How to Accept a Gay Friend or Family Member



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Do you know someone who is gay? It might be your friend, family member or work colleague. Do you have trouble accepting their sexual orientation? Does it make you feel uneasy when they are around? Do you even go so far as to say that they are disgusting?

If so – please read on.

Why I am writing about this topic?

Before I get into the main bulk of the article I should address my motivations for writing this post. Undoubtedly what I write will offend some people or cause some controversy as people seem to be so polarized on the issue of homosexuality.

I am a heterosexual man who has been in a loving relationship for coming up on eight years now. But my childhood best friend is gay. He has been gay since high school. But, he only told me he was gay long after college was finished. It was around this time that I became interested in the topic of gay rights and gay hating as my friend suffered a lot when he “came out of the closet”. I was shocked to see how many of our so called “friends” openly criticized him for choosing to be open about his sexuality.

The most disturbing event of all, however, was when his own parents left hate-filled messages on his facebook page where he had a profile photo of him standing next to his boyfriend. The two looked very professional and were in no way misbehaving or being offensive. But, his parents left messages with words like “shame” and “disgusting” on his wall for everyone to see.

For all you parents, brothers, sisters and friends of a gay person out there, I write this post for you. If you are struggling to deal with the fact that someone you know is gay then please read this post as it might be of some help. I am writing it because I truly believe that anger towards gay people is harmful.

How to accept a gay friend or family member


Creative Commons License photo credit: quinn.anya

I should start by saying that any overly hateful comments left on this post will be deleted. I am not interested hearing how horrible you think gay people are. If, however, you have a story or idea that sheds some light on this issue then please feel free to post a word or two.

1. Use religion carefully
When it comes to accepting gay people it seems as though it is the hard line religious people that have the hardest time. They use quotes from the Bible like this one:

“If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” — Leviticus 20:13

The problem with selectively using Bible quotes is that it does not shed a complete light on the topic. If I were to read one page from the Bible and base my complete life view on that page I would surely make errors. That is why it is important to learn about religion and spirituality from someone who has developed the qualities of love, compassion and wisdom and NOT someone who only has a good scriptural knowledge. Citing scripture means very little when it comes down to it. The devil can cite scripture for his own purpose.

Take a look at the quote above from Leviticus and now take a look at this quote from the very same chapter:

“Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property.” — Leviticus 25:44-45

and,

“For everyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother. His blood shall be upon him.” — Leviticus 20:9

Does that mean that we now have a divine reason for justifying slavery? Should all Christians now consider slavery to be morally acceptable? What about kids who swear at their parents? Should they be put to death? I don’t think so. We know better than that. Black people are NOT property in the same way that homosexuals should not be put to death.

If you have just found out that a friend or family member is gay you need to make sure your religious views are not getting in the way of the truth. All men and women deserve respect. All religions teach love and tolerance. If you are a Christian you need to be very careful not to use the Bible to obscure the true message of Jesus – compassion. You do not get to selectively choose which of God’s children you show compassion to.

2. Realize they are still the same person
Something that really amazed me about my friends is how they started talking about our gay friend behind his back. Almost overnight it seemed as though he went from being our dearest buddy to our mortal enemy. I will never understand how they could shift their perception of him so quickly.

Your gay friend is still your friend. Your gay son is still your son. They are still the same person you loved for all those years, shared those memories with and relied on in times of hardship. The fact that they have revealed their sexuality to you does not mean they love you any less or that they have become a strange and different person.

3. Understand your fear
Nine times out of ten hatred comes from fear. The same is true when it comes to homosexuals. Many people choose to hate them because they are not brave enough to face their fear. They are afraid of them and instead of dealing with that they put up barriers.

So why are people afraid of gays? To be honest, I do not know. I myself have never experienced any kind of homophobia so I can not directly comment. At a guess, however, I would suggest that the fear comes from not understanding. The gay lifestyle is so different to theirs that they do not know how to deal with it.

Being afraid is okay. It is natural to experience some fear at things we don’t understand. But choosing to be angry instead of dealing with our own problem is incorrect. It will never solve the issue. It will only make matters worse. When you are afraid of something you need to find out why and then address the problem. The same is true of this issue. Find out where your fear comes from and then find realistic steps to solving it.

4. Switch your perspective
One of the smartest thing the Dalai Lama ever taught me was to shift my perspective. It is a lesson that has lasted my whole life, a lesson I use every single day. If you have trouble accepting a gay friend or family member then you too could try shifting your perspective.

Here is an example. Close your eyes and imagine the whole world was gay. Your parents are gay, your brothers and sisters are gay – gay is the normal. Now imagine that you are attracted to a member of the opposite sex and you know that everyone else is going to consider this to be dirty, sinful or shameful. You are the odd one out. Imagine the knots that develop in your stomach and the tightness that you feel in your throat because you are so stressed about “coming out”. How does that feel?

Now take it one step further and imagine that you tell your parents that you are a hetero and they react badly. Your own parents, the people who love you no matter what, tell you that you are disgusting. How does it make you feel? Not nice.

However you feel about homosexuality, you owe it to your friend to separate that issue from the homosexual. Do you understand that? If you don’t like homosexuality it doesn’t mean you can’t like the homosexual. I don’t like smoking but I still like my friends who smoke. I don’t like anger but I still like my friends who get angry. Try shifting your perspective and see what you can come up with.

Conclusion

Gay people are people. They deserve the same respect that anyone else deserves. In my opinion, if we start being biased towards gays we may as well start buying slaves again. It is the same thing. Look at your fear, open your mind and use your religion to find a way to reach acceptance – not hate.

If anyone else has any other tips, stories or solutions I would love you to add a comment. It might really help someone.




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21 Comments »

Comment by JB
2009-07-09 12:53:08

Good post. I think homophobia is very old fashioned. I also think there is a certain amount of silliness that comes from anything that is outside the social majority. I also think gay people sometimes over compensate. But, I think that is more Gen X than Y and beyond. To me the only way its going to change properly (i.e public prejudice, and social tolerance for that prejudice) is if it becomes cooler to be bi and gay. Which I tend to think it is… at least on American Idol. lol. But, honestly, Idol and that sort of stuff, helps. Bruno, not so much.
I think people need to look deeper and really ask themselves, very specifically, what is the problem here? Because, just feeling uncomfortable and not knowing how to behave, is not a justification, or a good reason to behave stupidly. So many people seem to try and justify they discomfort, not just around issues like respect for gays. Or respect for some other social minority.
You need to tell yourself it is “okay” to react with discomfort. At least at first blush. And, then maybe you will settle down, and realize it does not actually matter to you, and you do not need to pull out the Jesus quotes to be alright in the world again.
Love to your friend, mate. Tell him to focus on how much better he feels knowing what kind of person he likes, and finds attractive. Forget everything else. Embrace the freedom of the truth.

 
Comment by Beth
2009-07-09 23:19:19

Thanks for a great post. Reading it brought back a memory of my father. My father was very prejudiced. He was prejudiced of blacks, gays, attractive men, wealthy people, etc. You get the idea. I remember hearing him making awful statements of hate. Even as a small child, I could never understand where that hate came from. As I got a little older, I found out that my grandmother and grandfather were the same. It did not pass to me though. It seemed to me that the more hateful my father was to others, the more determined I was to not have a closed mind… to strive to be accepting and caring of all people. I’m not really sure what the difference was in our upbringing. Different generation maybe? Perhaps. What I do believe is that childrens perceptions are shaped by the beliefs of their parents.
The steps you outlined are wonderful tips on acceptance. But one has to be willing to try and understand before they can walk the path that leads to acceptance.

Comment by The Daily Minder
2009-07-10 00:34:32

Beth that is a really interesting point you bring up about the generations. My father and his father are both extremely conservative and racist but it did not pass on to me or my brother. Funny how the younger generations now seem to be more open minded.

TDM

 
 
Comment by The Daily Minder
2009-07-10 00:04:06

Great comment JB. I think you are right about the fact that some people just don’t know how to be uncomfortable in some situations. Its alright to be awkward sometimes.

TDM

 
Comment by funkright
2009-07-10 00:19:41

Soo.. if they aint a serial killer or a rapist or pedophile or any other of similar ilk, well, they’re just fine by me.. It is not for me to judge your sexual disposition, just to extend kindness to all who need my helping hand! Cheers :)

 
Comment by prufock
2009-07-23 15:35:26

I think you’re probably preaching to the choir on this one. I can’t imagine many of your readers are the gay-bashing type.

I find it hard to believe that we live in a world where anyone cares what OTHER people are doing, consensually, in the bedroom. People react strongly to interracial, interreligious, and intrasexual relationships through prejudice, ignorance, fear, or whatever.

I suspect that most of the anti-gay crowd are religiously motivated. Is it too much to hope that we’ll one day be rid of these silly supersitious beliefs?

 
Comment by Caroline
2009-09-02 17:12:09

I completely agree that one should be open and seperate the homosexuality from the person as a whole. Who are we to judge other people?
However,I also think that idea applies to people who are against homosexuality. As long as they are being kind to others (including homosexuals), I think it it reasonable that they have their own views on the topic, and that they not be put down for them.

 
Comment by Mary
2009-09-09 20:45:53

This is a very refreshing post. I agree with almost all of it. My only issue with it is this phrase
“If you don’t like homosexuality it doesn’t mean you can’t like the homosexual”,
that even though I think it quite applies to homosexuality, I don’t think it applies to everything. In all the examples you used it, it was sort of understandable and okay. But for racism, I don’t think I could separate them, really. Like, I don’t think I could be real friends with someone who’s racist.

Anyway, the article was really cool. I really can’t understand why people take the Bible so seriously. Okay, so I’m not even a Christian or anything for that matter, but it still doesn’t make sense why people take some passages from the Bible so seriously and completly disregard others. If we were to take such a horrible passage seriously, then we should as well never eat burgers, any sort of bird, and a lot of other things that are completly normal now. Though, of course, I take that a bit more to an extreme, because I think that if we can disregard some quotes from the Bible, then why can’t we disregard some other quotes, and step by step, disregard it all?

 
Comment by Kirst
2009-12-27 13:12:22

My cousin recently came out about being gay, although in the past she displayed a dislike for homosexuals. As I am the kind of person to just go with the flow and agree with things that we would say about gays, now I feel like I can’t say anything about gays that may upset or offend her.

I have accepted that she is a lesbian, I can accept that she will be seeing women, not men, but my issue is that I’m not sure how to tell her that I don’t want to hear about or let her share with me her stories about what her and her “girlfriends/partners” get upto behind closed doors, it grosses me out.

Being hetero myself I don’t understand why people are gay etc, there’s nothing that ANYONE can do to stop people from being gay, but I think in this day and age, homosexuals are celebrated and basically applauded for being gay. Someone tell me how it’s OK to have a “Mardi Gras” which more or less promotes the gay lifestyle but there isn’t a celebration that celebrates the rest of us…

 
Comment by Jessica
2010-02-19 21:30:00

kirst. The reason there isn’t a celebration for you and what you are interested in is because that’s the majority. There are support groups if you are gay, colored, or anything else that may get judged, but if you were a male or female who doesn’t get discriminated against, then there isn’t a parade or support group for you. The way support groups get started usually is because someone who is gay feels the need to have a parade. Or if you are a recovering alcoholic; a recovering alcoholic may have created Alcoholics Anonymous. If you are feeling left out, start a group of your own, maybe it will spread like wildfire.

 
Comment by axl rose lover
2010-05-30 02:14:37

my best friend came out to me today we are 15 and i was very shocked. i accept it though`, she is still my friend and i would never dissown her because of her sexuality. it is just very hard for me to understand it but i am trying.

 
Comment by Mandie
2010-05-30 04:05:10

I would like to thank you for this post, I have just recently learned of a dear friend of mine being a homosexual. It was shocking at first, I cried when he told me that he had avoided me for so long because he feared that this sexual orientation would make me love him less. Let me explain quickly that I am southern baptist, but I quickly told him that in no uncertain terms would I ever love him less, that I wanted to continue to spend time with him, meet his partner. Being the daughter of a pastor he knows where I stand on this issue but I am more than willing to work through this with him. I would rather accept him, as he is then lose a dear friend and I was hurt really that he thought that just because of his life style I would no longer love him. That simply is not true, it is not my place to judge him as long as he is happy then I have decided i will be too and hope that together we can help the rest of our family realize this and accept him as he is as he always has been.

 
Comment by mommysgirl
2010-07-26 07:15:24

My mom told me she was gay about seven months ago. I never considered myself homophobic but I feel that I fall into the “fear” category of your post. I am not sure why, and I feel guilty feeling this way. I want to be happy for my mother. It didn’t affect our relationship as much before, but now she is starting to date and it bothers me for some reason. How can I pinpoint my fears? Will this go away over time and maybe it’s just a big adjustment? My parents were married for 25 years. I agree that the fear comes from not being able to understand. I have a hard time understanding how this could be possible.

I have quite a few friends that are gay, mostly men, and I find that it bothers me substantially less than gay women. One of my friends is gay that is a girl, and I treat her the same as my other female friends, but am not interested on listening to her relationship/sexual endavours one bit. After my mom came out I felt like it made more sense that I feared her sexuality (because maybe I was in denial about my mother’s, I definitely was now that I look back), but now I just want to be accepting and happy for my mother and I can’t help but feel uncomfortable. Is there anything I can do to change this or will it change itself over time?

 
Comment by The Daily Minder
2010-07-26 07:57:43

Mommysgirl it is a hard question. Perhaps take a look at what exactly makes you feel awkward. Is it just something unexpected or does the sexual aspect bother you? If so, why does it bother you?

 
Comment by mommysgirl
2010-07-30 08:40:19

I would say a combination of both, but the sexual aspect definitely stands out. I’m not sure what about this makes me cringe, I mean thinking of our parents having sex makes anyone disgusted, so I’m not sure why it bothers me more.
My mother wants to tell my sister in the next few days and that is definitely something I fear; the demise of our family. My parents get along though they are separated, but my father is deeply religious and traditional and I am afraid of what may happen to our family if he finds out.
A part of me also wonders how one can be with a man for so long and then not want to be with a man anymore. Does that just happen? I feel for my mother… my sexuality has never confused me the way it seems to have confused her.

I wish it didn’t bother me, I really didn’t. I just can’t figure out why. What can I do to figure out why? I thought that by now I would be able to accept things (for it’s been months), but it is still something I pretend isn’t happening, and not something I like to talk about. For example, I’m not afraid of my friends not accepting her, because I know they will, but I still don’t want to tell them. It makes no sense to me, and it’s making me frusterated and guilty.

Comment by Reality Check
2010-08-04 01:42:49

Mommysgirl,

I feel for you I really do.
First of all and most importantly you still love your mother and she still loves you, so don’t beat yourself up about these perfectly natural negative vibes that you’re having in regards to her laying her sexual preferences on the table for you. Anybody would be freaked out by that gay or straight and anyone telling you that they wouldn’t is probably too twisted to be giving you advice. I’m not going to lie to you and tell fluffy story’s about how things will all work out. I’m going to tell you the truth. We all live in the real world, it’s not an ideal but a specific reality and in this reality this news is going to drop like darkness and spread like a plague, its unavoidable. It will reach the furthest shores of your extended family friends and collateral contacts and change your life. Now here is the important thing your going to have to remember during this. . . The only thing that matters is that you let your mother know you support her and don’t forget to constantly reinforce your love for your father too because he is probably going to be suffering hard under a cloak of denile, anger or shock (even separated from her). When it comes down to it, you don’t have to accept something that makes you uncomfortable no matter what anybody says you don’t have to champion her homosexuality. You just need to treat her with the respect she deserves as a human being and the love she deserves as your mother and let the rest work itself out naturally. What natural will be after this is anybody’s guess.
Oh yeah, also beware of people offering a magical panacea to make everything better at the “low, low” cost of your beliefs. If you feel uncomfortable just go with that because at least the feeling is real instead of some manufactured politically correct social response that is anything but. I can’t stress enough you can respect people without accepting everything they do. You don’t have to be okay with who she’s sleeping with. In the end most children would rather not know under any circumstances.

 
 
Comment by coronado
2010-08-15 07:13:40

I’m having a REALLY hard time right now, I’m bi, my last two relationships have been with women, I am actually completely comfortable with my sexuality that was until I got back in contact with my best friend from high school. We had lost touch for over 8 years but fb brought us back together in jan of this year. She and I have alway shad a special bond, I was never attracted to her and I was honest with her when we got back in contact. She didn’t seem to have an issue with it these until the last month. She doesn’t understand and I don’t know the words to help her understand. Even with the lost time, she has been my best friend for over 20yrs and I don’t want to loose her just because of people I have chosen to be with.I sent her this page as a link hoping that she will try to learn more about it but I’m not sure its going to be enough, any advice?

 
Comment by Enyalid
2011-01-12 13:00:33

This situation is directly affecting my family. My youngest brother claims he is gay. In my opinion, because of his choices, and other family members choices of how to deal with the situation, he has destroyed my family. Homophobia is not a fear of homosexuality as much as it is a disgust of the practice. He has brought shame to my family and becuase of the shame, family reunions would be contentious if not outright impossible. Liberal political activists keep trying to convince America that this practice is natural and ok. It is not. It is wrong. Homosexuality is a perversion. There is no other way to look at it. I still love my brother, but I do not like the choices he has made.

 
Comment by CincinnatiGuy
2011-02-11 07:18:01

What a terrific article!! Thank you for your heartfelt reality check about homophobia. I’m gay and it truly means a lot to hear someone – a heterosexual – speak up for homosexuals.

Your wife is a lucky girl to have such a headstrong and compassionate guy.

All the best!

 
Comment by CincinnatiGuy
2011-02-11 07:46:50

You know, you don’t have to agree with someone else’s’ choices in order for you to be content with your life. I’m gay, and my family also sometimes appears to be conflicted about my sexuality. Frankly, they don’t sound too different from your family. I have to tell you that it isn’t easy growing up in a household like yours. In fact, my parents practically treated my sexuality as a phase that I would grow out of. This ultimately made me feel even more ashamed of my natural attraction to guys and thus resulted in so minor mental damage on my part. I currently struggle with social anxiety because I was never given the opportunity to be myself during my teenage years. While everyone else was busy growing into their sexuality, I was busy hiding mine and pretending I wasn’t different because my family members – people like you and your family – didn’t provide me with a loving and supportive environment. You and your family members need to consider the damage you are doing to your brother. Do you really want to be that cold, distant, out of touch republican who believes in superficial values over love and respect? I hear your opinion about liberal media, and I respect it. However, I understand that I live in a world where people hold different opinions than mine – that’s life. It would be great (for you) if everyone in the world shared the opinions of you and your family members about the perversion of homosexuality, but that simply isn’t the case.
I hate to break it to you, but homosexuality is real, and it isn’t going anywhere. Homosexuals have always existed, and times are slowly changing towards acceptance of homosexuality in our culture. So, you either get with the times or stay behind with ignorance and prejudice people. The choice is yours. Remember, you don’t have to like it, but you DO have a responsibility as an American to respect and cherish EVERY difference of your fellow American. Keep this in mind: Sexuality exists on a continuum – it’s not just gay and straight. Most humans fall somewhere in between, and I wouldn’t believe you if you were to ever make the claim that you never had at least a sexual curiosity of another guy. It’s simply in our nature as humans to be sexually curious creatures. Why condemn your brother – your own flesh and blood – for being open about what he enjoys sexually? Just remember one thing: If you treat your brother like he is a pervert for long enough, he will eventually feel like he truly is one, and that is considered emotional abuse – the worst kind of abuse. You really shouldn’t downplay the psychological effects of not accepting a family member. I’m sure he wouldn’t even think twice about treating you that way.

 
Comment by Peter Smith
2011-04-30 14:12:08

Helpful article however it is offensive when you single out black people when making your point about slavery. The passage you quoted in the bible makes no reference to black or white

 
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