Homophobia Is In The Smiling Faces Of Friends

NOTE: Please also see my sweetie’s companion piece: “Lesbian: No One Is With Her”.

A while back, I “unfriended” one of my dearest cousins.  I didn’t do it in a fit of anger. Instead, I purposefully walked away and thoroughly considered the situation before making the decision to symbolically “unfriend” her on Facebook and to break off contact in real life.

Before I get into the specifics of the situation and the reasons for my decision, allow me to explain why this decision was such a huge deal to me, since, after all, people are constantly “unfriending” each other on Facebook over various personal or political disagreements.

This cousin (let’s call her “Emma”, since her real name is rather distinctive) was my earliest friend. As soon as we both could walk and talk, we were inseparable whenever we would see each other.

This friendship was a REALLY big deal to me, because I have always been (and still am) an outsider. I am not the life of the party…not by a long shot. Nope, I am the one in the corner, away from the group, checking out the host’s book collection or petting the dog.

The same was true when I was a child. I wasn’t the one hanging upside down on the monkey bars screaming like a banshee; I was the socially awkward one sitting on the bench by herself on the sidelines with a book…and a thesaurus. Think: Brick in the TV show The Middle as a girl.

Emma was my complete opposite. She was extroverted, reckless, popular, funny, friendly, uncomplicated, constantly laughing…inexplicably happy. She talked to strangers. She ran with scissors. She didn’t contemplate the myriad horrors of the world in an endless mental loop as I did; in fact, she seemed blissfully unaware of the existence of a dark side. She was sunshine.

We lived a couple of hours away from each other, but her family visited often and stayed at Emma’s grandmother’s house for long holidays and extended portions of the summer.  It was just an accepted fact that I would be staying there for as long as they did.

Even as we grew into teenagers and young adults, we remained very close.  Back in the days before email and Facebook and texting, we wrote letters, almost every day.  Hers about her social life; mine about the books I read or random thoughts I had.

But then things changed. To make a long story short, without giving away any personally identifiable details of people/events, at some point, Emma and her husband became very religiously and politically conservative.

Somehow we managed to remain (at least superficially) friendly, even as we gradually grew further apart in every way imaginable.  At family reunions and holidays, we would still greet each other with enthusiasm and genuine affection. Occasionally, despite time and circumstances, I would still catch a fleeting glimpse of the girl I once knew.

Although I knew that their ever-growing religious beliefs and conservative politics were 100% against everything I am and all that I believe in, I willfully swallowed my worry and growing anger. I chose to be in denial, because, after all, she was my most beloved cousin.

As I discussed in a previous post, following a health scare, I had started an ongoing process of shedding the parts of my life that no longer fit. My long-term friendship with Emma turned out to be, sadly, a casualty of that process.

One day, I logged onto Facebook to see a post on Emma’s wall (note that I am paraphrasing here because I did not have the foresight to screencap it before I blocked her):

“I will never support gay marriage. If you choose to live that lifestyle, I will be your friend, and I still love you, but know that I will never support your gay lifestyle.  God made marriage to be a holy bond between a man and a woman…blah blah blah…yada yada yada…”

I won’t belabor the point of how painful this was to read, or the obvious problems with her “logic”, because I trust that my readers are smart enough to see why someone who doesn’t recognize, understand, or support me or my relationship is not, and can never be, my true friend.

My point of this post is: homophobia appears in many forms, and it appears not only in the angry faces of protesters or in the hateful rhetoric of a right-wing sermon.

Sometimes, homophobia shows up in the smiling faces of your lifelong friends. Sometimes, it shows up in the words of someone proclaiming to love you. Sometimes, it appears in the off-hand comment of a coworker. Sometimes, it shows up in the misguided words and retweets/likes of our so-called “allies”. Sometimes, it even stares back at us from the mirror on the bathroom wall.

As for Emma, I will always remember and cherish the pure and simple friendship we shared before it was tainted. I hope to meet her one day in Rumi’s field:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there” ~ Rumi

shutterstock_260182148

Image: SuzaZoom (Used under license with Shutterstock.com)

29 thoughts on “Homophobia Is In The Smiling Faces Of Friends

  1. So very empathizes with you, and this post will be quite cathartic for many who will read it. Most if not all of us have a cousin, a relative, childhood pal with whom a clash of ideologies, of wills arise. My honey bunny has a face book “friend” who supposedly earns 7 figures in finance, and has the most atrocious anti-Hillary memes on her page. I have shared my frustration about how she could be “friends” with such an ignorant nincompoop. NO, and I mean NO Trump supporter will ever be a part of my life. There is something broken within them, that I am unable to fix it.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I’m way more liberal than most when it comes to my circle of friends. I have friends who are opposed to gay marriage, who don’t like Catholicism at all, who are very conservative about gender roles, who support Trump, etc. We have simply come to the understanding that I have the same right to be totally, freely, and publicly me as they do. We even have great discussions about the most sensitive topics you can imagine. I think I’m the only person I know that can get away with that shit, lol. People come to me specifically to learn and think things over when they know I am the polar opposite. I had a conservative Catholic come to me and ask me to pray for her granddaughter who is gay because she is convinced the kid is going to hell. I set her straight, she was thrilled and very accepting of my answer…and yes, we are still friends because she respects me. I rarely have to unfriend people because the trash usually takes itself out once they read a few of my posts. 😉

    That said, like your cousin, there are always people that just don’t respect boundaries, don’t want to change, and just don’t add to your life. I have befriended people only to learn later that they are members of a cult and were hoping I would join. I disappeared from the face of the Earth and never heard from them again. No arguments or insults, just walking away. I ditched a friend who was insanely Islamophobic and who actually blasted me after I politely refuted her claims publicly on Facebook…and, of course, she moved the goal posts on top of that instead of admitting she was wrong. She also had a habit of making derogatory posts about low-wage workers who are part of Fight for Fifteen. In addition to being a generally unstable drama queen, her ass was out the door pretty quick. We all have limits.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know exactly what you mean, and I have friends/acquaintances of many varieties/beliefs/etc. too. I try to remain open and tolerant (and I usually can), but I have learned that sometimes it is taking too big of a toll on me to keep some people. 😕

      Sadly, “unfriending” my cousin came after a very long series of unfortunate events (too many to list in the short version above), so I just reached that “last-straw” point with that FB post.

      It is always weird how some specific events just seem to stick out in my mind, although it is rarely ever one event but rather an accumulation of grievances that is triggered by that one last action…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It is so funny how connections work…I had just finished reading this post and was about to comment when the little red dot (on the bell icon) appeared. And, it was you…anyway, back to my point…I am soooo sorry that you’ve suffered such a loss…I can only imagine how gut-wrenching that final straw must have been…painful, humiliating (?), shocking, bewildering, anger-inducing, heart-breaking…betrayal is horrible; and so much more potent when it comes from someone we were once so close to…thank you for sharing 🙂 P.S. I loved your “Brick” frame of reference…you sound awesome 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m sorry you had such a painful experience with your cousin. It’s curious how religious conversion (or ‘catching religion’, if you prefer to think of it that way) takes different people differently. Individual psychology must have more to tell us about that than the study of religion itself, as it seems to affect all faiths and denominations. Joanna must be as familiar as I am with converts who, barely out of catechism class, seek to become “more Catholic than the Pope” (not difficult these days, the traditionalists grumble), not to mention the ‘Anglo-Catholics’ who, in the words of the Lou Reed song, are “still doin’ things we gave up years ago”. The savage dogmatism of some converts to Islam is sadly all too familiar to us all now, while even my native-born Jewish friends have been known to become impatient of the pernickety scrupulosity of some of their converts. And yet in other cases, conversion to any of these faiths, and Protestantism too, demonstrably makes people more respectful, thoughtful and caring toward other human beings.

    My older sister Betty attends a church at the far-Protestant end of the Church of England spectrum (it’s Episcopalianism, Jim, but not as we know it!). As a group, I know they are heavily influenced by American pentacostalist fundamentalism, so I don’t suppose their core beliefs differ substantially from those of your cousin’s church. Like your cousin, she became affiliated with them (or ‘found Jesus’, as she would probably rather irritatingly put it) through the influence of her (second) husband, who was brought up in the Salvation Army tradition (he used to play a mean cornet/trumpet, which he has now swapped for the trombone, easier on aged lungs, he tells me). Unlike your cousin, though, she is slightly older than her husband, has retained a certain independence of mind, and does not feel obliged to ‘fall in line’ with every detail of his or their pastor’s beliefs.

    The worst experience I had with my sister was when we visited together a very old friend of hers, Heather. I remembered the latter from when I was a child in the 1960s, that’s how far they go back. No sooner had we sat down at the lunch table than Heather, who is (how shall I put it politely?) a forthright person, turned to me and asked: “So, Peter, is there a woman in your life?”, to which I replied: “No, but there’s quite a nice man.” (‘Quite nice’ might not sound like much of an encomium, but actually I was rather cross with him at the time.) Heather immediately rounded on my sister in genuine (and justifiable) surprise and exclaimed: “Betty, you never told me your brother was gay!”

    My sister, clearly disconcerted, made up some excuse to the effect that she had not wished to reveal this while our mother was still alive, out of consideration for the latter’s feelings. Now, if you had known my mother, who had very recently died, known that both my present and my former boyfriend had been guests in her home, and she in ours, known that on at least one occasion, when asked by friends how many children she had had, she had replied (politically incorrectly of course, but at least up-front): “three, one of each”, you would appreciate what a bare-faced lie that was on my sister’s part, which she would surely have never dared utter were our mother still living. But no doubt Betty felt ‘put on the spot’, and I can forgive her her response, even what I regard as the ‘besmirching’ of our mother’s memory. I think the person most hurt by it all was Heather, who had expected more trust and confidence from such an old friend.

    I love my sister, and generally we get on well. We joke and tease each other about our respective lifestyles (that word hasn’t been so much politicized against us here as it has in the USA) and about our respective religions. Sometimes I have more serious discussions (arguments, if you like, but not fights) with her husband about Christianity, in which I might say that glossolalia (rolling about on the floor spouting gobbledy-gook) is a perverse misinterpretation of the xenoglossia referred to in the Acts of the Apostles, and that ‘The Rapture’ is a wishful-thinking and entirely unscriptural doctrine invented out of thin air in the 19th or 18th century. He replies, with equal justification, that many of the practices of my own Church derive more from the ceremonies and structure of Roman paganism than from anything biblical.

    My sister’s sign-language (BSL) teacher is gay, and we both agree on how cute he is, though beyond either of our reach. She has other gay (male) friends too, though I intuit that she may feel a little uncomfortable around lesbians: your ball, as they say in doubles tennis. When she was concerned that her grand-daughter (more ‘Brick’ than any of us) was not dating, she was the first (or only, really) to say: “Are you a lesbian? That’s OK too.”

    If my sister was uncomfortable with me or any of her friends being gay/lesbian, I would like to hope she would express that in a personal communication rather than on a Facebook wall

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As a fellow Christian…I can understand her change and I know.it hurts, but have you considered what it’s done to her? There are a lot of things my fellow Christian folks have done that I don’t necessarily agree with. There’s some portions of our faith that I think have been “man-handled”, meaning to say they were manipulated by man rather than coming for a truly spiritual place. I know what it feels like to be told…well homosexuality isn’t right. Okay, but at the end of the day…is he or she not a person? Is it my place to condemn or deny you rights or to at any place in my life stop loving you? No. Because God has always been love. And when you’re taught from someone who picks and chooses what you can and can’t do without giving you healthy and successful alternatives…it turns you into your cousin. You become this sad and distant person because of a tradition that someone told you instead of the love that you should be exhibiting by learning about God’s passion on your own. I don’t think she hates you or doesn’t want to be around you…but I do think she’s in a place where she’s conflicted. And I know people may be like, “why be in a religion where you have to hate your fellow man?” That’s just it….they’re in a religion, not a relationship. A religion, i believe is man made and dictated by what we used to do and traditionally have accepted because we’ve always done it. A relationship…that’s a bit harder, takes some time, and may take a few bruises for you to figure out, but is worth the trip. At the end of the day, your decision is just that as well as her own. But I don’t want you to give up on something so awesome and rare now and days…because I know how it feels to lose it. Plus not having a chance to get back to that…is painful. Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, and thanks for your input! I understand what you are saying, but ultimately, I have to respectfully disagree.

      I gave this situation a lot of thought before, during, and after the incident described in my post (which wasn’t the first or only incident/concern but it turned out to be the “straw that broke the camel’s back”).

      It is definitely not that I hate her in any way — far from it — but it really comes down to respect.

      Her choice to deny recognizing my marriage is a choice to deny recognizing me as a person.

      This isn’t a simple matter of a difference of opinion about some philosophical concept. It isn’t even about politics or rights, technically.

      It is about who I am; something that I cannot change (and BTW, would not change anyway even if I could).

      I understand that she is torn with the doctrine she has chosen to follow; and I understand she may be hurt and/or confused by my decision.

      (It is always sad when 2 people who don’t mean to hurt each other end up doing just that).

      Bottom line, someone who does not fully accept me as a Lesbian, and therefore does not recognize my relationship, can never truly be my friend.

      With friends like that, who needs enemies? 🤔

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh. This has been happening for quite some time…that certainly takes it to another level. Especially if you guys have tried making it work…perhaps it’s for the best that you part ways.

        She noted that you have a lifestyle instead of contributing it how you are. When you tell her that she’s basing this off of her denial of you, which is based off of a way of life for her, isn’t that technically the same thing? You guys writing each other off because of how each of you are individually?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hmmm…not sure I am following your point, so I’m not sure my answer is what you are looking for but will give it a try to explain: 🙂

          Being a Christian and, within that faith, how someone chooses to live that faith and how to approach the world, etc. are all choices.

          For instance, there are many variations/denominations; some very conservative, some very liberal, and everywhere in between. Also, being a Christian (or believing in any other faith) itself is a choice; some people decide to be atheist or agnostic.

          Being a Lesbian is not a choice.

          So, no, the two are not the same thing at all…

          Liked by 1 person

        • I can understand that point. Like being a certain race. You were born that way. Being a lesbian in your case wouldn’t have been a choice. So, did you always identify as such? Has your cousin always known or was it like a “eww. You’re a lesbian now, sorry hunty.” That’s sort of lame if she did and dropped you like a mildew towel. Either way. Side question: what about those who choose to be a lesbian or gay or bisexual later? I’ve always wondered, and no disrespect here or offense, I really do want tolearn…and I know you’re not the liason for all things lesbian, but how is that not a choice even if it’s later on? Is it a gene or a switch that all people have, just some discover at an earlier age how to “access” it than others? Like the women who date a man and now they want to be with women because said men were terrible and they want another choice. Not that they were born that way, but now they’re choosing to be a lesbian. Would that make them exceptions to the “it’s not a lifestyle” rule? Or vice versa. Those who were as you called them “lesbian experts”. Were they really lesbians to begin with or at all? If they switched over, isn’t that a choice? Like bleaching ones skin from black to white. Technically, aren’t they still black? In the same token, if you’re a lesbian aren’t you always a lesbian? How can you switch back and forth?

          Liked by 1 person

        • Hi, sorry ~ this is the first break I’ve had from work since last time!

          Anyway, yes, my cousin always knew, ever since we were about 17. So it wasn’t a shocker (the incident in the post happened decades later!). And she always seemed fine until the (conservative) religious situation happened.

          I have written about how being a Lesbian is not a choice (because many people incorrectly seem to think it is).

          The women who incorrectly call themselves “Lesbian” (the ones who allegedly “choose to be a Lesbian”) aren’t real Lesbians; we call them Straightbians as shorthand.

          They are really straight women who for a variety of reasons decide to partner with women and they create a lot of problems and confusion.

          So they are the source of a huge amount of the misinformation and misunderstandings about us…and they cause confusion with the general public, and even with Lesbians ourselves!

          Here are some links that should answer your questions better: 🙂

          https://sayebennett.com/2016/05/24/magical-thinking/

          https://sayebennett.com/2016/06/02/breaking-it-down/

          https://sayebennett.com/2016/08/08/most-so-called-lesbian-experts-are-neither-lesbian-nor-expert/

          https://sayebennett.com/2016/10/25/lesbian-truth/

          Hope this helps! Please let me know if you have any questions.

          PS: I laughed out loud at the “job” title “Lesbian Liaison”! Good one! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • Great! That certainly helps to eliminate a lot of stigma and stereotypes. Like your post about what Lesbians like to eat. I was browsing around like what the hell is a Straightbien? So, I’m glad to know the lingo and again, get a better understanding. Like, people fear what they don’t know or understand because it’s weird and ooo a change. But if you can understand where someone is coming from, there’s a lot of similarities that can be seen at the end of the day. Kudos.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you both (MillennialMania and Saye) for that discussion.

          Civil marriage is a legal contract governed and administered by the State, so unless she denies the legal competency of the State altogether (as a few, very extreme Protestants do), then your cousin has no choice about accepting or unaccepting your marriage in those terms. As far as I know, nobody outside the various Christian denominations is demanding that they accept lesbian/gay marriage as a ‘sacrament’ (or Protestant equivalent): that is entirely an internal matter for themselves.

          The cousin seem to be trying to apply a version of “love the sinner, hate the sin” to Saye, but if she realized that the ‘sin’ in question is not some kind of misdemeanor, but rather an important constituent part of who we are, she might have some idea of why a rejection of that is a rejection of Saye in intera. Repeating myself from a previous comment, I still can’t get over the fact that she published that on a Facebook wall.

          I infer that MillennialMania is some variety of Protestant. I am a Catholic (for my sins), but found much to agree with in what she wrote about how Christians “ought to be”. We both have a shockingly bad history when it comes to tolerance, let alone acceptance.

          I have lit a candle for Saye’s cousin, praying that she may come to have a better understanding of her own religion than she seems to have now. Yes, Saye, I know I could as well “wish upon a star”, but indulge us!

          Liked by 1 person

        • I think I have developed an aversion to organized religion (versus spirituality) based on this sort of situation like what happened with my cousin, but I do realize that there are a lot of good people who do believe/support organized religion, so I do have many friends/acquaintances who are involved in varying degrees with religion.

          In other words, I get discouraged about things like what happened with my cousin, but people like you and joannadeadwinter and others give me hope! 🙂

          Like

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