A Family Affair

Thursday, July 22, 2010
Every once in a while, someone asks me why I'm so vehement about gay rights.

Aside from the fact that sticking up for minorities who are being discriminated against is simply the right thing to do, I have a more personal reason for standing up when it comes to equality for gay Americans - the Smart Girl is a lesbian.

When she first came out to me (she was about 15, I think), it took me a bit of time to realign my perception of her. Not because I wished her sexual orientation was otherwise, but because a person's sexuality is an aspect of who they are. I simply needed to start looking at her in a slightly different way. One thing I didn't do, however, was ask her if "she was sure," or to tell her she'd "grow out of it." I've made a lot of mistakes with my daughter (like every parent on the planet, I suspect), but I trust that I would not disrespect her in this particular way. Being gay is part of who she is, and to deny that aspect of her life would be to deny her, and there's no way I would have done that. I tried to make it clear to her, and to everyone in my life, that not accepting my baby girl for who she is would earn you a one-way ticket to "you're dead to me" junction, with extreme prejudice.

Prior to learning about the Smart Girl, I always thought that the LGBT community got the short end of the stick when it came to equal rights in this country (Don't Ask, Don't Tell? Seriously?). I made sure I voted against laws that discriminated against them, and supported candidates and laws that encouraged equal treatment under the law. But it wasn't until I had some personal skin in the game that I became vehement.

Having a family member, a family member for whom you would storm the gates of Hell with nothing more than a wad of cotton and a toothpick, belong to a group that is routinely discriminated against makes the matter personal. Extremely personal. When some self-righteous asshat proclaims that gay men and lesbians don't deserve equal treatment under the law because they "violate the natural order" or that their "lifestyle" is a "sin against the Lord," my blood just BOILS. I want to beat them about the head and shoulders with the complete works of Jane Goodall, followed by the administration of the water test. That's my daughter you're talking about, you sanctimonious fuck. Who the hell do you think you are, to suggest that my baby girl isn't deserving of all the very best things in life, simply because she's different than you? She's focused, smart, disciplined, self-sufficient, compassionate and has a fierce intellect. She's a straight A student, has a job, and is involved in her community. She loves opera, anime, and books, and dislikes roses and pantyhose. She's not a second-class citizen, and does not deserve to be treated like one because people can't see past their own prejudice and bigotry.

Having a daughter who is a lesbian has taught me a huge lesson. While tribalism can sometimes be a bad thing, it can also expand your concept of who's "like you." The Smart Girl is, first and foremost, my child. For me, the fact that she's also a lesbian means not that she's "different," but that all the other lesbians and gay men in the world are also my children, and deserving of the same protection as the Smart Girl. I'm happy that my family is larger and more diverse. Now, for me, doing the right thing by the LGBT community isn't just politics, or a dedication to what's right and fair - it's a family affair.

13 comments:

vince said...

Good for you.

Can't stand the asshats who are outraged that people who are gay might want, and should have, the same rights as everyone else. And it makes me both sad and angry that some of those people call themselves Christians.

Vagabond said...

I am standing on my (admittedly wobbly) office chair and cheering. As one who will be a first time parent in two short months, I can only hope to be able to follow your example. Damn, your good!

Janiece said...

Vagabond, I'm really not. This is just one mistake I didn't happen to make. I could blog for days and days about the ones I did...

Carol Elaine said...

I'm with you, Janiece. Since discriminating against minorities is wrong and calling out such discrimination for what it is - bigotry - is right, I'm all for fighting for the equal rights of the LGBTQ community, even though I'm not L, G, T or Q (though I admit to a certain bi-sexual leaning, male will always be my preferred relationship gender).

I do have a dog in this hunt, however, as I have friends who are part of the LGBTQ community and who deserve equality in everything. I remember a fellow audience page, whom I considered a friend, coming out to me as a pre-op M to F transexual, knowing that I wouldn't out her to others until she was ready. Unfortunately once we both left the company we lost touch. I hope that she's happy now. I haven't been able to find her online. I think about other friends who have come out, knowing how difficult that was, even in Los Angeles, and salute them for having the courage to be true to themselves.

But it wasn't until the advent of Proposition 8 in California that I realized how passionate I was about it. I'd see "Yes on 8" signs in CuteFilmNerd's neighborhood or people gathering with those signs and find myself getting furious. I'd have to use every bit of my restraint not to vandalize those signs or scream at those people for their bigotry.

So, yes, it is personal with me. It's about treating all humans as if they were equal. It's about not regulating a segment of society - who has done NOTHING wrong - to a second-class citizenship status. And if you (the general you, of course) dare to tell me that marriage equality is wrong, consider yourself lucky if I don't punch you in the face after reminding you that the exact same arguments were made to support anti-miscegenation laws, you fucking bigot.

WendyB_09 said...

I can't stand discrimination in any form. I have several friends who are gay or lesbian, and I love them for their outspoken individualism as much as I love anyone I call a friend.

Several have married their partners...ok, here you have to have a commitment ceremony. But at least one happy couple honeymooned up in one of the NE states where they could get a true marriage license and they proudly display it in their home.

About 15 years ago I was at a dinner dance for one of the groups I'm in. One of the guys asked me to dance, he'd just recently come out to a few of us. As we danced he mentioned he'd really rather be dancing with his boyfriend, who was also there.

I stopped, looked at him and said "well, why aren't you?" He mumbled something about what would the rest of the group say. I told him the ones that don't know he was gay already suspected it and loved him for who he was.

To his credit he thanked me, gave me a quick hug and kiss, and practically sprinted to where his boyfriend was. When they stepped onto the dance floor together, our whole group applauded. They dated on and off for several years and are still friends.

I lost touch after a while, but did see in the nuptial section of the paper last spring that he'd "married" his long time partner and the photo showed his whole family in attendance at the ceremony. Including the step-father who disowned him when he'd first come out. Now that made me happy.

TequilaBails said...

I think I just fell in love. I don't know you, but your style and your sense are totally in line with my way of thinking. Thank you...

Tania said...

I want you for my girlfriend even more. I'll leg wrestle the Smart Man for you. I've met him, He's in better shape, but I've got lots of muscle mass.

Wait. Now I'm treating you like chattel, which was part of another discussion, elsewhere. My apologies. Anyway, I love you even more.

Janiece said...

Welcome, TequilaBails.

Tania, don't worry - if I ever decide to jump the fence, you'll be my first stop. :)

Rachael said...

*cheer*

I've been in the "vehement to the point of face eating" camp since around the time I canvassed for Referendum i. I can't even say what jumped me from strongly in favor to GRRRRR.

One of my best friends (he was my bridesmaid at my wedding) is gay. I really want to see him and his partner get treated like, you know, actual full citizens of this country. And considering he's mentioned a couple of times that in the future they might like to adopt, even more so.

Janiece said...

Rachael, I thought of that, too. I have no idea if the Smart Girl will choose to have kids, or not, or if she'll adopt or go some other route. But the idea that some sanctimonious social worker thinking she's not "good enough" to be an adoptive parent simply because she's gay? That'll earn you repeated punches in the throat form the potential Gram.

neurondoc said...

I also despise discrimination in any form. I try to live my life under that maxim, although there are times I fail. (Don't we all?) As a parent of a young child, I haven't had to face these kinds of conversations, but I know I will in one form or another. I can only hope I do well.

I, too, have a dog in this hunt -- my brother. He's my younger brother, who once fought a girl 2 years older and about 30 pounds heavier than he, because she made fun of me for how I walked. He came out to me about 20 years ago, and I have to admit that my first reaction was "umm, right, I figured that out..." It wasn't a surprise.

I, too, take other people's narrow-minded thinking and behaviors personally, in the way you do. After all, they are hating on my brother. The person who I played most with as a kid. Who made up imaginative games and a private language with me. Who thought it was completely normal to give grade point averages and class rankings to our stuffed animals. Who is not married to a perfectly wonderful man, because they live in CA. So, yeah, hating on the gay community makes my blood boil, too.

mattw said...

My brother just married his partner in May, and it's a shame that he had to go to Iowa to do it.

It makes no sense to me why people of the LGBT community don't get the same rights as everyone else. They're not hurting anyone.

John the Scientist said...

Amen to the miscegenation comment.

My wife's usually aggresively apolitical, and pretty conservative when she does come out of her shell (she did grow up under martial law).

But when they floated a DOMA-like proposition in this state, she said HELL NO! Who gets to decide who's worthy, and when are they going to roll those goalposts back to the 1950s? You know a high percentage of the same-sex marriage opposition are also racists.

I have to admit per your previous post that I am pretty tribal, but it's an earned tribe, not a genetic one. I owe my current job to a black, gay man. He has an MD an MPH, and a JD (two of those degrees are Ivy League). People like him are in my tribe. People with my skin color and orientation who are idiots? Not in my tribe.