It’s hard to deal with people who don’t agree with you, who are narrow-minded and are shallow. Who don’t believe in the causes you believe in, and think who you are is a sin. These people are easy to write off as hopeless with no chance of redemption and beyond saving.
Most of the time I would agree with you. I normally don’t have the time nor the energy to spend on ignorant and bigoted people. I can’t shout at the world for not thinking my organization’s mission isn’t important. I don’t have the courage to correct every homophobic comment I hear. It’s not my job to correct people, and most people don’t want to be corrected.
But, there are always those people who can surprise you. People who you never would expect to grow learn expanding their view of the world.
No one was ever outwardly homophobic in my family. It was kind of a “hear no evil, see no evil” mentality growing up and going to Catholic elementary school in the 1990s.
There were, however, those little pieces and tidbits I heard growing up that shaped my idea of how my dad thought of gay people and homosexuality in general. The old family joke was that my dad didn’t want my mom to put a rectal thermometer on my brother, who was an infant at the time, because it would make him gay. As a kid that had much more of an impact on my sexual identity than I was even consciously aware of. Deep down every time I heard that story I felt like my dad was someone who not be supportive.
When he converted to Catholicism I think it made that fear even stronger. I didn’t know I was gay at the time, but when my dad was becoming a deacon I became even more anxious over something I wouldn’t let myself understand. I don’t think religion is naturally oppressive, but the brand of Catholicism that was forced upon me in school was hateful and repressive. I was being told in school that gay people didn’t actually exist because “God didn’t make mistakes”. My dad became more and more associated and intertwined with an institution that was hateful.
I didn’t come out to myself until college, and I really didn’t feel like waiting around before coming out, but I was terrified of coming out to my dad. I was shaking and having a full-blown panic attack while coming out to him, which took about an hour to complete.
His reaction? He was hurt that I thought that he would react badly and reject me. I didn’t have the words to describe to him all of the little things that had paralyzed me with fear. At that point his views on marriage equality and gay rights were far from perfect. He wasn’t against any of it, in reality, he really just didn’t understand. After explaining things to him I could see him starting to change for the better.
It certainly wasn’t an overnight process. It’s been almost 6 years since I’ve come out to him. We still have discussions about Catholicism’s views on anything and everything. I love that I get to explain to him the different parts of the gay movement and why it’s important.
He’s learning from me, and he’s open to new ideas. He understands that there isn’t a conflict with being religious and accepting me for who I am.
I’m not saying that everyone is going to change their mind or that they’ll become magically open-minded. Probably most people aren’t worth your time, but that doesn’t mean that you should write off everyone. There are going to be some people who are actually worth being patient with as they grow.
If you asked me ten years ago if I thought that my dad was capable of that much progress and growth I wouldn’t have believed you. I’m so glad I was wrong.