Familial homophobia

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.

Author: Brian

Blogger. Bookworm. Michael Jackson fanatic. Lives in Kentucky with partner of 11 years and three fabulous felines.

10 thoughts on “Familial homophobia”

  1. aching for you. there is not much worse than this. boundaries are really hard to draw when it comes to family and children. what does your sister have to say about her husband’s horrible words and actions?

  2. (HUG) this is a tough one. I hate this for you. You are very wise to contact your Pastor. They do often have some very good advice (so I’m told ;) ).

    Blessings to you on you, BIG TIME! And may God give you DOUBLE for your TROUBLE!

  3. You have written so eloquently about the pain and anguish so many experience within their own families. My heart aches for you and the countless others whose experience is similar–and, God forbid it, even worse.

    St. John of the Cross, a Spanish priest and mystic, insisted that the only question we’ll be asked when we come into the presence of God is this one: how well did you love? When we understand that God is interested in this, and this alone, perhaps we can begin to set aside our prejudices and fears, and give each other a bit of the enormous gift that has been given to us: love.

  4. I wouldn’t take out your frustrations on your sister or her children. If your brother-in-law is the one being so mean, just be patient (indefinitely) and let things fall into place. Be open to their love.

    Is today your birthday? You wrote that your mom wants to give you a birthday party today.

  5. Brian,

    Sorry to hear about the whole scenario. You’re a strong man for working through this. Happy Birthday (again).

    W.H.

  6. This post recalls many bad family encounters after I came out to my family. I endured a couple years of being preached to via email and the phone, followed by an outright refusal to meet my partner.

    Six years later, my mom and dad still have not met him, although my three kids know him and love him dearly and of course say nothing but wonderful things about him to them.

    My ex-wife’s husband, on my first visit to their home to pick up my children, told me to stay off his property because he did not want to get AIDS. My ex-wife told my eldest child she would not be in her wedding if I was, since “unholy” people like me should not be allowed in God’s house.

    And on and on it goes. Hatred and its many faces.

    Ultimately, I’ve decided none of it matters. I’ve learned that I can hold grievances, or I can do something extraordinary: forgive and overlook. If I want a miracle, I have to create a miracle by giving peace when peace is not given me.

    It’s not easy, but it is better than holding grudges.

  7. @ ohchicken: My sister believes the archaic notion that wives are subject to their husbands. I don’t know what her own thoughts are about the subject, but I can’t help but believe that one day down the road she will resent him for this.

    @ Darla: Thanks so much for the cyber-hug!

    @ Alyson: Isn’t it great that we have this method of staying in touch with clergy? It makes it so much easier than driving 25 miles for one-on-one counseling.

    @ Karen: I know that overall I have things really good. I have loads of good friends and family members that are supportive of my relationship. I think they all would be if they didn’t allow their fear to get in the way.

    @ fightingwindmills: That’s a difficult thing for me to do, because by staying silent, my sister is allowing her husband to set the rules and is thereby guilty by association. There was just no way that I could be around any of them one day after getting this information.

    As you’ve probably figured out by now, my birthday was Sunday. :)

    @ Lena B: I haven’t felt very strong the past few days, but I’m still standing.

    @ Wei-Hsien Wan: Thanks, bro!

    @ Boy Grows Up: It never seems to end does it? I’ve been putting up with this kind of thing for over 13 years now. It gets really tiresome, but I keep praying that it will be a little easier for the next generation.

    You made a beautiful point about creating peace where there is none, but it seems impossible to make a difference when some minds are so closed.

  8. Brian, I cannot begin to understand how this must feel, but I apologize to you for them. There is a quote by Maya Angelou that I think is very beautiful and fitting in this situation:

    “We cannot change the past, but we can change our attitude toward it. Uproot guilt and plant forgiveness. Tear out arrogance and seed humility. Exchange love for hate”

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