He posted it to his Facebook page on National "Coming Out" Day. I only found out about it today when my mother and I were having lunch at a local greasy spoon. She handed me her iPhone and I read his post. I was floored. I never once suspected and I wasn't even sure he was serious until I thought it over carefully and realized he wouldn't joke about something this serious, especially in our family.

Meanwhile my mother took the opportunity to show her true colors. "I don't understand why people feel the need to post that stuff all over Facebook," she said.

My face burned. I forced myself to keep a straight face and hold back the tears as I remembered how my mother reacted the day I told her I was an atheist. The yelling. The screaming. The threats. The manipulation. At the time, I was disabled and living under her roof. It got so bad my counselor and others urged me to report her to Adult Protective Services, but after I did, things got even worse. After I moved out of the house, she tried to regain control by urging my counselor to put me in a mental institution. Her reason? She thought I was demon-possessed. Why else would I reject the Lord? As I type this, I still have trouble believing she could do such a thing to me. But she did. I also have trouble believing I ever found it in my heart to forgive her. 

"I don't understand," she kept saying of my nephew's Facebook revelation. "I really don't. I don't understand." Did she really want me to explain it to her? There was nothing I could say that wouldn't piss her off, so I decided not to take the bait: "If I have to explain it to you, you'll never understand. We're not going to have this conversation."

I stopped right there to type a message to my nephew: "Gay, straight, bi or whatever, you have my support! When I 'came out' as an atheist, no one gave me any support. On this issue, you have mine."

"Well, we can be atheist together!" he replied. Another complete stunner! "And thank you very much. I wasn't sure how you or grandma [name of bigoted party withheld] would have taken the news, but I am glad to hear you are okay with it. Love you and take care!"

I had to tell him my mother hadn't taken the news very well. He needs to know the truth so he can protect himself. Everyone thinks my mother is so sweet, so giving, so kind. I'm the only one who has seen her dark side. Those who haven't seen it for themselves don't believe me. I always come off looking like the bad guy, so I've learned to keep the truth to myself.

This is what I really want to tell my mother: The fact that you don't understand why people feel the need to "post that stuff all over Facebook" is exactly why people need to post that stuff all over Facebook.

I'm feeling almost pissy enough to tell her exactly that...

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Another black sheep in the family, congrats! I'm glad you're no longer on your own in your family!

Hiding who you are may be among the most stressful activities a person can foist upon themselves, because it amounts to at least a partial denial of that person's identity.  Coming out and being public about oneself means dropping those behaviors and treating yourself as though Nothing Is Wrong With You, a healthy attitude if ever I knew one. Certainly, it can be painful, as there are still others who think being gay or atheist are inappropriate behaviors, but as more people treat such parts of their personalities as NORMAL and the more support there is for them in the general population, the less stigma attaches with doing so.  This has already proven to be the case in the LGBT community and is becoming more so with atheism.

Certainly there are still places in the US where being publicly gay or atheist is at least problematic, but even in the bible belt, people like Rebecca Vitsmun are not just coming out but blatantly announcing their atheism, in her case to reporter Wolf Blitzer on CNN in the wake of the Moore, Oklahoma EF-5 tornado.  She and many others are rejecting what has been a generally accepted if totally unjustified sanction of such people and asserting that we belong, that we have a right to be who we are, with an attendant right not to be castigated for our own identity.

The madding crowd may take a while to catch up to us, and some of them will not do so willingly, but this is no great surprise.  In the long run, they have two choices: keep pace ... or get left behind.

.....great post Loren....I concur 100%.

Despite coming out, I STILL have to hide who I am around my mother. I think it might be destroying me. Hiding who I am probably contributes hugely to my health problems, but I'm not sure what to do because I'm sick and must rely on my mother. Her recent demand that I not "swear" in her presence and her inability to understand why gay people need to "come out" have made me take another look at our relationship and I don't like what I see.

In order to survive, I have to pretend to be someone I'm not. Most of the people in this area will take my mother's side immediately and when it comes to those who might not, she sucks up to them so she'll look like a saint and I'll look like the bad guy. As my health deteriorates, it becomes more and more dangerous to cross her. I think she needs me to be in a subservient position so she can feel powerful. When I get angry, I either turn it inward or lash out at someone who doesn't deserve it.

I stopped watching the news so her idiotic spouting of Fox News talking points would stop bothering me so much. But because I have to listen to her, I think I might be unconsciously absorbing some of her noxious views. I thought I was becoming more accepting of others, but accepting right-wing religious fanatics might mean I will become more like them and that scares the hell out of me.

Whatever self esteem I may have had is just about gone. Because I have to hide, I'm not even sure who I am anymore. There's enough of me left to recognize this, but maybe not enough to do anything about it.

Look on the bright side. You now have an ally in the family. And an atheistic one as a bonus. If you already haven't. I'd suggest letting your nephew know about the evilness of your mother; trying to commit you, etc. And, any other family members who would actively try to harm him and you. Bigots are bigots. My father was one, so I have more than a fair amount of empathy for you. Stay strong.

A gay atheist - so, your nephew's going to hell twice!

How old is he? I hope his parents are taking this in stride, or at least not in a position to make his life miserable, which is a typical religious parent reaction. I agree it's got to be a good thing that the black sheep bastion of sanity in your family has just doubled its population!

Keep on keeping on, Kathy!

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