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.