Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Standing Up to Parental and Family Bigotry During the Holidays

The holidays can be a very sad and depressing time of year for many in the LGBT community who have experienced rejection and/or deliberate slights from family members because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  More often than not, religious belief is used as a justification for the rejection and slights.  My first few holiday seasons after coming out were among the worse of my life and, candidly, I thought of suicide a great deal.  Thankfully, my situation changed markedly due in no small part from finally achieving self-acceptance and finding comfort in my own skin.  I am now married to a wonderful guy and I am in a good place with family members and my children.  Many are not as lucky as I have been.  But that does not mean that you must suffer your rejection in silence or lose your dignity.  A recent column in Out Magazine on a different subject (parental refusal to attend same sex weddings), to me, provides an example of how bigoted, self-centered parents and family members should be approached.  True, you may still face rejection, but at least you have retained your dignity and can set about building a new self-selected "family" with a clear conscience.  Here are some column excerpts:
Patrick’s rebuttal to his parents’ intolerance provides a stinging rebuke to the small-minded way in which, to this day, supposedly responsible adults can turn against their own.

Dear Mom and Dad,

It’s been 890 days since the day that you both decided not to partake in my wedding. I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to say anything about it. Perhaps I’ve been afraid of what the family will think, what the family might say. Or perhaps I’ve been afraid of losing even more of my wonderful, beautiful family, whom I think about day and night.

As not to keep anyone in the family excluded (any longer), I’m sending this letter to everyone involved. I want everyone to know what had happened on my last visit to you, before my beautiful, wonderful wedding. I’m not writing this letter in an act of vengeance (even though it feels like it is), but rather, I’m doing it because I’m tired of walking on eggshells around my siblings, godchildren, nephews and nieces. I’m tired of having to be “civil” with both of you, “for the sake of the family.”

I think it’s time that I told my side of the story to the family, as I’m sure you have already told yours. I want everything to be out in the open, so that I can feel like I have all of my dignity with me when I will undoubtedly see you at family gatherings—gatherings which I now would rather avoid if it means that either of you will be present; I have other ways of seeing my family.

By the time we left A & P, you started citing the bible, while unsuspecting shoppers were bustling about us, running their afternoon errands. And by the time we got back to the car, you’d mentioned your fear of an angel appearing to you, saying, “Stop praying for Patrick! He’s already in hell! I knew then that it was time to go to my last resort and give an ultimatum which I never expected would be fulfilled.

I explained to you, simply and calmly, that if you (both) did not attend my wedding, you would not see me again after the wedding: no holidays, no birthdays, no hospitals, no funerals. What I heard next put me into a state of mild shock. You followed up, quickly and readily, with, “We know that! I talked to your dad last night and we already accept it! We said that we give you back to God!” I recall other things being said, which I’ll omit here. As I sat in shock—shock that you would rather never see me again than attend my wedding—you simply moved onto your next subject: “Well, I guess you don’t want to go to lunch anymore.” 

Mom and Dad: By not attending my wedding, you rejected me, and you rejected my husband, who is my own immediate family. I, in turn, reject anyone that rejects my family—out of dignity and respect for it. But I am offering resolution.

I will forgive you both for what you have done, if you, in front of the entire family (from youngest to eldest) admit that what you both did was wrong; admit that you both should have been at the wedding. Because I do think that what you both have done is shameful. You’ve torn a family apart. But what breaks my heart most is what this has done to the youngest in the family—the ones who were too young to know, or too young to understand what was going on. The ones whose only conclusion was perhaps “Patrick must be bad” or “He must have done something wrong because Grandma didn’t go to his wedding.” That is where I think you both should bear the shame, not me.

I want everyone to know everything. And maybe tonight, I’ll finally be able to sleep the whole night through.
For readers still struggling through the coming out process, hand on to the truth that there is noting wrong with you and that you have done nothing wrong. It is those who reject or condemn you that have committed the wrong. 

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