After celebrating the legalization of marriage equality on Friday, I spent some time this weekend scanning my social media newsfeeds. I wanted to share in the joys (and grievances) that so many people were exemplifying in response to all of the hype.
I came across one friend who posted that, in honor of the Supreme Court’s decision, she came out to her family as “Bi.” She went on to give a little information about dating a woman a while ago and then dating a man more recently. Her family, she said, was incredibly supportive of her relationship with the man, but she was hoping for advice on how to get them to accept her as “Bi.”
Two comments down was a reply which said, “Sounds like you’re confused.”
After everything that has happened in the last several decades. After all of the spiritual growth, education, and law revisions we’ve gone through as a society, and that’s all you could think of?
This one comment (and the people who liked it) has stuck with me through all of the celebrations and criticisms that circled the internet and media this weekend. It has nudged at my soul and irritated my psychological peace like a pebble in my shoe.
But why? I don’t personally know any of these people making comments. It doesn’t affect me or anyone I know. Right?
This is the type of comment that would have been posted in an AOL or Yahoo chat room fifteen years ago. The internet was full of people with small minds and egocentric realities. Even the chat rooms and forums where people flocked to for support often times were filled with uninformed people who were trying to fit everyone into a box. A neat little box with a neat little title. If you didn’t fit into that box, you were an abomination.
Fast forward a decade or two. We are supposed to be, as a group, more enlightened and more tolerant. Sexuality comes in so many colors and so many shades. Most people are not 100% gay or straight. Most people, if they are honest about their attractions, fall somewhere in between. As a community, we’re supposed to be able to see all colors of the rainbow and be accepting even if we don’t “get” it. We’re supposed to see people for who they are, not what we want them to be. After all, if we can’t be tolerant in our own community, how can we expect others to be?
This is why that one comment has bothered me so much. That one person ripped away so much with only a handful of words. She ripped away the OP’s hope for acceptance in her community, and in so doing ripped away some of the OP’s hope for acceptance in her family.
As a fellow queer-community member, I’m sorry the woman who first sought advice was faced with such bigotry and ignorance. However, instead of continuing to dwell on such egotistical ignorance, I’d like to respond with something that would be a little more appropriate:
Everyone’s family is different. Everyone’s family has different levels of enlightenment, spirituality, and education. The old saying is, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” In so many situations this still holds true. In coming out to your family, you are leading that horse. In asking for acceptance, you are leading that horse. Unfortunately, there is no way that you can make that horse drink that water of acceptance if it’s not ready.
So, what can you do? Just be yourself. Be true to who you are at this time. Date who you want. Or don’t date at all. It’s up to you. Just make sure you’re honest to yourself and everyone else.
That’s the easy part.
The hard part is accepting your family when they don’t accept you. Because that will happen. There will be that one person who is adamant in thrusting hate into your life. There will be that one person who tries to persecute you for no other reason than to make himself feel better. There will be that one person who won’t speak with you ever again. There will also be that one person who offers you a hug after a screaming match with your parents. There will also be that one person who talks with you to the wee hours of the night just because. And there will be that one person who wants you in her life even though you have “baggage.”
If you are like almost everyone else, you will have a mixture of responses that run the gamut. The trick here is to not focus on the negatives. Those negative or hateful reactions will make you feel like crap. You’ll become depressed or filled with anger or some combination of the two. You don’t deserve this. Instead, focus on that one person who is lending you their support. Foster that relationship and, over time, that ally will help you to win over others.
It takes time. There are no shortcuts. Just as with any major change in the perception of one family member, the rest of the family goes through a lengthy process of anger, forgiveness, and acceptance. Don’t tolerate any psychological or physical abuse, but allow yourself to tolerate the process your family is going through. And always remember that you are not alone.
Not Confused, a.k.a. Jennifer Jackson
While I am a person who practices showing affection and gratitude to my loved ones on a daily basis, I still think it’s important to send out a little V-Day love. 🙂 For example, yesterday I handed out small tokens (cards and bubbles) to my students and team members to remind them that they are in my thoughts. Today, I left small gifts for my closest family members.
I know some people hate this fabricated and commercialized “holiday”, but I know that everyone wants to be loved and needs to be loved. I, for one, had an incredibly difficult childhood. To this day, I wonder how different I would have turned out if I had someone telling and showing me that they loved me. If someone had taken the time to compliment me on something I did or said or the fact that I was alive and existing, perhaps it would have taken less time for me to blossom and thrive. I know I’ll never know if I would have turned out differently if one or both of my parents were consciously present during my developing years. If I had been guarded against tragedy and violence in my adolescent years, I’ll never know if I might have become highly successful in some field I can’t even imagine. I do, however, try my best to be present for my children and show them and tell them that I love them everyday. Since I’m surrounded by teenagers, this is a small miracle in it’s own right. 😉
To those who have given their time and attention to read any of the words I have put down in print, thank you. Knowing there are a few people in this world who took the time to read my thoughts or who enjoyed one of my stories, means more to me than you might believe. I love hearing when something I’ve written has made an impact, so don’t feel shy about dropping me an email.
To my coworkers who see me more than my family does, I send out my thanks to the Universe. You’ve seen me elated and homicidal, in pain and nimble, leading and lost, as well as frustrated and content. Some of you know me about as well as your mailman, and others know me better than they know some of their close family members. I might be cranky some days and hard to figure out others, but you make me laugh and, even more importantly, you laugh at my jokes. Although I don’t say it as often as I should, thank you.
Through blood or marriage, I have an incredibly extended family. I, not unlike many of you, am probably the most liberal and tolerant person in my family. I am “Tolerant” of most things except hatred. For that reason, I don’t associate or even communicate with many members of my family. To those who I see on a regular basis, thank you for accepting me for who I am and for believing this world can be a better place if we want it to be.
To Katherine, you are my anchor to this world. Without you and your amazing wit and intelligence, I don’t think I could have lasted this long. You give me a reason to get out of bed every day and face the world. You give me hope that facing my goals and dreams could be a positive experience. You also remind me that nobody likes it when I sit and stew too long. I love you with all that I am.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
It’s Elementary is a fun, little story I started several years ago. As a teacher, I have had my share of strange and ridiculous experiences with students, parents, and school staff. A while back, I started doing what so many teachers joke about: I wrote those experiences down. Those experiences eventually shifted and became my first novel. While the actual shooting that took place in my book is fiction, all of the other events actually happened (including that crazy parent and his back story). Even though the book had some serious events, I always wanted to keep it a fun, easy-read mainly focused on the romance developing between the two main characters.
In It’s Elementary, Too the story is focused on Victoria and Jessica trying to traverse the aftermath of the events in the first book. In real life, we rarely get the “happily ever after.” It takes a lot of hard work and second-guessing to make a relationship last. When you tack on a traumatic, life-changing event, it’s almost impossible to come out on the other side with a solid foundation and an even stronger relationship. Been there, done that! Have the ex to prove it. 😉
It’s Elementary, Too however takes these two characters, who we think are meant to be together, and throws everything at them. It’s more serious and realistic than the first book. It’s not ‘oh, bad stuff happened before, but let’s go do other stuff.’ It’s about two people who are trying their best to get over a bad event, but life keeps bringing it back. As I was writing it, I kept in mind a sort of psychological roller coaster. It keeps spiraling, faster and faster, and neither of the characters knows when it’s going to stop or where they will be when it’s all over. Hard decisions and sacrifices have to be made by both characters if they want to stay together. And, just like in real life, the question “is love enough” weighs heavily.
What happens when personal and spiritual confusion lead to intimacy apathy?
My second novel, It’s Elementary, Too, follows Jessica and Victoria through the emotional and psychological aftermath of a recent school shooting.
As an elementary school teacher, Jessica was held hostage, her life threatened, and she witnessed the assailant assassinated before her. Initially suffering from Post Traumatic Stress and survivor’s guilt, her denial of emotional struggles eventually spawns even greater issues.
Victoria tries to maintain the act as stoic protector, but it weighs heavy on her emotional stability. After numerous rejections, she turns her back on teaching and her life in Austin and finds a separate path full of inviting promises.
Studies show most primary relationships falter after traumatic life events. This story examines the gradual emotional and intimacy decline and the possible resurrection of Jessica and Victoria’s relationship. The ultimate question: is love really enough?
—-> And, yes, there will be another book giveaway. Details to be announced, soon. 😀
To help spread the word about my debut novel, I am giving away 3 signed paperback copies of It’s Elementary. Starting March 29th, you can enter to win at Goodreads (see the link below).
I’ve received several great reviews, and now I’m inviting you to find out why. Win a free copy to see why one Amazon reviewer said, “I heard myself saying “WHOA…” quite a few times while reading this.” Or, why another reviewer said, “it pulls you in from the beginning and keeps you interested until the end. Great character development and story line.”
Of course, you can always pick up a copy of It’s Elementary if you can’t wait a few weeks to win one. 😉
Goodreads Book Giveaway
Giveaway ends May 29, 2013.
See the giveaway details