Friday, September 9, 2011

A Response to a Comment Received from Tina

Of the posts I write, the ones that please me the most are usually those inspired by comments and emails I receive from readers, who encourage me with their words and sentiments to dig deeper into what it means to be gay.  The result, I hope, is to help gay people understand themselves better--that is, to gain insight into why they behave as they do, and to decide if changes are in order to live more fulfilling lives--and to help straight people understand gay people better, as well.   
Nothing satisfies me more than when I hear from a reader, as I did a few days ago, who writes that, as a result of reading my blog, she is more aware of what gay people are up against.  That reader, in this case, was Tina, who wrote a thoughtful and heartfelt comment in response to the post titled “A Tragic Anniversary,” which I published on Thursday, September 1.  Below, you'll find my second and more detailed response to Tina's comment.    
But, first, I want to share with you what Tina had to say:    
Reading your blog has really opened my eyes about gay people and their relationships.  I just turned 18 this year and I am a straight girl.  I have always wondered why people around me seem to be against gay society, they always say gay people are this and that, well, shortly, nothing good.  But since [I was] young when my family found out my uncle is gay and he left home, I have determined to believe gay people are the same as others.  Why was I forbidden to contact my uncle?  The man who took me out to play when others were too busy to notice me. Even now I still don't know where he is.
When I entered high school two years ago, I thought youngsters now-a-days would be more open-minded, guess I was wrong.  Some of my friends hate gay people, just because their parents think gay people are sick.  I want my friends to think like me, be open minded, but it seems so hard.  Why are some people so hard-headed?  Even though I think they are wrong, and want them to be open-minded, is it OK for me to try?  Or would it be wrong?  I mean, people are free to believe in whatever they want, right?  So should I just let them be, let them believe in what they want to?
Tina, I can't say for sure why some of the people around you seem to be against gay and lesbian people, but, based on my experience over the years, I’m willing to bet it has something to do with organized religion.  
In short, if it wasn’t for organized religion, and some people’s literal readings of specific Bible passages (which are imperfect, because they were written by human beings for a time different from ours, and because they may not necessarily be God’s word), the commonly-held belief that gay people are immoral wouldn’t exist.  As a result, I believe gay people wouldn’t be discriminated against as they are, and they’d live their lives in much the same way everyone does.  
In your comment, you write that some of your friends hate gay people because their parents think gay people are sick.  My guess is that some of your friends’s parents hate gay people because of their religious beliefs.  As is generally the case, parents pass on their religious beliefs to their children, resulting in the current generation thinking and feeling the same as the one before, whether these thoughts and feelings are right or wrong, fair or unfair, valid or invalid--or even make sense, for that matter.  
Some people’s religious beliefs prevent them from learning for themselves, so they can make rational, intelligent, and logical decisions about what to think and how to behave.  As a result, they shut themselves off from learning about people who are different from them--people like gays and lesbians, for example--and how similar we are as opposed to how different.  Instead of being guided by compassion and love, they are ruled by fear and ignorance.        
When I read what you wrote about your gay uncle, I was moved by how painful that experience must have been for you.  Your words, “Why was I forbidden to contact my uncle?  The man who took me out to play when others were too busy to notice me,” say it all.      
I don't know from what you wrote whether your uncle left home as a matter of course, or because he was forced to, after his family learned he was gay.  But because of what you wrote, I suspect your family didn't accept his sexual orientation and gave him no choice but to leave.      
Imagine how difficult it must have been for him to be kicked out of the only home he'd ever known, and out of the lives of the people he loved and who he thought loved him.  Over the years, I've heard of this happening many times, and I believe it's further proof of just how fearful and ignorant some people become over what they don't understand.  To turn on a loved and cherished family member simply because of his sexual orientation makes no sense to me and is beyond my comprehension.      
My heart goes out to both you and your uncle.  It sounds like you were close at some point. Because of how your family reacted toward him and the truth of who he is, you were denied his love all these years, as he was denied yours.  There really is only one reason why we are all here--to love and to be loved in return.  But so many things get in the way of that sometimes, including people who make irrational judgements against other people for no good reason.       
I'm certain someone in your family knows where your uncle is.  Now that you're older--and if you'd like to get in touch with him to find out how he's doing and to show your love for and support of him--you should ask the most logical family members where your uncle is.  You have the right to know.  You have the right to make up your own mind whether or not you want to be a part of his life.  I’m certain he’d appreciate you finding him and rekindling your relationship.  
You write that you believe gay people are the same as everyone, and on that point you are correct.  Gay people are exactly the same as everyone.  We suffer the same, we bleed the same, and we love the same.  The only difference is those we love are people of the same gender.  Otherwise, there is no difference.  None.  
I have for many years believed young people today are more open-minded and accepting of gays and lesbians than they were, for example, in the 1970s and '80s, when I came of age.  And despite everything I see from time to time--even the rash of teenage suicides a year ago that occurred because of excessive bullying--I still believe that.  So I tell you, don’t be discouraged that some of your friends are not more like you.  
In many areas of the world, to be gay in 2011 is easier than it's ever been, but I don’t want to paint a completely rosy picture.  In some countries, homosexuality is still a crime, where gay people can be incarcerated, sentenced to ten years of hard labor, or even put to death--all because they love someone of the same gender.  Seems crazy, doesn’t it?  
So we still have a ways to go to make being gay better and easier for everyone around the world.  One day, I'm confident we’ll get there.  Whether it happens in my lifetime or yours is another question.     
In your comment, you ask if it’s all right to try to convince some of your hard-headed friends--despite their right to believe whatever they want to--to be more open-minded about gay and lesbian people.  My answer is a resounding YES!  Of course it’s all right.  In fact, I encourage it. 
Without realizing it, you’re already an example to them, simply by being you, by holding the opinions and beliefs you have, by being open-minded when it comes to people who are different from you.  Whenever you have the chance, speak up.  Let your friends know how you feel.  Plant a seed in their minds to get them thinking what they believe might just be wrong, what they learned from their parents should be questioned.      
Can you force people to believe what you do?  Of course not.  The only person you can ever change is you.  But you can be an instrument of change simply by speaking up, by being true to who you are, and by remaining stedfast, despite whatever pressure you come under, how difficult other people might be.     
Part of growing up and taking responsibility for yourself as a human being is to stand up for what you believe in, for what you know is right, for what you see as injustice.  Just because someone believes something about a minority of people--for example, that all gay people are sick--doesn't mean they’re right.  It only means their thinking hasn't been broadened, their hearts haven't been opened.
In closing, I just want to say thank you so much, Tina, for sharing your words with my readers, for inspiring me to write this post, and for being the young lady of character and integrity that you already are--at the young age of eighteen.  
What an example you set for all people, young and old.  You should be proud of your conviction that gay people are the same as everyone else.

As I wrote in a previous post titled “Our Straight Friends and Allies,” gay and lesbian people will only get where they should be as equal human beings with the support of people like you, fighting along side them for what's just and right.        
Thanks again for being you.       


  1. This time I really cried while reading your post. It was so encouraging and understanding that I couldn't hold my tears from overflowing, thank you for your post.(I think my keyboard might suffer a lot of this never ending weeping)

    I will try to look for my uncle, actually I'm pretty sure that my mom knows where he lives. I just don't know how to start the conversation with her, she hasn't mentioned uncle's name for over eight years and my stepfather is a major gay-hater. Actually after re-thinking about it, I don't think my mom was ever seriously against gays. I think it is more because of my stepfather (and my grandparents, my other uncles and aunts...) why she has kept quiet for so long. I don't know what to do if I really contact my uncle. What should I say? Will he want to contact me after all these years, when he has been hurt by his loved ones?

    I will move out this month to live with my older sister who is (thank you god) almost as open-minded as me. She still thinks it is weird to be gay, but she is not against gays (which is way lot better than the actual haters). So contacting our uncle isn't a big deal for her, I hope. I'm a little scared because she herself haven't even thought about contacting him.

    I really appreciate the long, well-rounded post of yours. It gives me courage to stand for my opinions and I'm grateful about it. And about your comment on where elevencats lives, Estonia, I just want to say, this world is smaller than we believe. I live only approximately 150 km from him. I also live in Europe too, a little bit more above on the map but still, close enough.

    Europe is very open minded about gays, I agree with that, but people living in Europe aren't all like that, there are protests, bashing, humiliation and even beating up gay people from time to time. Only a few hundred meters from my house there is a construction side, where a 14 year old gay teen boy was killed by a group of thugs ten years ago. It's so unavoidable sad and crushing that the small memorial plaque that was installed on the big rock by the spot where he was killed was taken away and the rock got smashed and the area was turned into a huge business industry. This world is very unfair sometimes.

    To conclude this comment (it is late now and I just came back home from work and I'm having my matriculation exams soon, so I SHOULD sleep, but I can't, too much on my mind) I just want to say thank you for your great post once again and I'm sure to be back for more of your wonderful posts. But until then, good night from this side of the earth!

    Best wishes and good dreams!

    P.S. I am very sorry, if this comment was disorganized and confusing, I have a lot on my mind right now, so to actually but it all in words is very difficult for me. I apologize in advance if my English is hard to read, I never check my writings and I'm not very good at writing English anyway, so for now, please try to cope with my writings and misspellings :))

  2. Tina, what a treat to hear from you again. And what a wonderful comment. No need to worry about your English or how you write. I understand you perfectly, and I'm sure my readers do, too.

    About your uncle, I would be very surprised if someone in your family doesn't know where he is. And how do you bring up with your mother the subject of contacting him? Well, you could ask her questions about him to gauge her feelings. Tell her you miss him. Tell her he was special in your life. Tell her why he was special in your life. Ask her about her memories of him. Tell her you'd like to contact him, to find out how he's doing, to make sure he's all right.

    My guess is your mother and uncle are siblings, so I can't imagine she hasn't thought about her brother over the years. I can't imagine she hasn't wondered how his life is going, if he's well, what he's up to. I bet your mother would appreciate you bringing up the subject of your uncle, because it has to be hard for her not to talk about him and what happened in the family eight years ago. Anyway, negotiate your way carefully through this until you know how open your mother is. Then keep talking and see where it takes you. You might be surprised.

    About whether or not your uncle would be interested in having contact with you, believe me, he would. He proved how much you meant to him when you were a kid by playing with you when no one else had the time to. He loves you, Tina. I'm certain of that. And I know for a fact he'd love to hear from you. Again, take things slowly. Feel him out. Be respectful of him and the situation he's been in all these years. I'm sure you'll know what to do when the time comes. (And, by the way, I'd love to hear how it goes with him if you'd care to write and tell me. You can always send me a personal email instead of posting a comment here, if you prefer.)

    Thank you for sharing the story about the fourteen-year-old boy who was murdered near where you live. I'm afraid tragedies like this happen everywhere. It makes me so angry to hear about them. That's why I'm doing my best with my blog to help gay people understand themselves better, and to help straight people understand gay people better. Believe me, as you already know, we are more alike than not.

    I wish you every success in your matriculation exams, and I thank you for all the kind words about my blog and the work I'm doing here. I take this very seriously. It is my purpose to help make the gay experience so much better than it was for me, particularly when I was much younger.

    Again, thanks for stopping by and for having the courage to leave a heartfelt comment. I really appreciate your interest in what I have to say.