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May 17

Hop Against Homophobia

Today’s the first day of the Hop Against Homophobia. I’m only one of the authors participating in the hop; to find the list of other participants, click on the image above to go to the official Hop Against Homophobia site.

I was brought up by parents who taught me to respect everyone, regardless of color, religion, sexual orientation, or any of the number of other things people discriminate against each other for. My parents failed on some levels of my upbringing, but that wasn’t one of them. According to them, the only people who didn’t deserve respect were those who disrespected me.

My father had several friends who were gay or lesbian. As a child, I never thought about whether they might be treated differently from other adults. They were just John and Norman, or Sharon, or Jacques, Stuart, and Mario. (Though the first time I met Sharon, when I was eight, I had a very embarrassing moment. Because of her short hair, build and clothing, and her very deep voice, I was sure she was a man, and felt horrible when I was corrected.) Even as a teen, spending occasional weekends with Jacques, Stuart, and Mario in their home and socializing with their other friends who were also gay or lesbian, it just plain didn’t occur to me that some people wouldn’t find that acceptable.

Now that I’m older and sadly wiser, I have to wonder what they went through. John and Norman lived together and seemed to get along quite well. Jacques, Stuart, and Mario were a committed triad who were together from the time I was very young. I never met Sharon’s girlfriend, but she talked about her with a smile. All of them seemed committed and happy in their relationships, and yet I now know that those relationships were likely not accepted, and that those men and women may have faced loss of jobs and even loss of contact with their families because of their sexuality.

When my daughter, who’s now sixteen, was just short of turning eleven, she informed me that she “liked girls the same way as boys.” She identifies as bisexual, and has faced bullying at school because even in elementary school, she wasn’t exactly quiet about it. Her sixth-grade assistant principal once called me in for a conference to inform me that my daughter was “troubled” and “needed serious help.” Why? Because my daughter, feeling keenly the need for support for herself and others, tried to start a Gay-Straight Alliance for the sixth-graders at her elementary school. I told the assistant principal to stay away from my daughter unless she wanted a lawsuit. (The woman was fired at the end of that year; I wasn’t the only parent who had a problem with her. Fortunately, my daughters and I moved out of that school district about a month after that conversation.)

The bullying my daughter dealt with in middle school was the worst. She was already at a disadvantage by changing schools in the middle of the year, and we moved to the town where I grew up, which as a whole gives a new meaning to “intolerant.” She was constantly called “dyke” and worse, and the school didn’t address it because the kids making those slurs denied it. My daughter finally shut them up herself; in eighth grade, she went to school one day wearing a homemade T-shirt that said, “Bisexual: We’re half the rainbow,” and when one girl called her a dyke, my daughter–brave child!–responded, “Sorry, you’re only half right.”

In the town where we moved at the end of her eighth grade year, she hasn’t faced that type of insults and bullying, but she still deals with homophobia. Aside from two cousins who took vows of secrecy, no one in my daughter’s father’s family knows that she’s bisexual. She’s afraid to tell them. And so sometimes she comes home in tears from weekend visits, having sat at family gatherings listening to homosexual (and racist) slurs, including her father and his brothers and other male members of the family calling each other “faggot” and “queerbait” as part of their so-called banter.

I wish my daughter could grow up in a world that’s accepting of her and of other people who aren’t one hundred percent straight. Hell, I wish she could grow up in a world with no prejudice at all. Unfortunately, that isn’t likely to happen. But I hope that events like this blog hop will contribute to education and to maybe convincing at least a few people to be a little more tolerant.

My daughter, especially her response to the middle school bullies, is inspiring to me. Have you met someone who inspires you to be more tolerant and/or more courageous? Tell me about them in the comments, and you’ll be entered in a drawing for an autographed print copy of my new M/M novel Lost Soul, if you’re a US or Canadian resident; if you’re in a different country, you could win a PDF copy of Lost Soul.

22 comments

  1. KimberlyFDR

    My uncle lived his whole life in secrecy. As a family, we weren’t allowed to acknowledge that he was gay, nor that he passed away from AIDS. Instead, we were told to keep it to ourselves, that no one should know because they’d judge not only him but us as well. I never want to see others have to live in the fear that my uncle did. He’s inspired me in so many ways and he will continue to do so.

    kimberlyFDR@yahoo.com

    1. admin

      My condolences on losing your uncle. It had to be hard for him and for you to live that way.

  2. Angela S Stone

    Thank you for sharing and being part of this hop!

    xx
    Angela S Stone
    angela@angelastone.ca
    http://angelastone.ca/blog-3

  3. Gigi

    All the best to your daughter. Stay strong!

  4. kerry

    Thank you for sharing with us today.

  5. Andrea

    I’m so happy to see that your daughter support and love. I wish all kids could count on that.

    andreagrendahl AT gmail DOT com

  6. DarienMoya

    This might be a typical answer but my sons inspire me. I am gonna talk and spread love to them and for them so they can grow up in a world and love who they want. So I see them and want to do good, so they dont have to be afraid of being different.

  7. Emily W.

    I have a friend who’s like a brother to me and I helped him when he came out to his parents. I admire his courage because his parents are very Catholic so we weren’t sure how it would turn out. Fortunately, it worked out for him, and he’s lived out and proud ever since.

    tiger-chick-1@hotmail

    1. admin

      Emily, it’s good that it turned out well for your friend. I had a friend in high school who became my “honorary brother,” and I was the first person he chose to come out to when we were both 17. Unfortunately, when he came out to others his parents threw him out of the house and the church he and I attended kicked him out. (I left that church because of it.) He ended up living in the YMCA for a while, then started seeing a slightly older man who lived on his own and let my friend move in with him.

      Unfortunately, two or three years later my friend had broken up with that man and was in a relationship with someone so controlling he wouldn’t let my friend talk to anyone from his “old life,” including me. I’ve tried to track him down on Facebook with no luck, because my friend has a very common name and I don’t even know what part of the country he’s in anymore. I wish I could find him.

  8. William Prater

    Thank you for sharing about you, and your daughter. I was lucky to meet another gay teenager when I was ready to come out, and he was my guiding light. I have encountered him several times of the years, but I don’t think I ever let him know how important he was to me. Thank you for the encouragement to do so. —wtprater

    1. admin

      William, I’m glad you had someone like that in your life.

  9. NJ Nielsen

    Karenna, thank you for participating in this hop, and for sharing with us all such a wonderful post. There has been so many amazing stories so far and I am only into 70 of them. I can’t wait to read the rest.

    normanielsen@bigpond.com

  10. DebraG

    My daughter inspires me as well. Whenever someone tells her she cannot do something because of her “life style” she fights.
    debby236 at hotmail dot com

  11. Foretta

    I showed a bunch of these post to the teens in my family to show them how hurt some “innocent” remarks are to many others. I get so annoyed when my nephew says “you’re so gay”. ERRRR drove me crazy. I know he didn’t mean anything by it but it is so wrong to use that as a saying. I think that these post have helped. Thank you all for sharing with us!
    forettarose@yahoo.com

    1. admin

      Foretta, thank you for sharing with the teens. My daughter, the one I mention in the post, used to say “That’s so gay” all the time, even after she came out as bi, and she couldn’t understand that she was insulting herself as well as many others by using that phrase. Making it more ironic, she pitched a fit any time anyone said, “That’s so retarded,” because her younger sister is on the autism spectrum and had been called “retarded” by bullies and ignorant people for a few years.

  12. L.M. Brown

    I am afraid I have no story to share but wanted to say thanks for sharing yours. You have a very brave daughter and I hope that when the other side of the family finds out they rethink their attitudes and show her the same support she already gets from you.

  13. Yvette

    Thanks for participating for this wonderful cause of awareness…I teach high schoolers and this is a topic that we discuss at length. I just want them to be aware and know that they have the power to change the world!
    Yvette
    yratpatrol@aol.com

  14. Layladawna

    It sounds like I could learn alot from your daughter, I certainly couldn’t have faced down anyone in high school like that.

  15. Erica Pike

    I have met people online who inspire me every day in various ways. One in particular went through something horrible when he came out to his parents, and he’s the one I think about when I hear of homophobia.

    As for people I’ve physically met, the first time I met a GLBTQ person, a gay man, was when I was seventeen and worked in a candy shop (yes, that darned song is totally playing in my head now. He didn’t want me to lick his lollipop though). He was my boss and I didn’t know he was gay until many weeks of working for him. I wasn’t homophobic or intolerant before that, as I was raised not to be discriminating. This was before “faghag TV”, so I didn’t think they were poodles to parade around. Nevertheless, he gave me a clear understanding that being gay didn’t mean sequins and dress-up. He was so utterly “normal” – just a man in his dark green sweater and jeans, talking in his subdued, bored voice – that I never got into the whole idealism that all gay men were party boys and that “all gay men were fun”. They can be boring too, just like other men. Unknowing, he taught me that gay men are just men, and I’ve carried that with me since.

  16. Sarah Kalaitzidis

    I don’t know anyone but me and my sisters will stand up for gays and anyone else who is different. We believe people should love who they want!
    Thanks for sharing!!

  17. Ashley E

    I wish I knew someone as inspiring as your daughter, and I hope to someday raise my children to be accepting of anyone, even themselves, no matter who they love. Because that right there is the key: Love.

  18. Peggy

    My children have taught me tolerance. While still too young to be aware of a sexual preference, I want them to understand I will love them no matter what, I want them to be accepting of others. This in return has made me more tolerant of people.

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