I mentioned a while ago that I was facing a some Prop. 8 fallout while spending Christmas with family members who are staunch LDS believers.
On the appointed day Tobi (my boyfriend) and I, along with my son A., packed our bags and headed for Zion.
Tobi helped spread the Christmas cheer by bringing some Japanese snacks. If you click on the photo you can see the jelly beans I bought plus the pickled octopus and dried baby crab shells that Tobi so generously provided. The visual effect of the pickled octopus was just great. (My sister's family is not particularly adventurous when it comes to food.) I have to give them credit; everyone tried the octopus and crunchy crab shells. I have to say that the jellybeans were more popular.
Tobi liked the American style of Christmas celebration. It was the first time he had spent the holiday with a large Christian family. He was shocked by one aspect: there was a huge pile of shredded wrapping paper and ribbon after the massive frenzy of present opening. In Japan it is very bad manners to rip the wrapping paper off of a gift. You have to unwrap the present gently and neatly fold the wrapping paper, even if it will be thrown away later. The idea is that the wrapping is part of the gift, and you shouldn't show disrespect to the giver of the gift by tearing off the paper.
Prop. 8 was the elephant in the living room during our visit. My sister and her family were generally kind to Tobi and me, but we weren't welcome to stay in the house with the rest of the family. Instead, we spent nights at a nearby bed and breakfast. To be fair, the house was full, but nonetheless I think some accommodation would have been made if we were a married opposite-sex couple.
One evening my son (who did stay with his cousins at my sister's house) came down the stairs and heard two of his uncles (two of my brothers-in-law) talking about gay marriage in the living room. My brothers-in-law didn't know my son was passing in the hall, and so my son overheard their conversation. My son stood in the hall with a sinking feeling in his stomach as his uncles dismissed gay marriage as unholy and civil unions and domestic partnerships as a slippery slope. Hearing this really hurt my son a lot, especially because he knows very well the tough situation that Tobi and I are in precisely due the lack of civil protections for our relationship. I guess I'm glad that at least my brothers-in-law didn't have the guts to say what they thought to my face.
Later I told my son that he could have gone in and defended what he thought was right or just kept walking.
I can't put my finger on it exactly, but I sense that the recent extraordinary involvement of the church in anti-gay politics has harmed relations in my family. There's a new rift. There's a sense of caution that I didn't notice before, on my part as well as theirs. I know they view me as a sinner and an apostate, even though I am by far the favorite uncle of my nieces and nephews. (I'm the best cook in family and over the years have organized some of the most memorable family events and outings.) I, in turn, see their moral views as self-serving justifications for out-dated patriarchy. I'm a sinner, and they're bigots. That's a fine kettle of fish!
The silver lining is that the older generation's attitudes will die off. The generations are very different in terms of politics. My nieces and nephews all voted for Obama, even though their parents are social conservatives who supported the McCain/Palin ticket. The younger generation's views on gay marriage are mixed. In my family, I'd say that 60% of the active Mormon's under 30 support full marriage rights for same-sex couples and the rest are okay with federally recognized civil unions that have all of the rights of marriage without using the name. In time, the next generation will prevail, and long-held prejudice will fall by the wayside.
This is a picture of my son and the husband of one of my nieces. (Neither of them are LDS.)
You can see that the snow was fresh. This kind of weather makes me love Utah. I love my Mormon family as well. I just wish they could open their hearts.