The following is a response to pegkerr's recent post about tolerance, in which she challenges a co-worker/friend of hers to think differently about homosexuality and the AIDS crisis. I tried to sum up my thoughts on her journal, but it got too long. I had actually been contemplating posting something about this part of my vacation home before this, but then I read Peg's post,
When I went home to visit my mom and grandmother 2 weeks ago, it was my mom's 50th birthday. My mom is a dedicated Southern Baptist who raised me in our small, conservative local church. She also, however, chose to raise me in the theatre, in a very gay-friendly environment, and she herself always taught me tolerance and acceptance towards all our gay friends.
At Christmas, as I shared on livejournal then, my mom and I had a conversation in which she told me I'd always been "obsessed" about "that sort of thing." The implication was that I was unhealthily interested in gay politics and gay culture.
On her birthday I had prepared this whole step-by-step process in which I would come out to her as a slash writer. I had a whole folder containing not only my fanfic, Love Under Will, but letters from people who had read my stories and written me very moving, really precious letters about how reading something I'd written, on my journal or in a fic, had changed their perceptions about homosexuality and gay people. I had printed out a few livejournal posts where I explained my position and my background and, of course, how I felt after reading the Wild Swans. I had planned to give her the folder, along with a copy of the Wild Swans, along with a note that I was trying to give her the gift of understanding who I am and what is important to me.
Naturally things didn't go that way. A couple of weeks before I went home one of my friends came out to their mother, and their mother's initial response was essentially, "whatever." As I was hearing about this I sent an email to my mom saying, "If I ever had some dark secret like this to tell you, how would you respond?" My mom's response was very affirmative, so I felt confident, even though I assured her that I *wasn't* planning on coming out of the closet anytime soon.
The day I got home to Tennessee--beautiful, redneck, home of my childhood, Tennessee--coincided with a busy busy week for homosexual rights.
First there was Canada. Then there was the sodomy laws being overturned. And there was also the annual Southern Baptist Convention, held in Arizona that same week, just a few days after the Canada courts changed their ruling on marriages. Back 10 years ago when I was just a sophomore in high school, the Southern Baptists tried to boycott Disney because of its gay-friendly policies. They/we were notoriously ridiculed for it--and that was the moment that I officially stopped being a Southern Baptist at heart.
So, ten years later they have started their bullshit aggressive campaigning (Aka Resolutions No. 1 and No. 4) to "convert" homosexuals and win them over to Christ, the idea being that Christ would therefore liberate them from their sin. Their (or i guess i should say "our," since i grew up in the church and am still a member of it and therefore still indirectly culpable for what those shits were saying in Arizona this past month) argument is that because homosexuals are prone to so much promiscuity, they should be brought to Christ and redeemed of their sins, which will then allow them, naturally, to enter into happy, successful marriages.
I got home and immediately started furrowing through the paper hoping to see if Resolution 4 had passed. My mom naturally asks me what I'm devouring so eagerly in the local news.
So I, unwisely, less than half an hour into the trip, start ranting about the SBC. I say, "isn't that ironic?" And I go on to rant at my mom, to explain to her how the focus of this convention represents the hypocrisy of Christianity in general, for vowing to uphold marriage as a sacred institution while telling us that homosexuals can never belong to that institution--and then turning around and condemning them for a culture of promiscuity, a culture that we as Christians have directly contributed to because we have excluded gays and lesbians from being able to partake in the sanctity of marriage.
My mom is boggled. She tries to change the subject.
I say, mom, did I ever tell you about the time I-- and I then proceed to tell her all my stories from high school on through college, in one long spiel: about chewing my friend Lisa out when she said that she thought all gays should be shot in the summer of 1993; about singlehandedly turning the topic of a health-care debate at a statewide leadership conference to the AIDS debate in 1994; about asking the Governor of Tennessee whether his health-care policy was gay-friendly in 1995; about having my best friend come out to me in 1998 and parting ways with another dear friend in 1999 because she couldn't accept that I wouldn't as a christian condemn him, and "speak the truth in love" about his sin.
I tell my mom all this in a very long rambling rush.
My mom is still boggled. My mom changes the subject.
I think, that did not go well.
My mom's birthday was the Friday OOTP came out, so that day we went to the bookstore early. While we were there browsing around we came across Holly's Tithe and Spiderwick Chronicles, and my mom was delighted to hear that I knew the author. I then went on a hunt to see (the main bookstore back home, Davis-Kidd, is a smaller Southern chain, and we don't have any rivals for it back in Jackson Tennessee) if they had a copy of The Wild Swans.
They had one, and I showed it to my mom. I handed her the book and said that I knew the author of this book also, that reading this particular book was one of the most moving experiences I had ever had, and that I really really wanted her to read it as well.
My mom read the back of the book, frowned, and said no. She said, flat out, that she wouldn't read it, and looked very distressed that I had asked her to.
I said, mom, this book is important to me, I really want you to read it. She said no. I said, I know the author, I've emailed her about her experiences writing the book, I'm sure she wouldn't mind if I forwarded you a copy of them. My mom said no. I said, I was going to give you my copy of this book for your birthday. I will buy you your own right now. My mom said, I won't read it.
I said, please? I'll buy it for you, you won't have to pay a thing, only read it as a favor to me?
My mom said no.
And I was a coward, because I let it go at that. I didn't give her any of the things that I had planned to. The folder came back with me. I didn't say another word about it, any of it, for the rest of my visit, until she came out with, "and I don't know what that email you sent me was about," out of the blue. "Mom," I said, "I'm not gay." I didn't think it was the right time to quibble with her over the definitions of bi-sexuality. "Well, I don't know why you would send me an email like that and expect me not to wonder," she said. She is, mind you, doing this very loudly in a MOVIE THEATRE while we are waiting to see Finding Nemo. She had been prior to this upbraiding me very loudly about my academic career, which we all know is ground zero, and I had been mortified because she was just doing this where everybody in the audience around us could hear it, this discussion about what a bad student I am and how disappointed she is in me.
So when she brings up the whole email thing, naturally, I am relieved to turn it into the more general subject of homosexuality and parents accepting people coming out of the closet.
My mom says, "if it had been me, I probably would have had the same reaction that girl's mother did. 'Whatever.' " Then she says, "I don't want to talk about it anymore."
I say, "So what, you'd rather discuss my personal academic career in front of a bunch of strangers than discuss the hypothetical possibility that someone else might be gay?"
My mom looks very disturbed and says, "Yes."
And then she cried all the way home.
In my over-idealistic fantasy version of things, I would come home, hand mom the folder, and say, "Mom, I'm a slasher! Isn't it great?! See how many people have been touched by this story I've written? Be proud of me! Happy birthday!" and my mom would say, "Thank you for being so open! I'm so proud of you!"
Maybe I'll send my mom an autographed copy of The Wild Swans after Nimbus, and try again. Sigh.