Saturday, November 13, 2010

Holiday Angst-How religion-approved homophobia destroys good families

I attended a PFLAG meeting the other night and towards the end of the meeting, one of the facilitators asked a question that really got me thinking. He asked if there were people at the meeting for whom the upcoming holidays would be presenting them with a lot of extra stress and worry. He didn't quite word it that way, but that was the gist. He then went on to list a few scenarios that could present stress or even volatility within family gatherings over the holidays. A few hands slowly started going up, surprisingly all of them from parents with gay children they've accepted with open arms, but with angst-filled worries about the upcoming holidays anyway. And SURPRISE! Guess what the common thread in every one of the stories was? Religion-approved homophobia and intolerance. Each story had a parent wringing his/her hands over a "religious" family member (usually a sibling of their gay child) who had "found God" and was now very very intolerant of their gay brother or sister's "lifestyle".

As I drove home from the meeting I thought about the nightmare it must be for kids who don't have anyone in their family who accepts them (almost always for religious reasons). How lonely and isolated must they feel? God forbid they bring a new boyfriend or girlfriend to the gathering like their straight siblings can do without even thinking about it. God forbid they feel free to talk about their lives without guarding every word that comes out of their mouth lest they slip and say something they shouldn't in front of family or friends who still don't know they are gay. And God forbid they show disgust or not laugh when crazy Uncle Buddy or "good Catholic" Aunt Hazel tells an ugly anti-gay joke and everyone shares a good laugh over it, including family members who know there is a gay person in the room hurting so badly.

For these kids the holidays must feel more like a field full of land mines than a joyful family event. Step the wrong way and kabum. Add to that the fact that so many of these kids lack the coping skills that come with time and maturity. And many of them don't have anyone to tell them to hang in there because it gets better. Can you imagine how lonely and vulnerable they must feel at these family gatherings? And let's not forget how magnified stress and lonliness can get over the holidays for so many adults. How in the heck do these poor kids navigate through it all when we have grown adults with grown children worrying how to navigate through them? It just shouldn't be this way and religion and the bible shouldn't be at the epicenter of all the pain and angst either.

For me, holidays have always been stressful, but after that meeting I now realize how much harder it is for so many of our gay and lesbian kids. I come from a fairly good size family, I have four brothers and I am the only girl. In the past family get togethers were almost always held at my house since I was the first to get married, have kids, and have a place large enough to accommodate everyone. I did all the cooking, planning, and coordinating. And aside from the usual stress that comes from big affairs like this, the holidays would go off with little volatility or mishap. But that all changed drastically when one of my brothers traded the abuse of alcohol for the abuse of the bible. And it was at that point that I got a pretty good idea of how damaging, how hateful, and how ugly religion could become when used as a weapon against glbts or anyone else that doesn't fit into a narrow "christian" definition of normal.

But I am an adult. I have learned how to deal with adversity. I have learned that things get better. And most importantly, I don't need to this brother in my life. I don't depend on him for food, shelter, support, or nurturing. My world would go on just fine without him. I do not have to put up with his intolerance and ignorance. But what about glbt kids who are still dependent on the families that don't accept them? What do they do?

How can these so-called churches of God not be aware of the damage they are doing to families? They are turning out these bunker-busting "christian" soldiers that are blowing up families with nothing more than misinterpreted bible passages and religion-approved hatred and intolerance? You can't tell me these churches don't know that what they are preaching from their bully pulpits will be the ammunition used to rip apart good families and destroy the lives of our gay and lesbian children. You can't tell me that isn't their intention.

Just in my own little corner of this vast universe I can see the destruction. Each holiday presents a difficult choice - especially for my dear sweet mom. The divisions are set. They are permanent. And big happy family gatherings are no more. But still I have to ask, what about that poor child who doesn't have the option to cut those that don't accept him/her from his/her life? What do they do?


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