…the parched land shall become a pool, and the thirsty lands springs of water…(Isaiah 35:7)

How Silence Feels

What It Is Like

By Rex Goode


silenceA good friend of mine suffered horrible abuse in his family of origin as a boy. He was not the only one in the family, but in his adult life, he is the only one in the family willing to talk about it. In fact, talking about it has earned him the disinheritance from some, anger from others, and forced silence from those that are still willing to include him in family functions. Those in the family who are willing to talk with him about it will not join him in talking with the others.

It was made clear to him that when he is at extended family functions, that any mention of the abuse will result in being asked to leave. Even those who are willing to admit it happened are unwilling to talk about it.As a survivor of abuse myself, I feared these same consequences if I ever talked about anything. My own mother, who was wonderful, said to me one day after I told her what she didn’t know was happening to me in her own home decades before that she felt that people shouldn’t talk openly about their problems. Many things had happened to her in her life and she felt that the best way to deal with it was to just not talk about it.

She softened that point of view in her later years. I somewhat forced the issue, because I responded to her that if I hadn’t felt her way when the abuse was happening, I might have told her about it when there had still been time to do something about it.

I suffered much of my childhood under the delusion that my biological father was some heroic sailor lost at sea. Someday, he would be found on a desert island, return to civilization and rescue me from my abusers. It wasn’t true, but what’s a young boy to think when his mother doesn’t speak of his father at all and life is full of pain and fear?

I remember lying awake at night, after a particularly horrific experience where I was either beaten or forced to perform sex acts, crying and imagining a knock on the door. It would be my father and he would storm into the house and take me away. It never happened.

I wasn’t a stupid child. Far from it. Keeping silent about what really happened to my father wasn’t helping me. I knew there were enormous holes in the story and I filled in those holes with the only scenario that would result in my rescue.

I’m not trying to blame my mother, here. She was a product of her generation. She believed in a positive mental attitude. She believed that she was protecting me from truths I was too young to grasp, while behind her back things were happening that should never happen to a young boy. In other words, despite her best intentions, she was protecting me from the wrong thing.

Over the years, bits and pieces of the story about my father leaked out. I overheard things when they didn’t know I was listening. Again, without an open and frank discussion about it, I found myself filling in the holes with new stories. The hero was gone and many new speculations grew into what seemed a reality.

Eventually I met my father and overheard my mother, on her death bed, telling my cousins the whole story, at least as whole as she could make it under the influence of morphine. The story is still incomplete, but I’ve finally been able to let it go. I love my father, though he tends to be somewhat non-communicative. It’s OK. My life is pretty great now.

I have a lot of abuse-survivor friends. We gravitate to one another and it seems universally true that our families were not happy to have us talk so openly about what happened to us. If I could distill my experience with family silence with the experiences of my friends into one feeling, I would call that feeling abandonment.

All of those friends have told me that the reaction of their families to their revelation of abuse has been that if we want to be fully accepted in the family, we need to keep the silence with them. How it sounds to us is, “Either shut up or you are out of the family, abandoned and left alone.”

Fortunately, in my family, the old guard idea is gone. We are open. We talk about things. We acknowledge our imperfections and hold together.

Believe it or not, my purpose in writing all of this isn’t really about the silence surrounding abuse. I have made a strong case against this silence, but I want to apply that case to another issue. I’m talking about homosexuality in the Church, specifically, in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which I am a faithful member.

In about 1996, I revealed to the world via the internet that I am someone who deals with same-sex attraction and is remaining faithful to the teachings of the Church. I am also remaining faithful to my wife.

For an example of something I wrote in those early years, see With Everlasting Kindness.

Before that “coming out”, I was very well-connected in the local church congregation. I was known for having several callings at a time and enjoyed the reputation of being a scriptorian and talented person. In short, everybody liked me, or if some didn’t, they were very good actors.

At that time, there weren’t a lot of people using the internet in the Church. It was fairly new and things like blogs and social media didn’t exist. I was maintaining a web site with my essays about my same-sex attraction, in fact this web site, although not in blog form as it is now. People weren’t reading it. They didn’t know about me. Far more people outside of my ward knew about me than inside.

Yet, I still felt a growing disconnect from them. I suffered no loss of testimony and no loss of desire to be faithful to the Church and stand firm on its doctrines. Today, I am every bit as committed.

However, as time has gone by and I’ve become more well known outside of the my local area, I still have no idea how many people in my local ward know. A few do, probably more than in the ward where I previously lived. It has become less important to me whether they know.

I can see a mental graph of the whole experience. The more open I have been, the more alone I have felt. That seems strange to me, considering my experience with talking in my family about abuse. With persistence, I have felt more love from my family. The more they know, the more they love me. That’s how it feels.

It doesn’t feel that way at church, which by all accounts, is supposed to be somewhat like family. I think that is because the silence on the entire topic of homosexuality is thick. It feels like I bump into it on all sides.

It feels like that because I become aware of people who are succumbing to a secular point of view about homosexuality and can completely understand why they end up listening more to secular influences than to what the church says, because for the most part, the local church isn’t saying anything. There are young people who can’t figure out how to reconcile their deep, personal feelings of attraction to the same sex with the heavily heterosexual culture at church.

There are young and old who must figure out on their own how to deal with friends and family who are gay, because very little is said in church about it. As the cliche goes, the silence is deafening.

In just the last few weeks, the Church at the general level took a large step in creating a website about this very question. It is called Mormons and Gays. The basic message is that we have a sacred Christian duty, as members of the Church, to treat all with the utmost of kindness and love. The Church fully intends to maintain its doctrine regarding morality, but offers no excuse for the unkind treatment of those who have homosexual feelings.

The web site is a good step, but it does very little to dispel the feeling that I have felt as I struggle through life as a gay man who is committed to a heterosexual life and fully believes in a doctrine that proscribes homosexual behavior.  If I could name that feeling, like with those who struggle with abuse issues, I would also call it abandonment.

Let me be clear. I am not saying that the local church has abandoned me. I am talking about a feeling that makes it difficult to feel connected.

This lament is not so much about me. My commitment and understanding are quite solid. I don’t need to feel connected to be there. I’ve had plenty of time to think through my beliefs and feelings and stand firmly on the side of the Church.

My bishops have all been tolerant, even if they don’t see a lot of reason to make an issue of it with me. I haven’t done anything that would require me to talk to them in more depth about it. I have no expectations that they should show me some kind of special attention.

My concern is for those who are still in the throes of trying to reconcile their feelings with the teachings of the Church. It is also for those who are the parents, family, and friends of those who experience same-sex attraction. How long can a person go on feeling abandoned and disconnected before they choose the only path that seems to hold out a sense of belonging and connection? How long can you endure silence of one influence before you open your mind to others?

A priesthood leader once asked me, “Aren’t you afraid that if we talk to young people about homosexuality that we will be giving them ideas they didn’t already have?” Though I understood his mindset, I really couldn’t believe that someone could be that unaware of the influences and voices already speaking about the subjects that priesthood leaders won’t.

As much as I have figured out my own life and yet still find many parts of it difficult to endure and remain steadfast, how much more difficult must it be for those who are just emerging into wondering about their feelings and sexuality? I still find myself wondering if the local church will ever say the “H” word.

7 people like this post.

5 Responses to “How Silence Feels”

  1. Bob said:

    Very well written Mr. Rex. Thank you for putting into written words my feelings as well.


  2. Den said:

    I find this goes to the heart of the issues many fight , well written.

  3. David John Weck Spooner said:

    Thank U for being a fb friend, I was trying to remember how to find UR blogspots, etc; then I went & discovered it on UR fb pg. Yours & my life are some what the same!

  4. My Long-Awaited Day | Northern Lights said:

    […] Secret or not, I’ve struggled with the lack of forthrightness there has been on it. For many years, I never so much as heard the terms “homosexual,” “gay,” or “same-sex attraction.” It has been a very uneasy feeling for the reasons I outlined in my blog post, “How Silence Feels.” […]

  5. What's So Hard About It – Northern Lights said:

    […] “How Silence Feels“, I asked two […]

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