I phoned my mother this evening to thank her. I am so grateful to her and my father for their prayers.
I recalled to her a terrible time twenty years ago, of which today is the anniversary. She didn't remember the date, but I've never forgotten that Victoria Day, 1988, was when our big fight began, an argument that threatened to completely tear me away from them when we most needed each other.
I found out they were praying for my deliverance from homosexuality.
Had been praying, for the three years since I'd come out to them. Three years. Three #%$&!@ years during which they hadn't said a thing to me about this. Not a thing. Three %&*$^ years.
At first I was too stunned to say anything. I didn't let on there was a problem and just let the full awfulness of the situation unfold as my mother explained what had been going on.
She and I had been talking on the Monday morning of the long weekend, talking about homosexuality, which was unusual for us. Normally she studiously avoided the topic, despite my many attempts to draw her into discussion. My father, a United Church minister, had heard me out on several occasions as I challenged the traditional church teaching on the subject. I thought he was reasonably sympathetic to my point of view. Mom, I knew, was not very comfortable about the whole business. But give her time, I thought, hopefully she'll come around.
Well! What a rude shock awaited me. She mentioned something about schoolteachers and role models. I stopped her. "Mom," I explained, "there are some terms that set off my alarm bells, and 'role model' is one of them, so you'd better tell me exactly what you mean."
At this point she buckled, revealing for the first time how distressed she and my father were about the "lifestyle" I was leading. My father too! ... okay, go on.
They'd met with a touring evangelist, Peter Marshall, Jr, when he visited Montreal. Marshall had prayed together with them that I be delivered from homosexuality, which he considered demonically inspired.
What a relief that I already had plans to go out for lunch with several good friends of mine, to whom I poured out my shock and hurt and anger about my parents. "Humour them," one friend advised me. I couldn't imagine how I could do that. This cut way too deep.
And what a time, too, for this all to be happening, when my father was seriously ill.
It got worse.
In the afternoon, once Dad came home, he revealed that he could find meaning in his illness and the possibility of his own death if somehow good might come of these for me and my brothers. In my case he was telling me he was prepared to die for the sake of taking away my sexuality. How could he say such a thing! Being gay wasn't just something I did, it was who I was. It was at the centre of my identity. And he was trying to take that away from me.
I might as well not exist. If somehow their prayers actually succeeded--I couldn't imagine how--it wouldn't be me anymore.
This was spiritual rape. Their prayers were an attack on my essence.
I controlled my fury, just playing along until I could get safely back to Toronto. Late in the afternoon, we hugged goodbye at the Dorval train station as if everything were perfectly normal between us.
For five hours I seethed, rehearsing in my mind everything I was going to say to them. By the time the train pulled into Union Station, I was ready to kill something.
I made my way home and called Montreal. With perfect restraint I told my parents I didn't want to talk further right then but I had to let them know I was absolutely furious with both of them.
Then I went for a walk. That night I marched clear across the city, practically, from College and Ossington to Main Street, roughly ten kilometres. I cursed my father, cursed especially my mother for turning him against me, cursed this Peter Marshall for poisoning their minds, cursed everybody and everything that stood in the way of my just being allowed to live my life in peace.
Ah yes, peace. "[T]he fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23). Whereas "the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like" (5:19-21). But in those days, though I attended Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto almost every Sunday, such passages of scripture were unfamiliar to me, and few doubts about the justice of my cause troubled me as fresh gusts continually whipped up my monologue into exquisite peaks of rage.
At last, exhausted, I boarded a streetcar to take me back to the west end. Around 3 in the morning, I plodded up to the house and upstairs, and tumbled into bed.
To be continued.
Update (2 February 2012): At last, on the anniversary of my father's death, I've linked to the follow-up post, a Father's Day reflection on how his sacrificial love helped me become the man I am today.
Update (17 June 2013): I've altered the Father's Day link to point to my reposting of the piece here on The Sheepcat.