Homophobia can take many forms, ranging from name-calling at the grocery store to being condemned to hell from the church pulpit, but nothing seems to be quite so painful as discrimination at the hands of one’s own family members.
Thursdays are typically my favorite day of the week. My aunt comes to work in our office, where we spend the day cooking a huge meal, laughing at off-color jokes, and catching up on family gossip. Sometimes we even invite friends and family to join us for lunch, which only adds to the enjoyment factor.
Honey started a new job right around the same time that I did, and I was elated recently when his schedule changed and permitted him to attend our weekly luncheon. I felt like it gave us a wonderful opportunity to show some of my family members that we are just as “normal” as they are and that homosexuality is nothing to be scared of. It was nice to watch some of my family members get to know the wonderful person that I share my life with and to see him actually enjoying their company.
My grandparents were due to eat with us today, and as an added bonus, they were supposed to bring my niece and nephew. When my aunt arrived this morning to begin the day, she reluctantly informed us that neither my grandparents or sister’s children would be coming. Dad pressured her for a reason and she finally revealed that my uber-religious brother-in-law didn’t want his children to be around Honey and I as a couple. It didn’t seem to matter that we never show affection towards one another in public or that my aunt explained to my sister that we “act like an old married couple.”
This turn of events really shouldn’t have surprised me given the history between my brother-in-law and myself, but it stung quite badly all the same. Almost as much as the time that he said that he didn’t want me kissing my niece and nephew because he didn’t know what kind of illnesses that I might be carrying (since all homosexuals are apparently disease-ridden).
I’ve never had any respect for him since that time, but I have tolerated him for the sake of spending time with my sister and her children. I have even spent the last three Christmas Eve’s at her house, even though I was so miserable last Christmas that after everyone had retired to their assigned rooms, I literally cried myself to sleep on the sofa. Their domestic bliss seemed so foreign to me, and I was terribly distressed over the fact that in order to spend the holiday with my family I had to spend it apart from the one person that I loved the most.
So, after hearing about this latest example of homophobic hysteria from my brother-in-law, my first reaction was to immediately stop having any contact with my sister’s family. I announced that I wouldn’t be attending Christmas at my sister’s house anymore and emailed my mother to tell her that I would not be attending the birthday party that she had planned for me tomorrow.
Then, I took a moment to think and decided to email my pastor for some much-needed advice. What I got was an exceptionally beautiful response about the importance of family, building memories, and having meaningful relationships. But there was one line in particular that really moved me…
Your sister’s children will grow up to come to their own conclusions and my bet is that they will lean in the direction of affirming the wonderful uncle they grew up loving and laughing with.
The very idea warms my soul.