Like many gays and lesbians I know, I dread going home for the holidays. Being not just the only lesbian at the annual gathering, I am also, usually, the only liberal. That means, inevitably, at some point during the day, my FOX News-viewing relatives will bat my life around like the football on the front lawn after the Thanksgiving turkey has been eaten. My “lifestyle” will be held up, scrutinized, questioned, and ultimately, condemned.
Happy holidays, right?
Well, this year, Maggie Gallagher over at the National Organization for Marriage has a great idea: instead of victimizing your gay or liberal family members, the anti-gay, conservative members of the family can be the victims this year!
1. State your position briefly.
2. Refute the charge of bigotry.
3. A call to tolerance. (Repeat as necessary… “or until they bring in the pie.”)
That “position” is that marriage is between a man and woman for the purposes of procreation. (Okay, I give her credit for not recommending a good old-fashioned Bible proof text debate.) After stating that emphatically (though, you’re not trying to start a fight or anything), insist that even though you show “stubborn and complete intolerance” of any other belief, you are not a “bigot” and then, after you’ve dropped all those bombs, insist on “tolerance” of all beliefs—though anything against their belief will certainly not be tolerated.
Then, if a fight breaks out, it’s you, anti-gay person, who are the victim. After all, you simply stated your belief and that touchy gay person just blew up! Heavens! We weren’t expecting that, but you know it’s the gay people are the real bigots after all.
Maggie and her clan just don’t seem to get it that to the ears of gay and lesbian people who have been discriminated against in housing, employment, marriage, the pulpit and the pew, asking for “tolerance” is a bit like asking a snake to tolerate the club that he’s being beaten with. I have absolutely no problem with someone believing that marriage equality is wrong—as long as they don’t then take that belief and beat me over the head with it or use that belief to write laws that enshrine my place as a second-class citizen in a country where I work and pay taxes and should be entitled to the same rights as everyone else.
There can be no true tolerance until the guy with the club can be convinced to drop his weapon; to realize that no matter how scared he is of the snake, it is the snake that is the victim, and not the one doing the beating.
Those who take Maggie’s advice and drop the bomb at the holiday table are not likely to have their minds changed by mere words. Believe me, I have family members like this and even though I have tried to live my life to prove that I am just as boring as any heterosexual, they remain unconvinced—certain that I am the bigot who won’t “tolerate” their intolerance of me. For those family members, ignoring them is often the best thing to do. Leave the room when they start in on you. (I told my therapist I thought this was rude, but she reminded me that if I told a family member that I didn’t want to have this conversation and they persisted, it was really the obnoxious family member who was rude and I had every right to walk away after that.)
Perhaps the best thing to do this holiday season—if you simply cannot avoid the family gathering—is arm yourself with two pieces of information.
First, insist that your family members read this amazing article from a judge in Minnesota who married “a dying Minneapolis man to his partner of 38 years.” Minnesota is facing a vote on an amendment to ban marriage equality. Judge Lloyd Zimmerman tells a touching story about these two men and argues strongly in favor of marriage equality by outlining just how horrifying the “gay lifestyle” really can be:
Our neighbors who can’t legally marry take out the garbage, mow the lawn, shovel the snow, coach hockey, burn the turkey. They’ll help you sell your home, check your x-ray, serve your coffee at the local cafe, and remember your name (and whether you like cream and one sugar).
They teach your kids, get you out of jail if you need a lawyer, help you survive cancer or a heart attack, and provide your hospice care—whispering loving things in your ear and helping you cross the divide.
Most of us just want someone to hug us when we’re happy or sad, to inhale life’s problems, to hold our hand when we get that unexpected diagnosis and to answer “yes” to a question embedded in our soul: “Do you promise to love and care for each other, in good times and bad, in sickness and health, for better or worse, for as long as you both shall live?”
Some of us are lucky enough to have found the partner who loves us enough to say, “I will.”
If the cries of “liberal judge” become too loud, then use your second piece of information and simply show them this video. It’s an Australian ad in support of marriage equality. If they aren’t tearing up by the end, then do as my therapist suggests, and walk away. They have no interest in putting down their club.