Coming Out a Second Time

(Via Pink Atheist in Albuquerque)

I broke my mother's heart in 1995.

I remained chaste and virginal until the age of 27. Hard to believe, I know. But for all of my sexually mature life, I had harbored the secret that "dare not speak its name". At least, that's what it was called a long time ago. I didn't have horrible parents from a fundamentalist religious background. In fact, I was baptized and confirmed a cradle Episcopalian: one of the more progressive members of the protestant family (or it used to be). I was even from Dallas, which though in conservative Texas, is still a pretty hip metropolitan area. But in March of 1995, inexplicably, it was time. It was time to end the lies and be honest about who I am, and possibly be hated for it, rather than loved for who I am not. So, in a period of a week, I came out to everyone. Friends, family, cashiers at the grocery store...ok, I hope I wasn't that bad...but it was a huge burden lifted, and I was happy about it.

As time passed, I got a partner, we adopted a son, and we all attended MCCA. I loved the fellowship of the people there, and I was happy to make my partner happy by attending. But deep inside, I knew as I always had, that I was yet again a liar and a fraud. I was pretending to be a believer in God, though I never really had been.

I grew up thinking of church as a place to go be uncomfortable in dress clothes, and to have potlucks. If the nonexistent god can be thanked for anything it is for deviled eggs, despite the irony in the name. These are the things I miss about church, and I wonder sometimes if the reason so many still cling to church is exactly because of that...we have become strangers to one another in our neighborhoods, and church is now the socio-worship center. I probably think too much, though.

In 2002, I embraced my atheism internally. But I realized that the price I would pay for coming out atheist would be further isolation from the remaining friends and family who had stuck by me the first time I came out. I was also unsure how my partner would take it. He eventually showed me his Christian nature by cheating and walking out on me and our son for a teenage meth addict, then dragging the druggie to church, I guess to ask for forgiveness from god. Knowing I needed no god to be the moral person I was, I decided that it was time to move on. I quit attending church in the summer of 2003. I miss some of the people there.

As time has passed, I found more confidence in who I am, but I have found that the coming out process as an atheist has been slower. I found the Brights, and discovered a like-minded group of people with a much more positive attitude than I have ever considered for atheists. I eventually had the Bright logo modified a bit and tattooed on my left arm. My mom has seen it, and all i told her was that it is a "sunrise from space, symbolizing the age of enlightenment". Technically, that's true. But I left the deeper meaning out of the conversation. She would never try to have an exorcism performed on me, or disown me, but she would spend many more sleepless nights than she already does praying for my "soul". Unless she finds out inadvertently, she will never know this secret.

I won't break my mother's heart again.


Intergalactic Hussy said...

Great story. We all want to "come out" in any way possible to everyone but its easier said than done. Coming out gay is way more important that coming out godless for many and its understandable. I'm bi but will not tell my parents because they kind of understand homosexuality but do not understand the spectrum of sexuality. And since the love of my life is a man, I guess its not necessary for them to know. Sometimes you have to choose your battles, so to speak.

As far as godlessness, my friends and family know but not everyone knows at work...but if they ask I'd tell. I just don't like getting into the topic at work because there's never enough time to really have that conversation.

Anonymous said...

It's so very hard to live an authentic life, that is to not have to deny your sexuality; your acceptance that there are no deities, no majik in the universe.
The problem is that so many scores of children have been told to assimilate, to believe what their parents believe and to be "straight" no matter what. How many men and women have married and had kids only to find they can't go on living a lie and either divorce or commit suicide.
Rejecting theism can force us into isolation because it is culturally acceptable to bash atheists, even(especially) here in Big D. The closet is a horrible place to be whether it's for sexuality or nontheism; being both is even more difficult, but they're not the only issues that people feel they need to hide away from family and friends.
Don't worry about your mom's heart. You take care of you and keep undo guilt from taking it's toll. Mom probably has a few things stashed away in her own closet.