Monday, December 15, 2008

Ira Furor Brevis Est?

Soon, next weekend, we'll have our huge family Christmas party.

They will all be there, from the sister who made a point during the Proposition 8 fight of saying that she cannot support my family (though, she enjoys nothing but love for us), to my Bishop brother who stays away from the topic, to our various gay family members. Most were right behind us, despite their church's instructions, but some were not and others, I'm sure, would rather the whole issue just go away before they have to stand up and say what they believe one way or the other.

As I said, in October, something has broke in my family with Prop 8. That wasn't temporal. It has. I can feel it, see it clearer each time we're together. I see it in a sister's fumbling around simple pleasantries, in my parents' curtness with some of them, and I see it in me, as I described in that post.

But the thing is I don't have really strong feelings about these relatives. I've never been able to hold anger well, even when I wanted to... or maybe even when I should. For all their strange talk of free agency, about magical actions somehow neither caused or not caused, the reasons some of my family did what they did here seem fairly clear; the causality in humans is often quite simple, too simple. Once I take time to think about the whys, I've no place left to set anger. It's just a lesson learned about how that person's mind works.

My wonder is, though, should I feel anger, to change how their mind works next time? Or, as the subjective emotion is not really a choice, should we gay relatives show some form of anger when we're together with extended family who acted to harm our homes? A cold shoulder? A verbal confrontation? Do we have to be abrasive now to get the point across, make it uncomfortable, so that later they'll factor us and our children into their decisions more strongly? I think Edgy brought this to my mind with a comment a while back and it's been on my mind.

I know. People want to say anger doesn't help anything; "people" often including me. People want to say they'll never negotiate with such tactics and I'm the sort to recoil from the use of it anyway.

But I'm wondering; is there a use for it here? I mean, my family knows me. I'm probably the calmest guy they know. They know I get my kicks out of bland stuff like collecting data and look at the world in much the same way I look at my lab: I feel wonder and awe, and I'll also feel frustrated or sadness when things go bad, but anger at anything just comes off as silly. Point is, when it came time for family to decide what to do in the marriage debate they knew I'd not get angry. They knew I'd still be pleasant at our next encounter. Hurting us offered far less of a threat than the threat of "disobedience to God" the other side was selling them. If they were to bet, why not bet on their leaders instead of me? I offered very little downside.

I'm not sure it's in me to act hostile without feeling it. To be honest, I probably am unable and this post is a bit pointless because 1. I'm a horrible actor and 2. it strikes me as dishonest to act angry without actual anger. But I'm still wondering... Is anger what's needed to make their calculations come out right next time? Does a show of anger have a useful place when someone hurts your family? I'm not really sure. Does anyone have in-family experience they could share here? Does it just end in tears and frustration, as I reflexively expect, or do people actually act more inclusively when they can't count on us being a good sports?


Java said...

I'm not one to hold grudges or stew in anger for very long, either. For that matter, I'm a horrible actor and I can't lie worth a darn. In your situation I would be somewhat wary around the family members I knew harbored homophobia, but I doubt I would show anger. But that's me. I have no idea otherwise. Good luck.

Evan said...

I've never considered anger to be a solution to anything. In fact, I tend to avoid it all together. I sent a letter to my siblings about a month ago letting them know that one of the main reasons my homosexuality and Prop 8 scare me is because I was afraid of what it would do to our family. Recently, I learned that I can't discuss my feelings regarding homosexuality with most of them due to how they handle discussions on the subject and how they feel about the gay population... and this is all for the sake of preventing a fracture in my family.

Am I handling it wrong? I don't know... right now I will do anything to save the relationship, even if it means not discussing such things with them.

I guess I am kinda in the same boat as to how to handle situations like this. I would stay away from anger though... or we could trade families like you said ;)

jaysays said...

The most difficult part for me is being around my "minister" uncles and knowing they feel I'm less than they are. I am angry, but not because of their actions against me, but their actions against the entire community - how they use their beliefs to hold us all down. It's repugnant. I haven't been around them since the passage of prop 8 - I can't decide if its wisdom or my own lack of courage.

Great post.

Guy said...

I, too, don't know how to react when I see some of my family soon, as the dynamic has definitely changed for us as well. I hope to not see the ones that hurt me most (I'd frankly prefer not as my feelings are still too raw and I, too, am still unsure how to deal with them). Most live far from where we'll be and I'm not going out of my way, for fear of a confrontation I'm not prepared for and, frankly, I'm not at all convinced ANYTHING I can do will EVER help them understand or change their views). I don't think my anger would help. It's been 20 years and it's only gotten worse with them, as we started a family, got married, etc. and the church has gotten more involved politically. Like you, perhaps, I rarely ever get angry; I often feel sad or hurt instead, had always been the peacemaker, but this whole situation with the Prop 8, the church and some family blindly following has finally pushed me to anger--and since it's rather new, I'm still unsure how best to deal...
Good luck to you, I hope all goes well, no matter what tact you take!

Scot said...

Thanks Java; I think you maybe hit on what will likely happen. I certainly am and will be wary. As I told Ben, my only chance of being genuinely angry would be to go pack and watch those awfully deceptive adds they helps pay for... but not on Christmas.

Evan: "or we could trade families like you said ;)"

Yeah, I'll be angry at your family if you'll take on some of mine. Can you be in SLC next weekend? The Christmas party is Saturday. ;-)

Hey there Jay.

"I can't decide if its wisdom or my own lack of courage."

I'm sure there's an appropriate aphorism in there somewhere, but good luck when you do have to interact, nonetheless.

Thanks and same to you, Guy.

"I'm not at all convinced ANYTHING I can do will EVER help them understand or change their views"

I was looking at some research the other day on how people change their minds on this issue. Most social issues seem to be decided very early on in a person's life and change little, if at all, with time. That finding was a bit depression. But, when they do change, opinions on sexual orientation were found to change more rapidly than on most all other issues.

I know some won't change... But...

Anonymous said...

Hi Scot,

I have been reading your blog a little while...I discovered you from Scott's and Beck's blogs.

Unfortunately I know exactly how my family feels. They are all completely aware of my sexuality.

My dad ignores it but that's ok with me because that's better than I ever expected from him.

My mom thinks I am making poor choices and wishes I would "come to my senses". She does love me and I know that. She doesn't make a big issue about it most of the time. Normally when she brings something up or I do we can discuss it relatively easily.

My brother thinks its unnatural and that when it does occur in "nature" that homosexuality is an abnormal behavior apparently brought on by some unknown means. I am sure he attributes it to Satan.

My sisters all have shown nothing but love to me, wish I was active in Church but have never been open to discussing it with me.

I am still single. I am not sure how they will handle it when I am finally dating someone seriously. I guess we'll see.


Scot said...

Hey Damon,

I'm sorry you're in such a predicament.

I kind of feel bad for complaining. It's too easy to forget how much more difficult some families are for their gay members.

"My brother thinks its unnatural and that when it does occur in "nature" that homosexuality is an abnormal behavior apparently brought on by some unknown means. I am sure he attributes it to Satan."

Ah yes, Satan, he's always out to tempt penguins and monkey to do evil. :-)

"I am still single. I am not sure how they will handle it when I am finally dating someone seriously. I guess we'll see. "

Best of luck.

I had low hopes for my husband's parents 16 years ago when I met them. Now they are some of my favorite family, and the love and support goes both ways. They will, in fact be staying at our home tonight.

Just don't give up hope; I've seen time work wonders in many families.

Anonymous said...

Hey Scot,

Just got around to seeing your response. gave me a great laugh and a little bit of hope! I'm going to hang in there and hope for the best.

After all it's all the family I've got and they didn't come with a receipt.


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