With the debate over marriage equality heating up over the recent statements by Chick-fil-A and others, people 0n both sides of the issue have become emotional, and understandably so. There is a danger, however, in becoming entrenched in your position without realizing the real cost of your decisions and support. Especially for those staunchly opposed to marriage equality, I think it’s easy to other-ize the LGBTQI community and make them into some caricature of anti-traditional values and degradation. It’s easy to forget that there are real people behind the pleas for equality and tolerance. There are real children who face bullies everyday simply because of the people they are.
As a rather sobering and sad example of this, I saw this letter from a father to his son who had apparently just come out to him on The Huffington Post. The title of the article calls the letter “shocking,” and it certainly is, but I think this is probably more common than we all hope. The letter has several particularly upsetting phrases:
“I hope your telephone call was not to receive my blessing for the degrading of your lifestyle. I have fond memories of our times together, but that is all in the past.”
“You made your choice though wrong it may be. God did not intend for this unnatural lifestyle. If you choose not to attend my funeral, my friends and family will understand.”
“Have a good birthday and good life. No present exchanges will be accepted.
The young person who just had his own father voluntarily check out of his life is more than just an angry pro-LGBTQI slogan. He’s more than just the “other.” He’s a real person, just like you and me.
I think this is a crucial point to remember, especially if you disagree with marriage equality. It’s easy to be an armchair philosopher or armchair politician, but it’s necessary to remember that the people’s lives your support is affecting are our family. They are our siblings, parents, uncles, aunts, and our friends.
More than the literal cost of hateful homophobia, like the gay-bashing that still goes on, simply arguing that certain people should not have the same rights as others has a substantial effect on real people.
The heart-breaking letter:
In stark contrast and in conversation with this saddening letter is a letter written to a “hypothetically gay son,” by John Kinnear. Disappointed by the letter above and with his wife pregnant, he wanted to know what he would write if he were in the same position. It reads like this:
“Dear hypothetically gay son,
You’re gay. Obviously you already know that, because you told us at the dinner table last night. I apologize for the awkward silence afterwards, but I was chewing. It was like when we’re at a restaurant and the waiter comes up mid-bite and asks how the meal is, only in this metaphor you are the waiter, and instead of asking me about my meal, you said you were gay. I don’t know why I needed to explain that. I think I needed to find a funny way to repeat the fact that you’re gay… because that is what it sounds like in my head right now: “My son is gay. My son is gay. My son is gay.”
Let me be perfectly clear: I love you. I will always love you. Since being gay is part of who you are, I love that you’re gay. I’m just trying to wrap my head around the idea. If you sensed any sadness in my silence last night, it was because I was surprised that I was surprised. Ideally, I would have already known. Since you were an embryo, my intent has always been to really know you for who you are and not who I expect you to be. And yet, I was taken by surprise at last night’s dinner. Have I said “surprise” enough in this paragraph? One more time: Surprise!
OK. Let’s get a few things straight about how things are going to be.
- Our home is a place of safety and love. The world has dealt you a difficult card. While LGBT people are becoming more accepted, it is still a difficult path to walk. You’re going to experience hate and anger and misunderstandings about who you are out in the world. That will not happen here. You need to know with every fiber of who you are that when you walk in the front door of your home, you are safe, and you are loved. Your mother is in complete agreement with me on this.
- I am still, as always, your biggest defender. Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you’re any less capable of taking care of and defending yourself. That said, if you need me to stand next to you or in front of you, write letters, sign petitions, advocate, or anything else, I am here. I would go to war for you.
- If you’re going to have boys over, you now need to leave your bedroom door open. Sorry, kiddo. Them’s the breaks. I couldn’t have girls in my room with the door shut, so you don’t get to have boys.
- You and I are going to revisit that talk we had about safe sex. I know it’s going to be awkward for both of us, but it is important. I need to do some research first, so let’s give it a few weeks. If you have questions or concerns before then, let me know.
That’s enough for now. Feel free to view this letter as a contract. If I ever fail to meet any of the commitments made herein, pull it out and hold me to account. I’ll end with this: You are not broken. You are whole, and beautiful. You are capable and compassionate. You and your sister are the best things I have ever done with my life, and I couldn’t be prouder of the people you’ve become.
P.S. Thanks to a few key Supreme Court decisions and the Marriage Equality Act of 2020, you’re legally able to get married. When I was your age, that was just an idea. Pretty cool, huh?”