Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Point of It All

Matt here.

Some time ago I wrote a post about the phrase “I love you, but . . . ” and then a post about the hypocrisy of gay people denying other people’s feelings, and then a post about the importance of making people feel loved. It’s time to finish the series with today’s post, the fourth and last, about why I think all this is worth so many words.

This is my dad:

Actually, he's clean shaven now. And not Japanese.

Dad's a retired military officer and an active member of his local ward. Yesterday, he and I spent the day in Kyoto with Adam, the last man I dated before moving out here. Dad knows Adam was my boyfriend.

I wouldn’t have believed that this could be a good thing when I first came out and Dad was talking to me about hormone therapy to ‘fix my problem,’ but we had a blast.

This is my mom:

Not really. My mom would be smiling.
She married Dad at nineteen, raised five excellent children (I’m number four), and is now one of the masterminds behind her ward’s Relief Society.

When I was in college she consistently spoke about me finding the right girl someday; last year she blew my mind by casually mentioning that I should “get a man who sings.” She was not referring to party entertainment.

The point of this series is that when I first came out, my parents loved me but believed homosexuality was chosen sin. I had a choice in how to react to that. I could have insisted that their beliefs meant they didn’t really love me, or that if they really loved me they would change their beliefs. I could have bawled that it was the LDS church or me. I could have started dating right away and rubbed my orientation in their faces, ignoring how it would hurt them.

I did not do these things. I can’t say for sure how my life would be different if I had, but I seriously doubt I would have the quality relationship with my parents that I have now. Instead, I trusted that they did, indeed, love me. I respected that they had lived three-plus times as long as me and might know something I didn’t, and I came out slowly, in stages, as gently as I could.

Let me be clear: I am not saying that people should be given a green light for ass-hattery when they say “I love you, but . . .” I am not saying that there are no circumstances in which delicacy and respect for others’ feelings should be dropped.

I am saying that the “but” in “I love you, but [thing]” does not automatically negate the love. I am saying that when someone says they love you, there is no valid way to disprove them. I am saying that loving someone is often meaningless if you don’t make them feel loved.

I’m saying that it is best to not give people me-or-your-beliefs ultimatums.

I’m saying that eventually, after panicky gay adolescence, we can afford to be generous toward people who believe differently. Even when our rights are being voted on.

Maybe especially when our rights are being voted on: This article from The Atlantic tells the fascinating story of last year’s four marriage equality wins. The secret is pretty simple. We gave up on pointing out the factual inaccuracies of anti-gay rhetoric and focused on making people feel our love for each other.

There are many ways to stand up for ourselves, and some are more effective than others.

In the coming years, I hope to see gay marriage legalized in all fifty states. I hope to see fewer gay kids on the streets, fewer suicides, less bullying. At the same time, I feel the need to offer a counterpoint to the chorus of voices like Clyde’s, which seem to me to be saying that we have no power; that there’s nothing we can do; that we are victims. That our behavior, our attitudes, our beliefs are beyond reproach, and it’s up to Them to fix this mess.

I firmly believe that insisting They clean up the mess alone is a strategy intoxicated with righteous indignation, and it is a strategy that will keep the mess worse and leave it longer than it would be if we stopped thinking of ourselves as victims and did what we could.

I will not insist that "negotiations" consist solely of me getting my way, now--that is what children do.

I will not be controlled by indignation that is so there, even when stupid arguments are invoked.

The reason is simple: People who "love us, but . . ." are not enemies, and I am not a victim.


  1. Nice wrap-up post. Excellently put.

  2. You have described how I feel about the "we love you, but ..." statements. It took me a very long time to realize and then accept that I am gay. I can't expect my family and friends to immediately embrace my coming out.

    One of my sibs recognized years ago that I am gay. It was fine as long as I was not dating. That sib is the least interested in hearing anything about the man I am dating. It hurts that she has no interest or desire in knowing about him.

    It is probably good that I live in NC while most of my family is out west. I am close to deciding against any trip to Utah this year and giving it another year. If my guy and I are together next year, and I truly hope we will be, and friends and family out west are not interested in meeting him it will be up to them to travel to NC if they want to see me.

  3. Thanks Trev. I was going to postpone it another week to give me even more revision time (I feel like there are some points I don't quite shore up) but then I was like, nah, if people challenge it there's always the comments. :)

    Dean, I'm glad we agree. Friends and family are some of the best, most painful parts of life.

  4. Great post, Matt! I liked the pictures of your parents : ) This was a great tie-up to the series. Thanks!