Homophobia in the Family

For those of you who are new readers, I’m gay.  I came out to my parents 14 years ago.  It did not go well.  I remember it as a time when my mother screamed down the phone at me constantly that I was going to become a butch dyke and that I had wrecked my life before hanging up on me.  I also had the bad timing to come out a month before Christmas.  That year I got a toolbox and 3 flannel shirts for Christmas.  It was one of the best gifts I have ever received.  Flash forward 14 years and my mother has accepted that even though I’m gay I’m still the same person I always was and we no longer fight about me wearing men’s clothing. She still hates my first girlfriend though.  Whilst I have acceptance about my sexuality, there still remains some deep homophobia.  My mother has grudgingly accepted that letting gays marry from a legal standpoint might be an okay idea, but she is firmly against gays raising children.  Fortunately, I don’t have a desire to have my own biological children, but it still hurts to hear her tell me that I would make an unfit parent simply because of my sexuality.

My extended family has not taken me being gay so well.  Growing up I was really close to my Uncle J, Aunt C and their two daughters T & V.  We were so close that one time when my mother made some mention of me being an only child T got upset as she considered me her little sister. When I came out, this close relationship became icy. They were still polite to my face, but that closeness was all gone.  T & V now have children and V’s youngest son S started dance school a couple of years ago when he was 4.  It is S that I now worry about.  He is getting so much anti-gay crap at home simply because he loves to dance that if he does end up being gay, I really worry about his emotional well being. When he started dance school, it was told to me by his older brother and his dad that ‘he was not that kind of boy’ and this is the phrase that I hear over and over when we talk about S’s dancing. I can only imagine what he is hearing at home.

I now don’t have any contact with my extended family due to their treatment of me when I visited Australia in September. But V’s daughter C has friended me on Facebook, but I’m seriously considering unfriending her due to some of her homophobic remarks.  Part of me thinks I should retain this shred of contact simply for S’s sake.  If this little boy does discover he is gay, I can see he is going to need a hell of a lot of support.  However, he’s now only 7 so it isn’t going to happen any time soon.  Still I feel some obligation as the only gay in the family towards this little kid. I wish I could knock some sense into his family, but that is never going to happen. I want him to know that being gay is nothing to be ashamed of. I want him to have some family that will accept him for who he is and to have someone to talk to if he needs it.  However, this kid is going to grow up not really knowing who I am, that’s just the reality of the situation and it hurts.

This crap has been weighing heavily on my mind of late.  I just needed to get it out there. Maybe my blogging mojo might come back now.  Any suggestions on how to handle homophobic family will be gratefully accepted.  Maybe I’m just being ridiculous worrying about this so much.

About Meg

A thirty something queer Aussie geek girl who now lives in Germany.
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10 Responses to Homophobia in the Family

  1. Stereo says:

    You’re so brave for this and I hate that you’re experiencing this type of discrimination and prejudice at the hands of your own family. Although I can’t speak from experience, the only advice I can give you is to continue to be yourself and don’t do anything to try and change their minds. It’s not your job. As your family, they should love you no matter what and should accept you for who you are. Trying to get them there will be a terrible drain on your emotions. I hope that eventually, they’ll be able to open their eyes and realise the damage they are doing. Especially to poor S.

    • Riayn says:

      Thanks for your support. I’m not going to change who I am to please my family. I learnt that hard lesson a long time ago. I’m an adult, I can handle it. I’m just worried for S and all my little cousins who are just kids and they shouldn’t be exposed to this shit. I just feel helpless.

  2. There’s a piece of wisdom we hear at the beginning of every flight in an aircraft. Fit your own oxygen mask before you help others.

    Do you believe your extended family’s “icy” stance is low-level, passive-aggressive abuse? If so, your first duty is to stop yourself being abused. After that, you can help others.

    If your seven-year-old second-cousin/grand-nephew is gay, he may need help. But you won’t be able to be there for him if it means shuting up and bearing your family’s scorn and abuse. First, it’s hardly a good example for him. Second, you’ll not have the strength and dignity to support him.

    There are ways to be on his radar, without having to subject yourself to the homophobic taunts of your relatives—and face it, the “icy” interaction with you is a deliberate insult. Facebook, set to friend-but-ignore, is useful. An annual Christmas or birthday gift for all the grand-nieces and -nephews can’t hurt, as long as you didn’t spectacularly hurl insults at your extended family as you resolved not to speak with them in September.

    But let’s also be aware of a couple of things. One, while I am the first to point out that many more male dancers than are gay than chance would suggest, are we jumping at stereotypes? Can you put your hand on your heart, Meg, and swear that your assumption is free from internalised homophobia? I feel sure that you can, and that your concern for your great-nephew is genuine. But I find that I constantly need to ask the question of myself when my gaydar pings. And if your grand-nephew is straight, the homophobic bile he gets at home still harms him, and his siblings. Perhaps we should be just as concerned with the straight kids exposed to such hate, as gay ones.

    It’s tough to perform this kind of emotional triage. But alas, one often needs to take these tough, unsentimental decisions to preserve one’s sanity, and peace of mind.

    If you feel the need for an English-speaking ear, give me a call.

    • Riayn says:

      I agree that there is a fair chance that my little cousin is as straight as they come, just because he likes dancing doesn’t mean anything and at the age of 7 who can honestly tell. I have a bad habit of worrying about future events and seeing the amount of anti-gay statements that have been made towards him because he simply loves to dance has me worried about the what ifs.

      No horrible insults were flung between me and my extended family during my
      visit. They simply didn’t care enough about me to even ask a single question about what
      my life was like in Germany when I was there nor mention anything about my visit to my cousin that I do keep in contact with. That gave me enough motivation to severe what small ties remained. I like the idea of sending a simple Xmas card to the kids though.

      Your comment has given me much food for thought. Thanks :)

  3. B says:

    As the parent of a teenager that just came out to me this year, I needed to read this. I’m ashamed to say that my reaction was not the best. I can’t exactly say that I was surprised…somehow, I have always known. I have always supported gay rights, and believe firmly that it’s not a “choice.”.

    As a parent, though, I was disappointed. And scared for my daughter. I was disappointed that she was not interested in having kids ( she would be a great parent someday) and scared for the possible ways that homophobia could lash out at her. I worry for her safety.

    As the year has progressed, we have talked a lot. I know it is not “a phase” and not a knee-jerk reaction to a young girl and her very rapidly changing body. I will admit, I do NOT care for the first girl she had a crush on…but, only because I knew that the girl was a) not gay and b) was not crazy about my daughter. The girl was not good to my daughter. That girl is now seven months pregnant, and my daughter’s first broken heart has begun to heal.

    My biggest wish, for both of my children, is that they find someone to love that is just as much in love with them as they are for that person…gay, straight…I don’t care. I just want them to be happy.

    I’m still adjusting. It’s one thing to talk the talk. It’s quite another to walk the walk. At the end of the day, this is my child. My beautiful, strong, willful, amazing daughter is someone to be so proud of…and I am. Nobody in the world will ever be good enough for her.

    My hope for you is that your family learns that ultimately, you are their child. They were blessed with the responsibility to love you and support you. Period.

  4. Wow, really sorry to hear about how your mom reacted to you coming out, and the homophobia in the rest of your family. I wish I had a good suggestion for handling homophobia in the family, but I tend to do what you’re already doing–simply cutting people out of my life who choose to not respect who I am and say hurtful horrendous things. Not that it solves anything, but I always feel like it is simply not worth it to waste energy maintaining relationships with people like that.

    But valid point about what a positive effect knowing you could have on your nephew and the rest of your younger relatives, regardless of what their sexual orientation happens to be. Seems like just existing in their lives and showing them that being gay doesn’t mean a damn thing when it comes to whether or not you are a good person or fun to be around or whatever could be a great way to undermine a bit of the homophobia that they are getting at home. Though it does sound like it would take a lot more to really undermine the level of bullshit they are hearing from the rest of the family.

    It has always baffled me how much it upsets some people, the idea of gay couples of either gender raising children. It seems to me that it’s an attitude that acts as if sexual preferences are the center of child raising, which it is not in a hetero couple so what the fuck? Kids don’t want to hear anything about their parents sexuality in my experience, so why the hell is it supposed to make a difference what the people caring for you do in their bedroom? Do you ever hear about hetero couples with some uncommon kink not being allowed to raise children? NO! Because it doesn’t frickin matter as long as they are taking care of their children AJKLJDFKDjfkd. Sigh. This world has a long way to go when it comes to tolerance.

  5. San says:

    This is such a tough situation for you to be in. Fortunately, you’re all grown up and have learned how to handle the situation, but it’s still sad to see family members act that way.
    I wonder even why your cousin would let her son go to dance class (at 4) when they’re so opposed to the idea… do you have any insight on that?

  6. I hate that you feel this way. I hate that you have been treated this way by people who are supposed to love you.

    We have always known that our second was gay. Always. We were just waiting for her to realise it. Now she understands why we were so fine with her boy best friends practically living at our house. Heh
    I wish that you had that sort of meh whatever it doesn’t mean ANYTHING reaction.

  7. Carlos says:

    Mate, you are amazing. I am a gay guy and I have been bullied throughout my whole life. If you need anything here’s a friend. My e-mail’s lu.gorgeousxcorpse@hotmail.com feel free to e-mail me and I will keep in touch with you :)

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