Sunday, September 2, 2012

"I'm cool that you're gay, BUT..."

I haven't blogged for a while, because I've been busy writing, but lately I've been noticing this irritating trait in people that CLAIM to support gay people. I'm not talking about the real bigots, I am referring to the ones who honestly delude themselves into thinking they are being supportive. I almost wanted to call this post "The Silent Homophobia" but it wasn't quite right because they're not exactly silent, except when it comes to being honest with themselves.

Maybe it's a sibling, or a niece or a your own child that comes out to them and they say, "That's okay, I don't care, you're still my sibling/niece/child and I love you."

Yay! Now the gay person can breathe a sigh of relief. They have come out and received the acceptance they were terrified they might not get.
Life is good.

Until the person adds the inevitable "BUT...."

....but don't tell your grandparents."
....but don't bring your partner around the kids."
....but don't tell my husband."
....but don't start talking about gay rights and stuff."
....but I don't want to hear about anyone your dating."
....but you can't bring your partner to Christmas because of my in-laws."

Um, excuse me?!?!?!?!?!
I thought you just said you were cool with them being gay?!?!

Sounds to me like you aren't.

If you were truly supporting them, you would not place restrictions on who they are.

Now you might never use homophobic slurs or even say, "That is so gay." You may consider yourself quite liberal. But with comments like this, you are trying to convince them and yourself that you are open minded when in reality you just told them, "I'm cool that you are gay, but just don't be gay around me."

Newsflash: there is no off switch for being gay. I sure as hell can't turn off my straight side. It's not some entity within me I can ignore or leave at home. IT IS WHO I AM.

Same thing with being gay. IT IS WHO THEY ARE.

It ain't rocket science, people.

To the family members who have said these things, I implore you to THINK about what you say next. You may not even realize how hurtful you are being, which is why I wrote this post.

How would you feel if someone said, "That's cool that you have kids, but please don't ever bring them to my house or start talking to me about kid stuff or school. That just isn't my scene."

You would both be startled and offended.

No person who truly loves you would speak in such a thoughtless fashion. You would begin to question if that person truly cared about you and the things important to you. And doubtless you would start to distance yourself from that person and choose to cultivate healthier relationships with others.

Now some idiots might say my analogy is not a good one, but think about it. If a gay man has a boyfriend he loves that person and they are important to him.....Duh. You love your kids and they are an important part of YOUR life. How is his love any less valuable than yours? Wouldn't you be hurt if he told you not to bring your kids around? Of course you would be! You love them and someone who loves you should love them too.

Ask yourself: Is the perception of what others think about me more important to me than trying to be supportive and accepting of my family member?

Is it pride or ignorance which I base my actions on?

How would I feel if they said, "I love you BUT...." to me?

To all of you people who have said these things, I want to give you the benefit of the doubt and say that you are not thinking before you speak. I want to blame it on your ignorance and peer pressure when your gay family member puts their heart out there and bravely invites you to go to a Pride event with them and you say, "No, that's not my scene" or "I don't think I'd be comfortable."

That's why I am writing this. As a reminder that words have so much power. Constantly telling them you are "fine with them being gay" is like telling your son, "It's okay, I'm fine that you were born a boy and not a girl." After awhile that son is going to know you are NOT okay and you wished you had a daughter. I always say if you repeat yourself three or more times you are trying to convince yourself. Hell maybe you need to convince yourself you are okay having a gay relative. Go see a counselor if you have to, because obviously you have some issues. If you care about that person taking steps to come to terms with things is okay. I wish people didn't feel this way, didn't have to learn to accept that some people are born gay but unfortunately it is still part of the world we live in.

Remember: your family member isn't any different than they were before. Its only in your eyes that they are and that is YOUR problem not theirs. If you love them, fix it. And you can start by thinking about the impact of what you say to them.

Maybe you never planned to be hurtful. But the casual indifference to a relative who has come out to you, ignoring it or pretending that nothing has changed except for the new stipulations YOU have placed on the relationship, hurts them.

It hurts them and eventually they will drift out of your life.

Is that what you want?

Do you not want your gay relative in your life?

Now I am sure I have been thoughtless with things I've said, and I am sure I will be again. I am only human after all. But I am hoping that a few people might read this and reevaluate the way they speak to their gay family members. Because it is not the "I love you" that they heard.

The only words they will remember are the ones that came after "BUT...."

Those are the words which will drive a wedge into your relationship, possibly severing it to the point of no return. Maybe that is secretly what you want. Maybe you don't want the "embarrassment" of having a gay relative. Maybe you wish they could be "normal" and they hadn't "shattered" your little world. If that is who you are, then they are better off without you in their life.

Since you are reading this, I'm hoping you are not that person.

If you DO love them and want them in your life you need to show it.

That doesn't mean you need to join PFLAG or start making them rainbow birthday cakes. Please, Lord, do not make them a rainbow birthday cake!!!! LOL Being gay is only a part of who they are. But it is a big part. If Cousin Louie is a bigoted jerk and doesn't like your gay family member, maybe you should not invite HIM to Christmas dinner. Choose the side of the person you love, not the one you think might talk about you behind your back because THEY are ignorant. Show your support with positive actions rather than trying to keep your family member's "gayness" a secret.

The writer in me hates to rely on cliches but walk a mile in their shoes. Would you want stipulations placed on their affection for YOU? They trusted you to live up to those first words you spoke to them when they told you their biggest secret: "I'm cool that you are gay and I love you." If you meant those words PROVE IT. Stand up for them, be proud. Earn the trust back you lost when you said "BUT..." Accept the total package even though its now wrapped up in a pretty gay bow.

Love them.

Plain and simple.

There ain't no "ifs," "ands," or "BUTS" about it.

If you know someone that these words might help, I don't usually say this, but please, share this post with them. If one person gets a wake up call then my veering off topic to my usual blog postings will have done some good. I do believe most of these things are spoken out of ignorance, but you do not have to remain ignorant.

And if you are gay and have family members being thoughtless like this, take heart. They might just need a little reminder, a new perspective. Sometimes just being told how their words make you feel will help them reevaluate. Give them a chance. I know that some things can't be fixed, but relationships are a two way street and you need to be able to look yourself in the mirror and say "I tried."

Remember, there is a whole world out there that loves you. It's no accident that people in the GLBT community refer to each other as "family."