How to Accept a Gay Friend or Family Member
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
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
“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.
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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