20 Nov. 12 // Love Your Local LGBT, pt. III

Cont. from pt. II

11. Do your homework

As a supporter of LGBT rights and an advocate for religion embracing their gay sons and daughters, one of the things I try to do is just keep up to date about the latest terminology and sensitive language. A decade ago, calling someone “homosexual” and/or “gay” within the gay community were both okay and, in many ways, interchangeable expressions of the same thing – same-sex attraction. Today, that is not the case. “Homosexual” is a term that is used more frequently by those speaking towards or about (not with) LGBTs in a negative way. Further, “LGBT” itself is not as popular as LGB (because many people still feel uncomfortable with the “T” and what it entails/involves), nor it as inclusive as LGBTQIAFO (which stands for  Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning/Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Friends and Others – a much broader spectrum, as you can see). That’s one area that I try to “do my homework” but there are areas beyond sensitive language.

Here are two sites that will get you started: GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and Human Rights Campaign. Both organizations are very helpful when it comes to getting a “crash course” on gay issues and rights, developing discussion, and host sections directly addressing faith/religion and gay rights. The Human Rights Campaign is so acceptable, in fact, that you will see their “equal sign” bumper stickers in the parking lot of even conservative churches.

If you are able, consider watching documentaries like For the Bible Tells Me So and Love Free or Die, perhaps even getting together friends and family, or a group at your church to watch these films and discuss them.

Lastly (but certainly not finally), consider reading books about the history of sexuality, theology, gay rights, or autobiographies from and interviews with those who are “out.” Ellen Degeneres regularly talks about the difficulty of “coming out” in her family, as have Zachary Quinto, Anderson Cooper, and Bishop Gene Robinson.

However you do it, helping your LGBT(QIAFO) is hard work. Do your homework so you can do it well. Your friends & family will appreciate the effort.

12. Be willing to accept responsibility for the ways in which straight people or religious people (however you self-identify) have marginalized LGBTs and be willing to apologize where necessary

This is challenging. Your first inclination will be to distance yourself from the actions, behaviors, and speech of others. It’s probably helpful for you to realize that you are, in that moment, probably not the offending party but a “type” of offending party just because you are straight and/or religious. It’s not personal. Be strong, be willing to accept it, and you will find that after the emotions have cleared they will respect, love and appreciate you for being strong enough to absorb the pain with them and for them.

13. Actively pursue the things you agree on

One of the greatest misconceptions on both sides of the LGBT discussion (pro and con… and I guess “in between” as well) is that “those people” are so very different. I know LGBTs who are fiscal conservatives and strongly support conservative values. I also know “liberals” who are strongly against LGBTs and feel that “the queers” are destroying America. As with most other important things in life, nothing is “single-issue-simple” or able to be reduced to one or two bullet points.

During the Civil Rights Era, my father watched as African Americans were hosed against buildings, beat up for walking on the same street as whites, and in some instances, killed for peaceful protests. One evening, while watching the news, his grandmother said to him, “You know Randy, they love their children just like we do.”

While a simple statement, it was probably one of the most profound things to ever come out of her mouth. The ripple effects continue through time to my life today. I have reminded myself of that statement many times when talking to and with those who are “against” me and my views – they are human beings and, when we go home, we eat the same meals, breathe the same air, and love our children every bit as much. I have found, in time, that which unites us is greater than that which divides us. And I find that a very hopeful thing. You will find that your “enemies” often watch the same television shows, eat the same dinners, read the same books, and yes – love their children every bit as much as you love yours. In like kind, maybe we should be involved with finding and celebrating our similarities rather than deconstructing our differences. In finding common ground, we find ourselves on the path to peace.

14. Join a Support Group

There it is. Pretty simple – talk this stuff out. You have lots of feelings and opinions, I’m sure. Talk it out with someone.

If you’re not comfortable joining a support group, build one of your own. Talk to friends. Have lunch with them. Tell them what’s going on.

My stepsister is gay. When she “came out” to the family, it wasn’t a surprise to me but in the weeks and months and years that followed, my stepmother needed to talk about this a lot but didn’t want to make her daughter feel guilty in any way. For example, she thought maybe she had “done something wrong” or raised my stepsister “in the wrong way.” More than that, she was (and is) still conflicted about my stepsister’s soul. Their church teaches that “all homosexuals are going to hell for perverting God’s law.” If that’s true, what will happen to my stepsister when she dies? Will she go to Hell? These are the kinds of questions she wants to talk to my stepsister about, but feels she can’t. She’s not sure her daughter will go to Hell, and she loves her daughter, so why would she want to “put that on her” and make her feel guilty when, in actuality, she just needs to talk about this and not have it affect their relationship?

After she has been able to talk these things out, she and her daughter have gotten along much better. My stepmom is able to “voice” her concerns, get past them, and love her daughter and her daughter’s partner much more.

15. Don’t think about loving your LGBT, actually love them

Your LGBT is a person. They are unique. Find a way to love them without that love becoming a “project.”

I ran into this early on with my gay friends. In an effort to make them feel comfortable, I went overboard. “Oh, I love you guys! You’re such a cute couple! I love that you’re gay!” was… in hindsight… A cheese ball thing to do. And it made them super uncomfortable.

Don’t do that.

Don’t be a cheese ball.

Just be cool with them as people, and let the rest take care of itself.


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