A Gift for My Father?

Please forgive me, but what follows is a “bitter” post.

March 6 was my father’s 67th birthday. I mailed a birthday card (it will get there late) but I did not call him.

I have not spoken with my father (on purpose) since I received his phone call almost one year ago. (I didn’t specify who the family member that called was in that post, but the phone call was from him.)

I am certain this will upset some family members (that I think lurk on my blog) but so be it. What saddens me is that they will be upset not because of the actual content, but because of me publicly airing “negative” information about the family.

I have had a letter tucked away on a bookshelf that I received over three years ago. I know I should probably get rid of it and forget about it but for whatever reason I cannot. I believe the letter was originally intended as my father’s response to the “coming out letter” I sent in August 2001.

Yes—I mailed them a letter telling them I was gay because I was too afraid to do it in person. I was a coward and feared for my personal safety and my sanity; so I wrote a letter and mailed it to them.

And so this episode starts with a letter that I received four years after I sent my letter.

Sept 16 2005

Dear Erik

I came across this letter I had written to you about 4 years ago. Somehow it never got sent. So here it is. None of us can go back but we all can change the future. I have made mistakes and have had to go and fix them.

By the way I have 2 houses in Zellwood ready for immediate occupancy if you decide on coming down this way.

Love
Dad

That was the cover letter. The real “fun” comes in the letter that was attached that “never got sent”:

Dear Erik

It was good to hear from you when you called and also write. Call anytime especially at the nursery where I am most of the time.

Erik all through your life you had to make choices. At first your mom and I decided for you that Phyllis Wheatley Elementary School] was not good for you. We decided to spend money on a private school and I believe it was money well spent. First you went to Calvary Baptist in Winter Garden. Later you went to Christian Home & Bible School. I feel we allowed you to take the classes in the subjects you desired. Later you picked an out of state college Harding. I probably should not have allowed that. But I only made that mistake once. You know all of this but what I want you to understand is that all through life and college you have choices to make. You picked what areas you were to study in. I studied in Horticulture and went into a career in Horticulture. I had a choice to major in Plant Diseases but I found I would be at a plant inspection station and the import office all my life and I felt I wouldn’t enjoy that. Can you see back when I was in college and making choices I governed what my future was and is going to be.

The same is true of you, Erik, if you make the choice to prefer men over women. You made the choice then you tried to get your life to fit into your choice. You decided to go to a school far away so no one you knew could check on you. After graduation you had plenty of friends here in Florida but you knew they wouldn’t approve of your life style so you stayed far away where you could associate with those of that life style. Remember you made the choice. Now you are in a life style that doesn’t allow you to associate with Eligible Women. You could leave that life style if you wanted. No one is forcing you but you would have to leave your familiar life style and get out of town to a new place where you could meet someone of the appropriate sex.

From where you look now you don’t think you could have good sex with anyone but another man. But that is not true. It is just as thrilling to have sex with a wife as with some man. The Devil tells you that men are better but the truth is they are just perverted. he has just blinded you to the truth. Women are just as smart as men and with a little training try to please you any way they can especially if they love you.

The choice is still yours Erik. You must change. God does not approve of Homosexuals. Remember Sodom and Gomorrah. He just didn’t leave any survivors. And you are headed for an eternity in a place of torture. I know the Righteous are scarcely saved. Where will the sinner that God doesn’t approve of appear?

Now you write that you are sure you are a homosexual. You want us to love and approve of your choice. Like you could pick a blue couch or a red couch and we should respect your choice! Well we don’t respect your choice! You could find plenty of women that would love and take care of you till their last breath. But your choice won’t allow this and you think that by telling us and impress us with your honesty that you can gain our respect for your sick life style. Yes that’s what it is sick. You have just been very fortunate that you have not contracted a sexual disease. Most homosexuals are dead from Aids or are expected to die from Aids. There is no cure. One worked for me name removed by me]. He had died a horrible death, lingered for years too weak to walk.

The choice is yours Erik. Go back to the sick life you have chosen or make a break. Get out of Rogers to Florida. Go back to Orlando. Maybe take some hobby surely you have some creative interests] I remember you could draw very well and your very clever on a computer. There are hundreds of companies that are looking for someone to help with their computer problems. Rod, your brother, a poor to mediocre computer user is now solving our computer problems at Spring Hill Nursery.

And now how to find a woman who will love you. I certainly wouldn’t go to a bar. I believe there are at least 3 eligible good looking women 25-28 years old at Palm Springs Church of Christ and there must be that many at Par or Azalea Park or Bumby Church of Christ. Besides that Steve your brother] could possibly point you to 1/2 dozen he personally knows. Me I’m out of the loop at 59 63.

Erik you have to make the choice. I do love you or I wouldn’t have loaned you money I earned. But I do not approve of your chosen life style. Please change. Only you can.

Your father
Dave

Okay. Breathe.

There are so many things I have wanted to write in response to his letter but I never have. I am fairly certain that whatever my response would be, it will never be read by him in the light I meant for it to be.

Instead of writing a response for my father, maybe it’s something I need to write for myself.

When I read the letter I see things about my father that I did not see as a child: misogyny, elitism, racism and homophobia. Sadly, some of these “attitudes” have even found their way into MY personality in various ways. Things I am aware of and consciously have to fight back when they surface.

Maybe the gift I need to give is really a gift I need to give to myself?

Until next time...
Erik

39 thoughts on “A Gift for My Father?

  1. It is the same with me. Often I have to fight with my thoughts that somehow got there and I know I don’t want them.
    Show them (him) you are a better man and if they never get it, it doesn’t matter. You will always know that you have tried.

  2. I hate that you have all this still floating around in your head. Actually I’m sorry you were put in a position to have all that stuff floating around in your head. Family can be a strange thing, but thay are still family. (So I am told) I personally tend to group them in with everyone else, at which point they get placed into the Black and White theroy that is me. If you are a good person, you are a good person, how you got there might have its interesting points. (Mine damn sure does) I think most sane people judge themselves consistantly, and work to be (good) people. I have only known you from the Tat shop for about a year, and think you are a good person. My good and other peoples good will be different, but good to me is honesty, integerity, hard working, polite, so on and so on. With that said, the person you are today has been made up of everything in your past. My black and white theroy allows me to put just about everything before right now behind me without having it tear me apart inside. It also reduces my social skills, and ability to trust people I don’t know, and a host of other things that keeps me 1 step away from being a hermit. So the delima is keep your feelings and memories, and be able to be part of the human world, or be like me and have very little mental stress but allow no one close to me. Either way kind of sucks, so after all of this, just remember, you are a sucessful ISD person, you own your own business (which requires you to meet and greet LOTS of people) nice place to live, comitted relationship, lots of GOOD things, so somewhere inside, you have to see that part to, the part that I see and I think most people see. Don’t ever forget your family, but please don’t let them or their thoughts about what you should be get in the way of who you are.
    Hang in there and put you on the front burner for a while, let everyone else and their ideas of what is good for Erik, sit on the back and simmer a while.
    James

  3. Sounds like the letter I got from my grandparents. I’m sorry to know that your father is so deep in the “morality closet” that he can’t see you as a person instead of a deviant. I guarantee you that no response to him would change his feelings… though it might make you feel better.

    1. I’m sorry you had to receive a similar letter from anyone, Ron. It seems there is much “morality” to be weighted out by others towards those who don’t fit their view. I often wonder if they know the true effect they are having on the ones they are directing it at.

  4. I think you really don’t need to write that letter– you already know what you feel is right.

    However, if you DO choose to write, I think it should be a short missive telling them that they can either accept you as you are, or not have you in their life.

    Simple as that.

  5. wait a minute… “It is just as thrilling to have sex with a wife as with some man.” … he knows this how? Actually I think he just indirectly said it was thrilling to have sex with a man. To each their own I guess.

    1. I have ALWAYS had issue with the way that was worded. There’s just something “off” about it. Then again, he’s not ever been known for his choice of words….

  6. It’s telling that your father reduces this all to a numbers game, as if having a bevy of ready and Eligible Women waiting for you to train them will seduce you away from the dark side. It shows a fundamental misunderstanding of you specifically and people in general. You already know who you are, Erik. Don’t let anyone cast doubt on that.

    1. When you said “numbers” it reminded me (as I had forgotten) how he likes the ability to “control” others through the use of money.

      And I try to not forget who I am.

  7. Honey, he’s wrong.
    I know you know that, but sometimes it helps to be reminded.

    I hope that writing this post helps you sift through the rubble and find the truth you need for the wonderful man you are.

  8. My mother once yelled at me for having an African American girlfriend (before she found out I am gay). Earlier generations do not even understand that they are racists and bigots, and good luck convincing them they are wrong. I know this sounds cruel but they will be dead some day, and by living our lives out and unashamed of who we are, we at least give the next generation a better chance at acceptance.

  9. Erik, we’ve never met, but I enjoy your blog.

    Your dad is wrong, illogical, and even irrational. When someone is illogical, and you can point to the flaws in the logic, and they still stick to them, you just don’t have to pay attention to them any more.

    I know that’s the front of the brain talking, and the back of the brain still loves him and/or cares about what he thinks. But as much as you can, listen to the front of your brain.

    You’re a good guy living the life you want. Keep it up.

    1. First, thank you.

      You are right on about the back of the brain–even though I don’t know that I truly “love” my father at this point, I do know it’s hard to not care about him.

      I find it odd in my head that if it was a friend who did this, I would “easily” be able to walk away from that relationship. But because it’s a family member doing it, I somehow hold it up to a different light. In reality, there should be no difference between the two.

  10. As gay folks we work so hard to escape that type of garbage thrown at us throughout our lives. We create our own little worlds, surrounded by people who are NOT judgmental and love us, for us, just so we DON’T have to put up with this shit.

    I know this will sound harsh, but enough with this pain and anguish from someone who will never get it. Ever. I know in the past I written that you should always leave the door open for communication but I think it’s time to close that particular door, lock it and move on. Your old man has had plenty of time to walk through and has chosen not to do so. So be it – his choice. Not yours.

  11. Both my partner and I (separately and at different times in our lives) told our families: I’m not going to change; I love you and I’ll be here if you ever want to call, but I’m not going to call you again until that time. And you know what? They did call. Out of the blue. A year later. It hasn’t been perfect, but by calling, they decided they would rather have gay me in their lives than not at all.

    I’m not saying that’ll happen with you, but it’s time to say, ‘good bye’ as many have already said here. And it’s time to learn how to love yourself, to not judge yourself, and stop your head spinning trying to think of ways you can make it all better if you just try hard enough. There will always be people out there who will judge you for whatever reason, and to expect that you will make this a just world by the shear force of goodness that’s inside you is to sabotage your own emotional well-being. My therapist told me a Tibetan saying: It’s easier to put shoes on than to cover the earth in leather. Be well, and always be thankful of the good things you have in life. Your partner is number one on the list. How awesome is that?

  12. Like most here, I think you should be thankful that they raised you to the person you are today and leave it at that. Their parenting duties are done and thankfully you know better than accept any more advice from them. You are what you make of yourself now.

    That letter made me damned angry. Here is a man applying his narrow belief system upon you through guilt and shame. Bravo for posting that.

    Now don’t give it a second thought. You are one way, he’s the other and unless one of you changes, it’s going to stay that way.

  13. Erik, that was powerful…and I think you dealt with it in a superior way. I am marginally lucky with acceptance by my famdamily…AND my brother is gay. 1-2 slap!
    If I should ever decide to get written-on..I’ll fly to Fuck-me-it’s-so-humid so you can do it.
    E, with a C…
    Ciao

  14. yikes!
    what a topic; what a letter.

    So many people giving you advise, I am hesitant to put in my two cents.
    Despite everything, remain who you are, and remain positive. It is hoped your father will eventually be won over through love and your example. It is your choice of course.

    I will be glad to see how this evolves. Good luck.

    1. Odd you mention the “signed a single card”. I have no recollection of my father ever doing that either. It was always my mom’s handwriting.

      And my condolences to you Homer that your father never wrote–in either a good or bad way. My heart goes out to you for that.

  15. oh man, what a letter. my thoughts are with you – and whatever you decide to do, just remember that you are well loved and respected & a very good man.

    kyle

  16. I’m sorry, Erik. My family is the same, or worse, so I can relate to this. I haven’t had a relationship with my father for decades.
    I spend time with my family of choice.

  17. WOW!! First, I am familiar with all of the places around town you mentioned.

    It’s sad that the older generation (ie are parents age) still hold onto narrow minded thoughts. What they fail to realize is we are WHO we are. I’m sorry he doesn’t see that you are happy with your choices.

  18. Erik – I dunno what to say – my thoughts are with you. As you can tell, many many care enough to comment. Revel in the love they share-it won’t fill the void that you’re feeling, but absorb as much of it as you can. Your dad has a right to his feelings, even if we don’t agree with their substance. Respect his feelings as much as you want him to respect yours. I can tell you though that if he’s not man enough to “agree to disagree”, then he’s not mature enough to be objectively rational. Don’t attempt to deal with irrational people – you’ll wind up in 1) the looney bin 2) a public place with a WMD or 3) rehab.

  19. My heart broke as I read this letter. No one deserves this kind of pain especially from their family. I like what Mark has to say about having a family of choice and sometimes those are the best families because you get to choose them. I’m sorry you had to read a letter like this you don’t deserve it. My heart goes out to you.

  20. Erik:
    I am sorry that your family is so judgmental. I understand what you mean when you speak of personality traits that are still with you in adulthood. I think all kids have traits that stay with them that they learned from there parents weather they are right or wrong. It is sad that your father does not see that you have achieved so much in life as a man either gay or straight. Unfortunately, your family may never change. There are so many things they are missing out on by distancing them selves from your life. What saddens me the most is how much it hurts you. I wish there opinion did not have so much power, but sadly it does. You are a kind, successful, sincere guy with a loving Arkansas family. I hope someday your Florida family will realize there mistakes and open there mind. Hugs.

  21. Thank you for sharing something so personal, Erik. It really does prove your great inner strength.

    I have not been so moved in such a long time. I had tears in my eyes reading this. I think a lot of us can relate to estranged relationships with our families. I haven’t spoken to my father in over 4 years. I always felt like I was in a rat race chasing his approval, when nothing I said or did could change the fact that I was gay and that I would never gain his approval. I learned the hard way that I had to move on and get past the negativity, or I would not make it. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my father, but I cannot have someone in my life that produces such hatred and disrespect for my basic human rights.

    It sounds as though you’ve found the right track, and surrounded yourself with people who love you, including a cute husbear 🙂

    These types of journeys are never easy, but I think we’re doing a good job and learning from those who have failed us. That’s all we can do. You deserve to be happy, Erik! Thanks so much for sharing!

    Big hugs buddy 🙂

  22. Spit out the bitterness, kick some dirt over it. It isn’t you.

    No harm at all in loving your family, even if you have to do it from a distance. Apparently, they are doing the same. Far from ideal, but there’s no benefit in trying to force anyone to change. Wait and hope.

    Happy day! :O)

  23. I haven’t spoke to my father in over 15 years, for a variety of reasons. For me, I just had to turn away for my own mental health.

    I hope you find some peace and resolution.

  24. Not knowing your history I can’t say what you should have done.

    The way I see it, this is his issue not yours and you should remind him of such. He makes so many blind and jaded assumptions as to why your life is a certain way.

    I’d be prepared to accept the fact he may never come to terms with it or understand. You can’t force him to see the truth. And while his acceptance would be valuable validation, you should move on with your life. I’m not saying you should give up. Love him as your father and try to see beyond his ignorance but don’t let him make you think for a second you are any less deserving of happiness and equality simply because you happened to be born gay.

    I know this isn’t easy for ya bud. I hope you are able to find a middle ground.

    *big hugs*

  25. Erik, I’ve always loved ya man. Without addressing the letter, suffice it to say that I care and appreciate you even more now.

    *Biggest HUGS*

  26. Erik,

    I hope you don’t mind that I respond as well. I read your letter with tears in my eyes, because I felt it a reflection of my own thoughts and feelings toward my own father upon finding out he was gay. However, I was only 13 and it wasn’t confirmed until after he died. But I hated him for it.

    It took me years to accept him. But I have. I had to forgive him for me. It wasn’t ever anything anyone ever said to me, but simply my growing up and learning.

    My heart goes out to you that you’ve had to hear those words from your dad. Regardless of what you feel for him, I think it’s natural for you want his approval. I guess your decision now is whether or not you really want it now or not. It’s your choice. And that’s really the only choice for you to make.

    I’m grateful to know that you have so many people in your life who love and care for you for you, as you are. Live the life you’ve been blessed with, Erik. And live it well.

  27. WOW!! I must say that it dumbfounds me to know that your parents feel the way they do towards you. I’m sure that it must hurt you very deeply to know that they don’t accept you for who you are as a person. Even if someone doesn’t like “what” you do, they should at least still acknowledge you as a person & accept/love you unconditionally. There are those of us who do love & care for you unconditionally. I just regret that the miles between us keep us from being closer. Tory & I love you and Robert very much and we’re so happy to have you both as dear friends. I sincerely hope that your family will one day realize what an amazing person you are. I love you Erik!!

  28. Wow, that brought back memories! Back in 1988, my mother showed up at my door to confront me about my “lifestyle” she was “forced” to deal with. She cursed me like a dog for a good 10 minutes. I didn’t open my mouth. Not because I was afraid or ashamed, but because I knew it wasn’t going to kill me to just stand there and take it all in, let her vent completely. Turned out that was the best gift she EVER gave me. Prior to that point I had always been the people-pleaser type, jumping through hoops; primarily my parents, whatever to make them happy. Always pushing aside what I wanted and who I was. Deep issues too that I had dealt with in condemning myself for not “being perfect” WTF But after that day I decided I was no longer going to live my life for EVERYONE but me. I wasn’t going to be on my deathbed some day thinking “boy, I sure am glad I lived my life just for everyone else!” I also found my place on this earth, no better but no worse than anyone else. I knew my mother’s secrets and I thought “who are you to judge me? I have never done that to you! I am a human BEING like you” I “forgave” myself for not being me. Now there’s a biblical REVELATION for you.
    We are who we are, we need to love ourselves for that. So sorry you had to deal with that letter, but you can take something good away from it.
    All my best, Coleman

  29. I’m amazed by the honesty of your post. Thank you for being so you. I’m now following you on Twitter and I’m pretty sure I love you a little. That could just be the pic with the tats on Twitter but I’m going to say it’s deeper than that from the get-go just in case. 😉

    It sucks when our family, friends and/or loved ones think that letters like the above are the best way to love us.

    I look forward to knowing you and knowing better.

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