Monday, February 27, 2012

The Emotional Damage Done by Passive Bigotry and Rejection

I've looked at the issue of parental rejection many times on this blog and also discussed how fortunate I was that when I came out now over a decade ago my parents accepted me without reservation. Moreover, they accepted my former partner and, although my father never met him, my mother seemed to love and treasure the boyfriend. So many in the LGBT community are not as lucky. But rejection can take many forms ranging from throwing the LGBT child out of the house to refusing to see him/her again to demands that the LGBT child say nothing about who they really are and/or who they love. This soft bigotry among other things takes the form of refusing to meet one's partner to saying hurtful things in the LGBT child's presence. What is most disappointing, in my opinion, is that this rejection arises from a selfishness on the part of the parents of the LGBT child. They are more worried about what others might think, their own sensibilities and inability to understand a different sexual orientation, or the writings of ignorant goat herders from 2000 years ago to quote Bob Felton at Civil Commotion. A piece in The Bilerico Project looks at the damage done by passive bigotry and rejection. Here are some excerpts:

Over on his blog, Lance Brister has a moving, and at its core, heart wrenching account of his inspired attempt to help his mother see his life as a gay man as one of love and joy.

Like many LGBT people, Brister has to edit out his sexuality, and all the attendant life experiences that comes along with it, in order to have a shadow of a relationship with his mother, who has made it clear that she doesn't want to hear anything about the gay side of her gay son's life. This has left their interactions so wooden and empty that the repetitive ritual of talking without communicating has become something of a bitter shared joke between them.

This is what the bigots who tell us to "keep it in the bedroom" will never understand. It isn't impossible to hide one's sexuality or gender identity, nearly eighteen years of DATD showed us that. And of course trans* service people still have to conceal their deepest selves even today.

What is impossible is having whole and meaningful connections with the world outside your closet doors. Being LGBT is about far more than how and with whom we have sex, it's about who we love, and who we see in the mirror. It's all the bits and pieces that build and shape our lives, from soaring joy to crushing heartbreak, and the minutia in between that make up the ebbs and waters of who we are and how we move through the world.

People like Lance Brister's mother don't understand this fundamental truth about our lives. They want to know and love us, but only within their concept of the world. It is the height of hetero and cis privilege to believe that the only place LGBT life experience differs is in the bedroom.

I honestly don't know what is better, outright rejection, with a scorched earth and cries of "you are not my child," or the slow bleeding away of the love and affection that Lance has experienced through his mother's passive rejection of who he is. Even now, I find myself conflicted, as to whether his desire for a deeper and more real bond with his mother is noble or tragic, an expression of love or of masochism. The reality may very well lie in the grey area in between.

What I am sure of is that this is the direction that anti-LGBT sentiment in our country is going over the next few years. As societal shifts make the overt homo & trans* phobia of the bigots like Rick Santorum less publicly acceptable, I believe we'll see a renewed vigor from the Right when it comes to encouraging passive rejection of LGBT children and community members.

As a parent myself, I know full well how hard it is to step back and allow one's children to leader their lives in a manner that is meaningful to them. Having spent years living my life to please others, I know how selfish it would be for me to try to insist that my children conform their lives to make only me happy. Sadly, too many parents of LGBT children don't get this message.

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