Monday, November 01, 2004

What We Don't Say Can Hurt Us

I ran across an article in HRC's recent issue of Equality . It mentioned that most glbt people do not discuss with their heterosexual friends and family how politics affect them and their future . I can guess some of the reasons:

1. Not everyone is confrontational
2. There may be some internalized shame about having "caused our families enough problems already" by being gay (though we have no choice in the matter)
3. We do not want to lose our friends who are okay with us as long as we "don't flaunt" our sexuality

I'd love to hear of other reason people have if you have the time.

I have very close friends who do not talk about how they are being affected by the anti-gay marriage issue with their family. A lot has to do with their historical family dynamics and I totally understand--for better or worse our family dynamic is confrontational. In some cases, my friends are out and their partners and their children are loved and embraced by their families, which speaks volumes to and about their families.

But (and I usually have a big butt, I mean but)...I have found with my own family that I cannot expect them to get a balanced point of view about political issues from the information sources that are out there. I don't mean to advocate slamming family members for having preconceived notions about things (even as a gay person I held on to them for a long time). I do think, however, it is important to mention even in passing the ways we are affected.

Here is one related anecdote that actually involved the district superintendent of our church. We were having our annual check-in meeting with him (called Charge Conference in the Methodist church). He was about to retire and asked us if there was anything we would like for him to relay to his successor as something that needed attention. I mentioned that as one of the teachers in our Sunday School with many children of same-sex couples, I am starting to hear questions about why it is that their parents cannot be married in our church when people who are not even attendees are allowed and wondered what he would say to them. He didn't show much regard for my question--sidestepping it by discussing our need to pray for one of our ailing Democratic congresswomen in the area, as if she was responsible for how things went down in our church (she attends another church).

Do I think my question will make a large change? No, but I do think our children are valuable enough for me to keep people who make decisions that affect their lives from sliding past the issue without ever thinking about it. At next year's conference I believe I'll see if one or more of the children who are asking these questions might be interested in posing them directly to the new district superintendent. And I'll take the role of making sure the question is answered respectfully.


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