Friday, February 16, 2007

Families, Hate, and Other Things

Please indulge me as I try to tie a couple of thoughts together.

Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin attended the Love Won Out conference in Phoenix last week, and is reporting on it in a series of fascinating, very emotional blog posts.

He describes the audience at the conference as consisting generally of three groups: church leaders and Bible study groups who are there as part of their Christian education; gays who want to become straight; and relatives of gay people. This last group, he says, is by far the largest.

He makes a big point that the people at the conference are not hateful, in fact quite the opposite.
Instead, let me draw your attention to a gentleman I talked to in one quiet little corner of the church courtyard. He was there with his wife and we were talking when he began to tell me about his son. For a long time, this gentleman had been wondering why his very good-looking and popular son hadn’t gotten married yet, when about eight years ago his son came home for a special visit in order to explain why that wasn’t going to happen. This father was very forthcoming in telling me that he took the news very badly, and he said a lot of things that he shouldn’t have said. And when he talked to his son more in the months that followed, he repeated some of those awful things which brought their relationship to a terrible break.

Since then, he’s talked to his son on the phone many times, but too often it often hasn’t gone very well. There are too many times when the conversations between them break down as old patterns repeat themselves. There’s just too much pain and anger on both sides, although he’s careful not to blame his son. He wishes he knew how to talk to him, and as he said this he began to cry very softly. His wife, who had been standing silently next to him the whole time, gently reached for his hand and she began to cry as well. But she remained silent. She never shared her side of the story and I didn’t ask.

I just stood there and watched this man’s heart break before my very eyes. His lower lip quivered ever so slightly as he continued speaking — the hopes that he had for his son, the many things he admired about him, his pride in his son’s successful career, and yet, his utter puzzlement that his son could possibly be gay. Eight years later and he still can’t quite bring himself to fully believe it. All he wants is for his boy to come home.

See? Interesting.

I want to say a word about hate and ignorance. Hate does not always wear an angry face. When you believe that someone is evil in their heart and soul, when you believe that the love that one person feels for another is an ugly thing, I'm sorry, but that feeling is called hate. It's heartbreaking on both sides when it happens in the context of a family, when you raise a child up from infancy and then find that they disgust you.

I optimistically think that this kind of unintentional hate is usually caused by ignorance. Nobody wants to hate their own children, they want to understand and love them. That's one reason the new health classes should be important. People might learn that you don't have to hate someone because of who they love, and someday there might be fewer confused parents like these.

There are two groups that attempt to work with family members: PFLAG and PFOX (I prefer not to put them in the same sentence, but I do want to discuss them in relation to one another).

PFLAG stands for Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. It offers support groups for families, and puts together brochures and conferences, things like that. PFLAG understands that families may react angrily to their child's or sibling's coming-out, or may become depressed or just confused, and they work with them to deal with that. In the long run, PFLAG is about acceptance and loving your family member as they are, whether you understand how they feel or approve of it.

PFOX -- Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays -- also offers support groups and informational services, but their message is the opposite, in a way, from PFLAG's. Where PFLAG encourages acceptance, PFOX offers denial. Their message is that your gay family member can change, that they might stop being gay. You love them, yes, but you hold out hope that they will become something different someday.

PFOX likes to say that people who criticize them are "discriminating against ex-gays" or that they are acting like "ex-gays don't exist;" this is simply a smokescreen. There are perfectly good reasons to oppose PFOX. The fact is, and everybody knows it's true, sexual orientation isn't something that changes. If it ever does, the phenomenon is incredibly rare. The product they manufacture and sell is really nothing more or less than false hope, nurtured by ignorance.

Listening to the man described in Box Turtle Bulletin, one is struck by the fact that he just didn't know how to take it when he discovered his son was gay. He doesn't go into any detail, but it is clear that the father didn't know anything about it. And you have to think, how much better would it have been, if he had received a little bit of education about sexual orientation, if he had knowledge beyond what you pick up on the playground and at work, from peers who don't know any more about it than you do?

10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, one of the best shows in town is called "Adventures in the English Language with TTF and Friends."

Properly labeled a comedy, it is incessantly amusing.

Here's the official definition of hate:

"1 a: intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury b: extreme dislike or antipathy : loathing"

February 16, 2007 3:28 PM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Jim's absolutely right - this is hate.

February 16, 2007 4:18 PM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Jim muses,

Families, Hate, and Other Things

...or, "Families, a love that endures our deepest differences"?

Please indulge me as I try to tie a couple of thoughts together.

Ok...if I must, I will try to indulge you.

I want to say a word about hate and ignorance. Hate does not always wear an angry face.

Perhaps...but usually people that hate are not "happy" people in any sense of the word, take for instance Fred Phelps of Topeka, Kansas. Whenever I see a picture of him I get the distinct impression that whatever religion has done for him, it has not made him happy. Then again, I guess if one wants to express their own anger and hate, and give God the "credit" then religion can be a handy excuse.

When you believe that someone is evil in their heart and soul, when you believe that the love that one person feels for another is an ugly thing, I'm sorry, but that feeling is called hate.

If you really believe that then you should not be saying sorry; remember, being judgemental means never having to say you're sorry.

Interestingly enough, you use two very loaded words..."evil" and "ugly". Is it at all conceivable
to you that a parent can believe, can think that their child is simply "wrong", or "misguided", or even "confused"? Oh, that was a silly question now, wasn't it?...of course you don't!

It's heartbreaking on both sides when it happens in the context of a family, when you raise a child up from infancy and then find that they disgust you.

Wow, that is a pretty large jump, though it does fit your POV of those that believe that there are standards that exist that are external, that is they exist independent of our own will.

I would suspect the most common emotion is one of disappointment much along the same lines as a parent with a new born that has Down's. Not having been thru the experience, a parent can only see the limitations and their own imagination can play out cruel what if's that may or may not ever happen.

When I left the religion I was raised in to become Roman Catholic I know I disappointed my parents. While sexual orientation is an even greater change to adjust to, it is possible.

February 16, 2007 7:05 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Orin asked Is it at all conceivable to you that a parent can believe, can think that their child is simply "wrong", or "misguided", or even "confused"?

Do you ever consider that parents who have little experience with LGBT issues might be "wrong" or "misguided" or "confused" to think that their kids can get some therapy and change their sexual orientation?

Oh, that was a silly question now, wasn't it?...of course you don't!

February 17, 2007 9:18 AM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Aunt Bea writes,

Do you ever consider that parents who have little experience with LGBT issues might be "wrong" or "misguided" or "confused" to think that their kids can get some therapy and change their sexual orientation?

You bet...I totally agree...no argument here.

Any other questions?

Orin

February 17, 2007 8:59 PM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Orin said "I would suspect the most common emotion is one of disappointment much along the same lines as a parent with a new born that has Down's".

That says a lot about your bigotry Orin. LGBTs only need fear being held back by others, not by any inherent shortcomings in themselves. Let me tell you that the emotion an LGBT feels at a non-accepting parent is disappointment much along the lines of what one feels towards an ignorant racist.

February 21, 2007 6:52 PM  
Anonymous terrance said...

Jim has another post up about what he heard at the conference, including some amazing quotes from Nicolosi and Fryread, concerning what they say is true for all gay people. (Including that we've all been sexually abused. All of us.)

It's subtle, but they basically lay the "blame" entirely on the parents. They either "made" their children gay or managed not to notice while someone else "made" their kids gay (by molesting them).

Jim rightly calls this cruelty, directed at the parents by then conference leaders.

I think he's also right that "hate" isn't the proper word to describe the parents who attend (and who make up the largest contingent, with the smallest being those "struggling with same-sex orientation"). The parents are motivated by what motivates any parents who believe their child is in trouble: love.

Their love for their children, however, is manipulated by people who play on their vulnerabilities with lies about whats "true" for "every" gay person, including the children of those parents in the audience.

I've got a post up about it on my blog, with another to come later.

February 23, 2007 2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've got a post up about it on my blog, with another to come later

what's the URL?

February 25, 2007 11:24 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Terrance has The Republic of T., a great blog.

JimK

February 25, 2007 11:33 PM  
Anonymous Phentermine said...

Nice design of blog.

August 13, 2007 3:23 PM  

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