting adults do in their own bedroom"... Tossing in cannabalism, pedophilia, and bestiality is not a rigourus reductio ad absurdum argument. It's a twist on the theme to suit your agenda. If you're truly offended by what two consenting adults are doing in private, then just say so, don't pretend that your interests lie in preventing cannabalism.

JC Masterpiece said...

I'm sorry if i came across as claiming that this is an attempt to prevent cannabalism. I meant no such thing.

The logic of this argument is that what two consenting adults choose to do together as long as it is not hurting others should be accepted. This logic when accepted as true leads to these other ends. After all, if it is acceptable for two consenting adults, than why not three? When a man copulates with a corpse he is hurting no one as the corpse is dead. If a man has sexual relations with an animal he is hurting no one else (except maybe the animal, but even that could be debated by those interested in such), and as for the logic of the pedophilia, that has already been clearly explained.

It is the origional statement that leads to these ends. If you don't like where the ends (or extensions) lead the fault lies with the origional logic as has been stated.

Orthoprax said...

JC,

"As i have said before one of my professors took one of my papers and asked to use it in a debate that he was going to be involved in."

What school is this? And what kind of debate?

Orthoprax said...

JC,

"After all, if it is acceptable for two consenting adults, than why not three? When a man copulates with a corpse he is hurting no one as the corpse is dead. If a man has sexual relations with an animal he is hurting no one else (except maybe the animal, but even that could be debated by those interested in such), and as for the logic of the pedophilia, that has already been clearly explained."

In all those instances (except the first) there is a party which society generally wants to protect. We protect the dead from such abuse because when we die we do not want our bodies to be treated as such. We protect animals from abuse and we protect children from abuse.

Those issues do not come up when two (or three) consenting adults do what they do with each other and only with each other.

Eric said...

Exactly, JC is using specious reasoning. Consent is the issue, and corpses, animals, and children are all incapable (as defined by law and logic) of providing reasoned consent. The original statement in no way leads to JC's conclusion, yet because it suits his purposes, he insists that his line of reasoning is a logical conslusion.

JC Masterpiece said...

Actually, corpses could not give consent or dissent only others can give consent or dissent for them. As for teenagers, they give consent to each other all the time and some give consent to adults and accept consent from them, yet this is still considered inappropriate and illegal. Yet by this logic, this should be considered acceptable. Others even younger than teenagers give consent to adults for money.

There are those in the psychology field that are attempting to have paraphilia (including pedophelia) removed from successive revisions of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) of disorders. They are attempting to use this and other logical arguments as well as "research" to justify it.

I am having some trouble finding the actual article, so if someone comes across it let me know, but a few years ago someone showed me an article about two men in i think it was Germany. The one man had cut off the other man's hand and they had cooked and eaten it together. The police attempted to arrest the men but could not charge either of them with anything because it was consentual and this logical argument prevailed in court. This is actually why i brought up the cannibalism issue earlier.

You can complain that i am taking this logic beyond what is meant for it, but the reality is that this is exactly where this logic leads.

Jewish Atheist said...

JC, I actualy sort of agree with you on the consensual canibalism. If we allowed everything that is consensual, we would have to allow that. I'm not sure I can come up with a good logical reason that consensual canibalism should be illegal.

On the issue with teenagers though, I disagree with you. While of course teenagers may "consent" to sex with adults, we as a society don't recognize that as a legal consent since they aren't deemed competent to make such decisions. It's the same reason we don't allow minors to sign binding contracts or get married. It's not just consent that is required, but legal, informed consent.

JC Masterpiece said...

On the issue with teenagers though, I disagree with you. While of course teenagers may "consent" to sex with adults, we as a society don't recognize that as a legal consent since they aren't deemed competent to make such decisions. It's the same reason we don't allow minors to sign binding contracts or get married. It's not just consent that is required, but legal, informed consent.

I would agree with you on that and much else that you have said. Much of this should be as you say, but not everything that should be is or will stay that way. I see the danger with this kind of logic being that it leads to these ends and more and in part is already leading to these ends. Thus my problem with the argument/logic.

The paper that i wrote covered many aspects of homosexuality and the research involved. I have posted the outline on my site. I probably won't keep it up for long, but if you have any questions feel free to comment.