Guest Blogger

Why Our Experience of Prejudice Is Uniquely Hurtful

Filed By Guest Blogger | June 28, 2014 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: family of choice, family rejection, marriage equality, parental acceptance

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Jim Toevs co-founded the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission. In 1992, Jim was the Democratic nominee for Congress against then-closeted Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe. He resides in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.

If you are a person of color, Jewish, or virtually any other minority that suffers from discrimination, the bosom of your biological family is almost always a safe haven of comfort and support. If you are suffering from racial or religious prejudice, the other members of the family can relate because of their similar experience. The family erects an "us against them" protective shield against the arrows of hurt coming from the outside.

Not so, with LGBT people. Very often, our biological families are the source of our deepest hurt and pain. There are numerous reasons for this, but the fact that the heterosexual members of our families have different life experience is one of the main ones. When we seem to defy convention, and trample on our parent's expectations of providing them grandchildren, it can be perceived as arrogant and selfish. There are also social consequences: if the son is supposed to be a chip off of the old block and the son is gay, what does that say about the old block?

When you add the demonization of sex in general (and homo sex in particular) by society and organized religion, many members of our families feel they are placed in the position of having to choose between us and God. Unfortunately, instead of rejecting the Hobson's Choice in which they find themselves, they often choose to reject us instead.

Anyone in the USA who is not a white male heterosexual has suffered from prejudice and discrimination at one point or another and even many of that privileged group have suffered financial and/or other discrimination if they fall below a certain income level or live on "the wrong side of the tracks." Any difference can be used to create the politics of "other".

Because the majority of human beings have always been attracted to the opposite sex, one of the biggest lies told about homosexuality is that it is, "unnatural." The following analogy may be helpful in explaining the concept of what is sexually "natural".

In the not-too-distant past, left-handedness was punished by school teachers who attempted to make everyone write with their right hand. As a left-handed person, when required to do so, I can do almost anything with my right hand that I can do with my left, but everything I do with my left hand feels more "natural."

Likewise, our same-sex sexual attraction is every bit as "natural" for those of us who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual as opposite-sex attraction is natural for heterosexuals. It is not a choice. It is in our DNA. We are born that way!

That is why it is so damaging psychologically for anyone to suggest that we should change. Even the suggestion that we need to change implies that we are somehow flawed and not okay the way we were created. To drive this point home, it can sometimes be helpful to ask our heterosexual friends to imagine what they would feel like if they suddenly found themselves in a presumed homosexual culture and were pressured to become gay.

Finally, we need to understand that as marriage equality becomes the law of the land - and as more and more of us are able to marry and choose to do so - our biological families face additional challenges. It is one thing for our families to turn a blind eye concerning who we love. It is quite another for family members to lovingly accept our same-sex husbands and wives into the intimacy of the family circle.

Nobody promised us that the struggle for equality would be easy. We need to remember that not only is it difficult for us, it takes some major adjustments on the part of our families as well. Many of us have discovered that we are happiest with our "family of choice." Some of us will experience a new level of love and acceptance from our biological families, but some of us will not.

As painful and hurtful as rejection by biological family can be, we need to remember that it is all about them and not about us. We can rejoice in the fact that we always have the ability to create our family of choice - who love us and accept us just the way we are.

Recent Entries Filed under Living:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.