Ever since we announced our engagement, we’ve been dealing with some pretty intense levels of religious condemnation from my fiancee’s family. We have received many emails, phone calls, and letters asking us to give up our “sinful ways.” It hurts like hell, and I don’t know for sure the best way to deal with it. We have done our best to remain open, to be loving at all times, and to set clear boundaries for our own well-being.
In the hope that it may help others find words, I thought I would share our responses here.
In response to an email using the Bible to tell us that we are sinners, that the pleasures of sin fade, that we have holes in our hearts where Jesus should be, and that our sin is going to kill us:
I love you too, more than I can say. And I can accept that this is how you feel. I have heard you, and I am not asking you to compromise your beliefs. You are right that as children, we were taught that homosexuality is a sin. I have struggled since childhood to reconcile my sexual orientation with those religious beliefs, which resulted in [shame, self-abuse, etc.]. Though you may not understand what I have gone through, please accept that for me, the choice was not between being straight or gay, but between being dead or alive.
I have chosen a life that fulfills me and makes me a better person. I have found a new relationship with God, who loves and accepts all of his children. For the first time in my life, I am deeply happy. Please understand that I will not be coming home because I can’t do so without compromising my own beliefs or disrespecting my wife. I would never expect my partner to be able to fill my every need, but I am devoted to caring for her and loving her. That’s not something I feel I can do at Mom’s house. If that ever changes in the future, I would be really happy to be able to go home again. I miss you all.
In response to an email citing scripture to prove that God does not love us or accept our choice to be homosexuals:
We will just have to agree to disagree. You believe that being gay is a sinful choice I am making in defiance of the Lord. I know that I will not change your mind on that. I also know that I had no choice in my sexual orientation. This is the way I was created. You will not change my mind on that.
You do not understand the harm you are doing to me or to your relationship with me, so I am telling you now that any future attempts to condemn me or my actions will result in severely limited contact between us.Related Post Avoiding turbulence: Keep in contact with family at home while traveling abroad
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If you are sincerely interested in the biblical support for gay marriage, please reference:
- The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart, by Patrick Achtemaier
- God and the Gay Christian, by Matthew Vines
- To Melt a Golden Calf, by Peter Aelred
If you are more interested in a secular reflection of the experiences of gay people, I would recommend:
Let’s get an even bigger list going… What are YOUR go-to responses to religious condemnation?
Comments on How to respond to religious LGBT condemnation
It may have been harsh, but all we responded with was “it you are not going to support our lives together, you are no longer invited to our wedding.”
I don’t feel the need to justify my life to someone blinded. The response is to try to save you from yourself when you don’t need saving. If you want to fight back, you can counter with other scripture (the Good Samaritan, casting the first stone, etc), but I am unsure if it would be effective to someone so entrenched.
I’ve found scripture wars to be ineffective. Most people interpret scripture to back up their beliefs, so all you’re going to end up with is a bunch of verses being interpreted two different ways. Or two verses that say completely opposite things.
I have also found scripture to be ineffective. I tried to go with the “judge not” route and ultimately got back “I’m not judging, I know this is wrong.” Oof.
I am so sorry you are having to deal with this. I think your responses are a lot more generous than mine would be – and I seriously admire you for that. I really hope you have the most wonderful wedding day and rest of life together. But keep those boundaries firmly in place – unfortunately it looks like you need them
I think what you said was beautiful, well-worded, loving, and firm. I think it’s wonderful that you didn’t resort to trying to shame them or trivialize their beliefs, and your respect for everyone involved is obvious. They may not see it, but that’s okay. You said what needed to be said. Well done!
I just wanted to chime in that your responses are marvels of generosity, compassion, and dignity. I’m in awe!
Wow. Such well thought out and dignified responses. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to hear those words from family and to then reply with such grace.
I, as a heterosexual, have been harrassed by family and told I was living in sin amongst other things for not being married to my partner of ten years. I just replied “Yeah and if you have a problem with it you can fuck right off”. So I salute your ability to respond with such reasoning and respect.
I actually went through this with my own wedding, though I joined a heterosexual partnership. My husband’s father and step-mother traveled sixteen hours for a one night “surprise” trip to tell him that I was a Jezebel and he had to leave me because I was ruining his relationship with Jesus.
The truth of the matter is that some people don’t care about your own happiness, but care only about getting to feel that they are better than you. Through a mutual decision, we did not invite them to our wedding, though there were a number of deeply religious people there who were nothing but happy for us and pleased to be a part of our secular ceremony.
In the years since, my husband’s father hasn’t made any real effort to mend the relationship, and this hurts my husband deeply sometimes. We’ve decided that when we have kids, we’re willing to give him one last chance to be involved in our lives, but the step-mother (who we’re fairly certain is the impetus behind all of the damaging interactions we’ve had) will never be welcome around my children.
I’m so sorry they haven’t come around in the years after your wedding. We’re at six months post-wedding, and there has still been no movement from them toward acceptance of our relationship. I don’t know what will happen when we have kids, but that’s kind of irrelevant at this point. If they can’t acknowledge me as a wife, I highly doubt they’re going to recognize non-white adopted children as family.
I’m sad to hear both of these stories! It’s so much harder to give up on family, to recognize them as toxic. But remember that any relationship is a two-way street. Stephanie – I think that you are handling this situation very well by offering one last chance with the kids. snazzy – this breaks my heart, but family is about love and acceptance, and that doesn’t always come with shared DNA.
This was a great post – thank you for sharing out. I’m sorry to know that this post is needed (by you and by others). Hopefully one day, it won’t be needed at all!
I just wanted to share a great book I’ve just read, and would recommend adding to the list of books on biblical support for gay marriage – Changing Our Mind, by David Gushee. http://www.amazon.com/Changing-Our-Mind-David-Gushee/dp/1939880769
thanks! I’ll check it out.
Just wanted to chime and second what everyone else here as said already – you gave very kind and classy responses to your discriminating family members and I applaud you for being able to do that. And reading this (along with other comments) kind of reinforces that sometimes the relationships that should feel the most secure and accepting (the relationship we have with our own families) can be the most toxic, and the only way to save ourselves is to walk away. I hope the day comes that your family can see what a lovely person you are and that this is more important then the rhetoric they throw at you.
I just want to say GREAT JOB on responding in a manner that is loving, patient, and firm. I may have to borrow, if that’s OK (the fiance’s family has some extremely religious folks in it who sometimes try to publicly shame my fiancé- they don’t yet know I’m not Christian, which will make it even worse- so we’re expecting some flak once the wedding invites go out).
I struggle with responding in defense of my love, without coming off as inflammatory (which, for some, is all the justification they need to feel self-righteous). Your response definitely takes the teeth out of their aggressive remarks, and I applaud you for it.
Please do borrow whatever you need. It’s really hard to find the right words when you’re hurting and angry. I’m glad I could help!
Wow! Amazing responses, I am actually going through this now. My fiancés family is is causing a lot of difficulties in my planning of our wedding. Any time I bring it up, or discuss any planning she sinks into this depression of thinking how her dad isn’t going to be at her wedding. I am trying to be positive and assure her that she WILL be surrounded by loved ones but it is painful for her. I find myself being the big spoon while she cries because her dad says some dumb ass comment about how he prays every night that she will wake up and “decide” to be with a man. Your responses give me hope! May need to spew these out at the next family function. Thanks!
In our situation, it was made clear the moment we became engaged that they would not be attending the wedding. Then we moved a few states away, making it even less likely. M got a few letters, a lot of guilt-trippy emails and texts, and some phone calls begging her to repent. M got one phone call the morning of our wedding asking her not to go through with it. Our wedding was absolutely wonderful. And it’s been relatively quiet since then. Fortunately, we don’t have any family functions to go to, because M won’t go if I’m not invited as a spouse. It’s been painful (really painful, especially for holidays), but we’re doing our best to manage the separation gracefully. It’s for the best, really. Wishing you and your fiance all the best on this difficult road.
Wow. Thanks so much for sharing this. Your responses are super caring and thoughtful. I am in awe! Dang, you are so bloomin classy! Good luck with it all, sorry you had to deal with this.
I love the whole letter EXCEPT the part: “Though you may not understand what I have gone through, please accept that for me, the choice was not between being straight or gay, but between being dead or alive.”
It sounds very “teenager”. No one will die without the love of their life (although it may feel like death – I can’t imagine life without my husband!!!). No one will die from not being able to have sex with the gender they are attracted to – or else I feel bad for all the celibate people out there, or for us people who are attracted to people no matter the gender. I am married to a man, but I certainly won’t die since I won’t be having sex with a woman any time soon. If you took that part out, it is beyond perfect! I like that you weren’t at all disrespectful to their beliefs but instead stated your position in a loving and firm way.
You’re right- without the background story, it sounds very melodramatic. We were not trying to communicate that life without sex would cause death. Rather, that it would be impossible to survive life as they expect us to live it. M was raised in an extremely strict fundamentalist atmosphere that does not tolerate differences. The impact that had on M, as a gay kid, led to severe mental health problems that went untreated. The way she explains it, she could either accept that there was nothing wrong with her, our she could accept that she was a terrible human and going to hell for something she couldn’t help, in which case, there’s no point in living.
LGBT people die as a direct result of homophobia everyday, be it suicide or straight up murder for being who we are. It’s condescending and incredibly homophobic to assume the OP is whining about sex like a teenager. I encourage you to think hard about what it means to be LGBT in our society, the never-ending struggles we face, the hatred lobbed at us all our lives, even and especially by the people closest to us (as the OP details in her post).
I have to applaud your ability to remain cool-headed in your correspondence. In my case, a heterosexual wedding that took place in a bar (well, a very old log cabin that housed a bar) as I wore a black and red dress with a ceremony that only mentioned God once (I identify as Christian but my husband has had enough negative experiences throughout his life with the religion that he still grimaces when the word “God” comes up), my grandmother got it into her head that it was a Satanic affair and chose to not come. I did not know that was the reason until my mother and I were on our way to her funeral and my mom let it slip. It was her decision and her lack of presence did nothing to detract from the day, but I wish she would have talked with me about it.
Lately, I have been having a real issue with how my mother discusses transgender people (my brother is the happiest he has been in quite some time because of the – currently transitioning to male – person that he is dating) . My mother is extremely disrespectful in the name of religion. She’s scared that the world she understood is changing and she’s a member of numerous online communities that fire her up, because they are proof that she is “right”. Ultimately, I have simply tried to keep my head cool and tell her that it’s well within her right to be offended by the way others live, to be uncomfortable, and to even be disrespectful – but that it hurts my heart to see her belittling and disrespecting another human being for a “choice” that she disagrees with and if she keeps this up, she will ultimately be alienating her son.
You may also want to watch/recommend the documentary “Fish Out of Water” which addresses biblical interpretations regarding homosexuality. As a preacher’s daughter who experienced trauma within the church for various reasons, not least my sexuality, I sobbed through this film. It’s important. It’s healing. I can’t recommend it enough: http://fishoutofwaterfilm.com
I’m a little late here, but I would throw in a bible verse. 1 Corinthians is loaded with love, and some of the verses have made this agnostic teary-eyed (I tend to get teary-eyed at weddings). How beautiful and appropriate is this:
“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
That’s a beautiful verse! It’s very tempting to use biblical verses, and in some cases it may work, but I’ve never found it effective. In the case of this verse, they see their objections to our relationship as an act of love. So the verse just adds more fuel to the fire. :\
My husband’s family acted like this. They’re super conservative Southern Baptist. Husband is trans. I’m Jewish. They went off on all the Jesus stuff, they sent husband cards telling him that he was going to hell and the devil was deluding him, and he’s actually a woman and he needs to come home. It didn’t matter what husband told them about Scripture, or interpretation thereof, or about what other Christians had to say. We tried all of the above approaches — we both have advanced degrees in religious studies and history, are extremely qualified to talk about theology, and none of that mattered. We were tools of Satan. For a lot of very conservative Christians, they are incapable of hearing you, because your interpretation of Scripture is /literally/ the work of the devil sent to delude and tempt them. They are rebuking you to kill the demonic influences in you and get to the part of you they know is inside, the “true you” uncorrupted by sin. Anything that counters that narrative is unintelligible to them. They have to love Jesus more than you. They have to. Or else their worldview will crumble. And most people cannot handle that cognitive dissonance.
For Christians like that, and for husband’s parents, all that worked was cutting them out completely. We have not spoken since before the wedding in November. I doubt we will speak. His mother spends a lot of time wailing about Jesus on Facebook where she hopes we’ll see, and talking about how his cousins are good, faithful children. Frankly, it’s her loss. There is a level of toxicity inherent in dealing with people who refuse to see you for who you are and will work constantly to change you into the person they insist you must really be, and it can be a deadly poison even at a low dose. If you’ve got people like this in your life, even in your family, do not feel an ounce of guilt for cutting them out cold. You must protect yourself. And sadly, that sometimes means protecting yourself against the people who should love you unconditionally. Unfortunately, when those people love Jesus more than their families, it’s impossible to bridge the gap. Don’t feel guilty for cutting people out of your life who refuse to be in it in healthy ways. That’s perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned from this whole experience. Just because someone is related to you doesn’t mean they have your best interests at heart and they will actually love you. It just means they share some of your DNA.
Yes! That is the situation, exactly. M is still negotiating her boundaries with the family, and they are still trying to convert her under the guise of getting to know her true heart. Meanwhile, it’s nice to know we’re not the only ones dealing with this.
I almost have the feeling like I /wish/ we were the only ones dealing with this because honestly, no-one else should ever have to deal with it. Ever. The level of pain this has caused husband, to say nothing of the rage, is bad enough. The way /other people/ react makes it worse. Husband gets well-meaning spiels from people about how his parents “aren’t really like that” and “they’ll come around” and “how could you hurt them so much by cutting them out?!” And that’s all about the speaker’s insecurities with their own parents or children, not about husband. The level of projection engendered by cutting out your parents is epic. Mind-blowing. Prepare yourselves if it hasn’t already begun. Straight folks especially want to lecture husband about How He Ought To Deal With His Parents Because Deep Down His Parents Love Him And Just Can’t Deal With Teh Gay Or Trans Or Whatever It Is. It’s gross as hell. It’s a club we don’t want to be in.
On the upside, however, the amount of people who have come out of the woodwork to be our family by choice is astounding. And my parents have stepped up to the plate far better than I ever could have hoped. Helps that Daddy has a gay brother who was doing the drag queen routines in Provincetown during the 80s, admittedly. But even when they stumble, they model the kind of love that gives us a lot of hope. Not that husband’s parents will come around. But that people like this, people who are fundamentally religious bigots, are a minority and do not dominate the world. They’re just loud and have undue influence right now. But the times, they are a-changin’ — and we’re making them change.
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