My family didn't actually start out religious. My grandfather came home from WWII wanting nothing to do with god or the church. But for reasons that'll never be known to me, he had a turning point where he jumped in with both feet, joining his wife and kids in their churchly activities and since then, my grandfather has boasted perfect attendance for decades since. By the time I came along, my very large family were deep in Christianity - my father an elder, my mother a youth leader. It wasn't hard to be a Christian. Literally everyone I knew and loved was one. The people I feared for, in terms of suffering eternal hellfire were people who were just less serious Christians.
And so it was and so it seemed to forever be. As my family grew and extended ever further out, we did seem to have a knack for finding other very serious and like-minded Christians. A liberal in my family was someone who thought that gay people might actually be spared hell-fire by god. But such views were never discussed during family time.
Over this last weekend, after Thanksgiving, a small group of us, 13 in total, spent Friday in Kentucky, at Ken Ham and AiG's Ark Encounter. For those that do not know, this is a $100mil life-sized Noah's Ark that teaches the global flood was real and happened some 4,000-ish years ago. Don't worry, none of us paid to get in. We're all lifetime members due to a $5,000 donation my parents gave during its construction. Afterwards, we went to the Creation Museum which, like the Ark Park, teaches creation is real and happened some 6,000-ish years ago. Don't worry, none of us paid to get in due to $1,000 of my own money that I gave when the Creation Museum was being built. The trip, I thought would be fun irony, and a trip down memory lane of my former beliefs. But it quickly turned sickening for me and I feared the message the young ones in my family would take away from these places. Yes, both places say being gay is a sin worthy of death. As is... metalworking? Seriously, it was on a sign, I don't understand...
Anyway, the kids with us seemed to really take it all in and take it to heart. This was extremely disheartening for me as it seemed that my secret apostasy would just be perpetual. Then Saturday came and my side of the family had another get together. It was an informal thing with just 46 of us in total. And during that luncheon, my eldest nephew sought me out because he wanted to have a serious conversation. See, I am now in my mid-thirties and still unwed. The family pressure on me to find and marry a woman, any woman at this point, got so intense that I had to set up some hard boundaries and my family is no longer welcome in that part of my life. It seems that my nephew, now 20 years old, is feeling similar pressures to find a woman and wed. And he started asking me how I've dealt with it. And then, in the seriousness of our conversation, he revealed that he does not hold to the family's rigid traditional views, that, in fact, at least two of the girls he dated would've been rejected by the family. But truly, he just isn't interested in dating and has only done so in the past to maintain appearances. He asked me how important family acceptance was to me. And I told him that it was important to me, but that I would not prioritize it over my own well-being and happiness. It was at this moment he asked me if I am gay. ((No kiddo, I am actually a sexually deviant poly-amorous pansexual who doesn't really care what equipment you got between your legs so long as you aren't a POS and can carry on an interesting conversation)) I actually just smiled and said that it was an area of my life I'd prefer to remain private. I know what conclusion he drew from this but I'm not overly worried about it. Our conversation turned to him asking me how to make the family okay and accepting of someone who might not hold to the traditional social norms but I discouraged him from this hope. While it may be possible to gain family acceptance over social deviation, this will only occur so long as the deviation isn't too extreme from the general direction of the family. He might be able to gain family acceptance if he started dating a Baptist girl, because it's different but... maybe to so different as it can't be rationalized... maybe. But if the social deviation were extreme, like a same gendered partner, no, acceptance will never come because this is a deviation so extreme that the act itself will be perceived as an attack against the family. Is it possible for mutual respect to be rebuilt over time if I or another were to come out as gay? Sure. But there is no fast-forward button over the initial fallout that would be nothing short of calamitous.
But this conversation gave me a certain amount of hope over the long-term well-being and happiness of my younger family members. I was locked in my religion for over 30 years. But that nephew, at 20, is asking how to cope with deviating from the family's social norms. His younger brother, who also sees me as a confidant, has the opposite problem, but still of the same extreme. He's naturally charismatic. He has an intensively attractive personality, but it's an intense personality. Girls find him interesting but quickly get worn out and frustrated because the same energy that makes him interesting has no off switch so quickly becomes too much to handle. So he goes through girlfriends at an alarming pace. I think he's had 8 in the past 12 months. But whatever, that's hardly something to get upset over. But the family is upset. His father is upset. Because this does not align with the family's values that he is to settle down and marry.
Never mind the youngest of those three boys who has also admitted to me that he finds himself attracted to his male best friend.
These are just three in a very large family of many kids. I have 13 nieces and nephews and I am distant to many of them just due to proximity and circumstance. But they all look up to me as the "cool uncle." And many see me as the one they can talk to when they feel their parents wouldn't understand. I am intensely protective of them and I am not at all beyond warning my sisters if I feel any of them are in danger, as once happened when one fell into a bad crowd and I, by pure effing luck, just happened to be at the right place and right time to see. But they also trust me as their secret keeper. And while I will not steer any of their paths, I do try to let all of them know that they have an ally, regardless the path they choose. Even if it leads them away from the family's values.
My one fear is that some day I will be accused of leading them astray. That I have become a possessed agent of some goat satyr whose obsessed with kids making their own choices. That by not playing informant to my sisters of their kid's deviations from our family values that I am complicit in their being "lead astray." But all I desire is that they make their own decisions, and that they seek happiness and fulfillment in those choices, even if that means staying in the religion. But in the mean time, I feel there needs to be a foil to the propaganda. And they certainly won't hear it from that god damned Ark Park.