Time for Some Weeding
Posted by Mark
I wasn’t going to talk about Josh Weed. I tried really hard not to talk about Josh Weed when all the gay blogs were talking about him a couple of months ago. And I didn’t talk about him at all this week — not even in snide remarks to my husband! — when he was in the news again, and about to appear on Nightline.
But then Gay Family Values put up this really thoughtful post about Josh Weed, and suddenly I need to talk about Josh Weed.
When I read about Josh Weed the first time, I felt this awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. The kind where you think maybe you’d feel better if you threw up? Not that angry, frustrated feeling I get when I read about something awful Bryan Fischer said, but the kind of sick, awful feeling that usually only comes when I can’t sleep because I’m worrying about my kids. I’m unaccustomed to getting that feeling from reading about strangers.
There are the base level reactions to reading about Josh Weed that I feel as a gay man. First, it makes me sad. Really sad. Like, go sit on my bed and cry for a little while sad. I see myself as a scared teenager, knowing that I was gay and certain that meant my life was over. I thought I would be alone forever. And without a support network of really good friends telling me that I could have the life I wanted, maybe I would have been like Josh Weed.
Then it makes me angry. So angry. He’s on television, telling people that gay men can just choose to be married to women. And he’s happy! What kind of message will that send to families who are struggling with accepting a gay kid? How many kids are going to kill themselves because Josh Weed went on Nightline? Probably not a lot, but you know what? The number will be more than zero. As sad as I feel for Josh Weed, there will be blood on his hands.
I have an uncle who made the same choices as Josh Weed. He’s Josh Weed, thirty years later. When he was in college, about a decade before I was born, he came out of the closet. And then, for lack of a better term, he went back in. His wedding is one of my earliest childhood memories. The wedding was held out of state, and my parents hosted a large party in our home a few weeks later. It’s really only image I remember — all of the furniture taken out of the first floor of our house and replaced with folding tables covered with white table cloths.
My uncle and his wife became more and more extreme in their Christian faith with each passing year. They had two children, and became afraid that schools would try to brainwash them. So my aunt homeschooled the kids, and they moved to increasingly more and more rural areas. Eventually, my uncle — a psychologist — began working for an enormous Christian organization with a large anti-gay operation.
It was around this time that I started to take my first steps out of the closet. I was sixteen. I thought I was ready to talk to my parents. I had prepared. I was not, however, prepared to hear what I did.
“Did you know that your uncle was gay, Mark?” my dad asked. He then explained that my uncle, too, had struggled with thinking that he was gay. But with prayer, and love, and whatever else, he had married my aunt. And they had two beautiful children. “Isn’t that what you want for your life, Mark? That’s what your mom and I want for you.”
I was lucky. My parents may have wanted to send me to reparative therapy, but we lived in Massachusetts. And they’re too mainstream to have found an extreme enough therapist. They just picked a psychologist who seemed nice. We went a few times, he explained to them that he couldn’t help me be straight any more than he could help me be seven feet tall, and the talk of changing like my uncle had done was over.
The better part of a decade later, my father had finally come to terms with my being gay. He was probably still a little uncomfortable, but he wanted me to be happy. He got a call from my uncle. I don’t know everything that they talked about, but they talked about me being gay. My uncle was “concerned” for me, that I had chosen a “destructive lifestyle.” My dad was having none of it. He told me about their conversation, and told me that he said to my uncle, “It’s different when it’s your child.”
A few more years go by, and my dad gets another call from my uncle. He’s crying. “You were right,” he tells my dad. “It’s different when it’s your own child.” My cousin, a few years younger than me, had just sat her parents down and told them that she is a lesbian.
A few more years go by, and my cousin is visiting with her brother. They are sitting in the living room of the house that my newlywed husband and I had just purchased. We are talking about how her parents are doing, and the progress they’ve made since she came out to them.
“You’ll never believe this,” says my cousin. “When I came out to my parents, they told me that they both thought they were gay, too, but they married each other, and maybe I could do the same thing.”
My husband and I smile, and I laugh a little.
“Oh my god,” she says. “You already knew!”
I explain to her that I heard about her dad when I first came out.
“I wish someone had told us!” says her brother. “It explained so much about our life.”
We were on the other side, and able to laugh about the added struggle we had with our families because they believed gay people could change.
My aunt and uncle are still married. They are probably the kindest, sweetest people I know. I don’t know if they understand how what they chose impacted me and their daughter.
My uncle left the enormous Christian organization. When I saw my aunt and uncle a couple of years ago, they were on their way to meet a couple that they had met online. They believed this couple to be their children from a past life.
I assume that means they are still searching for some kind of meaning. But I haven’t asked.
In the original version of this post, I called the enormous Christian organization with the large anti-gay operation by name. I’ve decided to remove that name in an attempt to preserve the anonymity of my uncle, with whom I have not discussed this blog post.