Thursday, August 16, 2012

Why my Homophobic Dad supports Gay Marriage

I did not intend to write this morning. No alarm went off to wake me up. I simply came to about fifteen minutes ago, shut off my white noise machine, started the coffee maker and stretched the soreness out of my muscles. As my brain began booting up an actual idea came to me. Shocking, to those who know me, but it is true! I guess it is the product of thinking on things and pondering them over the last several weeks. This morning, all those scraps and snippets came together into one piece and I hope to be able to share them with the clarity I can see them in my mind and feel them in my heart.

Arguments do not change peoples minds. Debate convinces no one that they are wrong. No article penned by an amazing wordsmith ever reached into someones mind and changed their paradigm. The core values that we as individuals hold to be true are built of thousands of tiny scraps of information, absorbed life experiences and personal or anecdotal observations. Our lived emotions, learned and sought beliefs and complicated interior personal lives are the mortar that hold our world view together and help us make sense of the swirling chaos all around us that is collectively called life.

The last few months have been awash with arguments. Debates seem to spring up daily between friends, families and complete strangers. We are inundated by social media and news sources that constantly are thrusting conflicting ideas into the forefront of our minds and lives. In the midst of this, we make our decisions of what to do, how to live, what words to speak, post, update or text and in the end, we remain who we are. The individual is who we awake as and who we fall asleep being. This cycle never stops. It feeds a constant need we have as humans for attention and meaning and all too often, we can get caught up in information consumerism, which feeds the beast that hunts us all.

We all, by and large, believe that we are right. Read that again, please. I know it is not an incredibly detailed statement, but I know that it rings true for the majority of people. We think, for a myriad of reasons, that what we believe and feel about the vast variety of issues in life is correct. If you doubt this, realize that what we truly believe and think shapes the actions that we choose and live out to everyone around us.

This presents a problem. We do not all agree.

You probably  are wondering when I am going to get to topic of this post. Not to fret. The wait is over. My Dad is a homophobe. I can say it. I love him and he loves me. These are both facts. Despite growing up with a gay brother and having a gay son himself, my Dad, for a long litany of reasons, is not comfortable with the whole concept and fact of homosexuality existing in the world he lives in. It is as foreign to him as heterosexuality is to myself. How do I know this? Because we talk about it. We have been talking about it and living about it ever since my first crush on a boy in grammar school. Don't be fooled. If you are a person on the LGBT spectrum, you too have been having this conversation with your family and friends from the day you first realized you were "other" or different from your peers. Another thing to not forget, you are having this conversation with yourself. It is not a conversation made with words.

People are arguing. Society in this country is debating marriage equality. The issue seems to get more heated and complicated with each passing day. It is not my intention to argue my position here or open the floor to debate, though I am sure some of my readers will feel compelled to do so. The idea that came to me this morning is what I wish to share, and thankfully, it is both simple and brief.

Arguments do not change peoples minds. Debate convinces no one that they are wrong. Lives change lives. Personal experience and relationships with individuals do change minds and shows them that they are wrong. My Dad supports marriage equality due to his personal relationship with me, his gay son. This is not a conclusion he reached over night and it certainly was not a simple one for him. He is a man of conservative values, deep personal spiritual conviction and has his own long list of personal experiences in life. All of these form together to make him a man who should be and was deeply opposed to gay marriage and any and all affirmation of LGBT individuals. What changed his mind? A relationship. Life. Love. Me.

We live and fight hard for what we believe in. We summon thousands of words and hundreds of emotions, participate in all types of activities, hoping that with all of that noise, spectacle, work and belief to achieve equality as humans among our peers in society. The pain we experience in our journeys is great and often it seems the rewards are few and slow coming.

I have a novel idea.

Let us live our lives in such a way, craft and build our relationships with our boyfriends or girlfriends so solidly, share and participate in our community and family with such intention, that by our own personal example to the people that know us, we show and live the reasons why we should be afforded the same respect, dignity and recognizance that they may take for granted every day of their lives. Relationships change people. My life and the relationships and loves that I have had, with all of its faults and missteps, failures and successes changed my Dads view of LGBT people and his mind about gay marriage.

I cannot change the whole world. None of us can. But we can change the world we touch, the people around us at school, work and wherever and whoever we call home. When we live our best lives, illustrated by love and punctuated by grace, we show by our example, exactly what we are hoping for. It is the same thing all humans hope for. For love. For acceptance and for personal and collective affirmation of what we believe to be true.

This does not mean that I will cease being an advocate and activist for the cause of LGBT rights. We all deserve the respect, dignity, freedom and civil liberty that is extended to all citizens of this country, but denied to a minor few, due to some peoples deeply held religious and social beliefs. We cannot change their collective minds with arguments, words and debates. We can change those whose lives we touch with our choices, our relationships and our examples. We have to be the bigger people here. Change and equality is inevitable. Let us live our lives in such a manner that we provide pictures to those who do not yet understand the larger one. No, it is not fair. This is not something that the majority has had to do in order to achieve the validation of the rest of society. Welcome to being a minority. Until we show them who we are and what amazing love, relationships and families we hope and strive for, no one will ever extend the grace and respect that they were effortlessly awarded by default.

You may be the only gay person someone knows. You ARE the LGBT community to them. What life picture are you painting for them?



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I wonder, has equality for all of humanity ever existed on Earth?

  3. So very true. I live in a conservative and largely homophobic society, and by extension my family shares the same mindset - to a degree. The only reason I didn't grow up to be a homophobe (even though I was raised to be) is because my curiosity drove me to learn more about the LGBT community. The more real life stories I was exposed to online and the more gay people I met, the more my understanding of and support for the community grew.

    I've had the LGBT debate with family members and coworkers before, but certain convictions are too deeply entrenched to budge. The only way I can see this mentality changing is if people got to realize how little separates them from the LGBT community, and maybe open their minds enough to put themselves in an LGBT person's shoes.

    Unfortunately, sometimes all that people can focus on are the differences. One of the biggest setbacks I've faced in getting friends and family to accept homosexuality is the perceived lifestyle. Generalizations are naïve and unfair, but generalizations often win out. When all that a conservative society sees of the LGBT scene is an overly free lifestyle, it makes it difficult for them to relate and empathize. I firmly believe that each person has the right to choose the way they live, but certain behavior gives the opposition fodder for their smear campaigns.

    Ultimately, I think you have the right of it; you can't change the whole world, but you can change the world you touch by sharing a bit of yourself with others. There might never be equality for all of humanity, as Max was asking in the comments, but history has shown us that, when they fight for it, minorities achieve equality eventually. This is no different.

  4. "We cannot change their collective minds with arguments, words and debates. We can change those whose lives we touch with our choices, our relationships and our examples."

    I agree with that last sentence. However, I disagree with the first. I think if the two people debating are keeping an open mind and truly are after the truth and what is right, then one can change the others opinions or beliefs. I've been in such arguments before, where another person eventually convinced me I was wrong, or where I convinced them that they are. It certainly helps if it is a debate with family or friends, but it can work with strangers as well. What I would point out is that living by example is more important than trying to win a debate. Your example speaks loads more than any words in themselves.

    This was a really good post, btw. :)