A few days ago I stumbled upon a rather vindictive online attack against my family and me. A Mormon blogger and pundit spitefully titled his post "Yes, your gay family is as fake as the day is long" while slapping a picture of my husband, my daughter, and myself at the top of his diatribe.
I wasn't sure if I should laugh at the absurdity of this person's angry rebuke or be offended. Being mocked on the Internet by someone you have never met is an experience that's, honestly, hard to describe.
Having an entire blog post labeling my life fake, insulting my family, and then denying that homophobia even exists -- as this blogger strives to do -- is both surprising and very, very troubling.
A few months back, when I wrote a personal piece about how the recent General Conference remarks from one of the Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affected me as a gay parent and Mormon convert, I figured there might be some backlash. Never read the comments section, is what my editor wisely told me.
Overall, I knew the risks and was glad I put my heart into my op-ed. I was happy with how I used my column to express my insights on Elder L. Tom Perry's speech asserting my family was somehow counterfeit because it consists of two gay fathers. I felt I had presented my perspective in a clear, concise, and honest way.
After it went live, I braced myself for some of my stalwart LDS friends to take issue with my views -- one did indeed text me to say my piece, while well-written, was also borderline salacious and libelous. We bantered over it, we briefly battled over it, and ultimately we agreed to disagree and moved on. Our friendship was, thankfully, stronger than our divergent views.
Beyond this one contentious moment with my friend -- a friend who baptized me into the Mormon faith at the age of 18 -- I was surprised at the overall support I received from my fellow Mormons. That is, up until this delightfully awful "fake family" post crossed my path.
Now, I'm a firm believer that everyone has a right to their opinion and the expression of said opinion. I don't, however, believe that having the right to express your views gives you a license to attack, insult, and name-call.
Seeing my life called fake honestly doesn't sting or hurt me. But I can't deny the fact that this toxic rhetoric is a form of Internet bullying under the guise of righteous, better-than-you religious privilege.
The blogger's post is so weighted down with gospel principles in an effort to prove his point of view that it is gleeful in its dismissiveness of my family. In his eyes, it's the truth. The key problem with religiously grounded truth is that it's only truth to those who believe in said religion. To everyone else, it's just another opinion.
To call my family fake and to then take the picture of my family -- to steal the image from my Advocate column with my husband and baby girl -- and to use it as religious propaganda in a war against not only my family but the entire LGBT community is a step too far. Come after me and my husband if you must, but leave my innocent daughter out of your mean-spirited vendetta.
I'm actually quite sad for this blogger. To so vehemently classify any family that lacks the "sanction," "revelation," and "promise" of God as a family that is less than, not equal, and deserving of condemnation is a hateful and narrow-minded worldview.
To look at a family like mine and to judge our legitimacy in a lengthy blog post is indicative of our current cultural divide -- the heated battle between the religious and the secular we see splashed across the news and in our presidential campaigns. It's a prime example of how the religious lash out at any who question their right to discriminate based on their closely held principles.
I resist the blogger's declaration that only a family that is ordained by a heavenly power has value. I don't agree that the family unit was created and instituted solely "by God for the glory of God."
There are many types of families in the world, made up of numerous and beautifully unique configurations. Many of these families do not believe or follow any religious edicts. And that's OK. A family, regardless of how it is made up, is based on love. Love is what makes a family, not a family's belief in God.
In reading the post I found his efforts to silence me very telling. Five times I'm told to stop expressing myself. Five times I'm called upon to stop using my voice.
Those who use religion as a means to belittle others -- to make others into something other than human -- seek to silence those like me who exist outside their convictions. His response is a perfect example as to the very reason I spoke up in the first place.
If the blogger's main goal was too pick apart my article line by line in an effort to discredit me and insult me into silence, he's picked the wrong writer to bully. I will always speak, I will write, and I will stand against those who strive to silence my community and me.
My gay family is not fake. We're as real as any other family. We are not less than worthy, less than equal, and certainly not less than deserving of respect and dignity. We are just three people who love each other, fiercely, deeply, and eternally. We're living our lives and striving for the best our world has to offer. I am so blessed and thankful that I can indeed call us a family. No one can or ever will take that right away from me.
BRIAN ANDERSEN is a writer and indie comic book creator who lives in San Francisco with his husband and gorgeous baby daughter.