Love Conquers All: Brian Walsh's Story
Written by: Brian Walsh (Jacksonville)
I have some good news and some bad news, my uncle died, my fathers brother at the end of last week. It's been a long couple years since Ive spoken to my dad because of some religious bigotry and celibacy comments he made to me. My father was the very last person I allowed in my life who in any way thought I was a sinner or biblically inept and when I finally told him I loved him more than the world, but could no longer have him damage my soul like that, I felt a release of freedom. At the same time I told my catholic deacon dad that I was an atheist, quite possibly more painful than my being gay. It's been nearly two silent years. While the freedom to be me and freed of that hold he had on me was liberating, it also caused me great pain knowing that one or the other of us could bury the other under these circumstances. It has tested me and challenged me in ways I never knew and I hoped it would give my father the time he needed and the cognitive pressure to make some changes that would rid our lives of the internalized societal and religious homophobia that has been a part of our lives since I can remember.
It was never that my father was so homophobic that he went around dropping fag or homo, he was in fact kind to James for all of our 15+ years together, he was inclusive in that he was polite and kind to us at holiday dinners, and even had pictures of us on his living room wall. But in this fast moving world of times changing and my soul awakening to a different expectation from my father on gay acceptance and the rights that would afford his gay son a life that would put to rest the painful past 47 years of my life of homophobia. But there was always the underlying devoting to the church and his allegiance to it that was painful in that he always seemed to chose it over his own sons freedom and true peace.
Yesterday I called him for the first time in almost 2 years. He is now the only surviving sibling of his brothers and sisters, he is heartbroken to lose his oldest brother. When I dialed his number I was numb, afraid and truly there was no rehearsing what could or should be said. I simply just pressed the call button and threw caution to the wind to reach out to my father at his time of need. My uncle's death was the impetus for us to cry and cross bridges through a dialogue that we have never had before, a two way conversation that for one of the first times in my life involved my thoughts and opinions on being gay and atheist. We were able to break down walls and come to some agreements on my atheism and equality. In the words of my dad "Brian if your an atheist, I want you to be the best atheist you can be" and "Brian I accept you and James, and I want for you both everything that your mother and I had in our marriage, all the rights and protections. I don't think your a sinner for being gay and I don't expect you to be celibate". While we now come from two very different worlds we were able to find some common ground. We ended the conversation maybe having said I love you a zillion times and I think both of us carrying a much lighter load. I think we both needed that.