There are many instances when you hear negative comments about the LGBTQ community. Sometimes it is a comment overheard from a stranger. Sometimes it is someone at work or a friend, again overheard.
And sometimes those negative comments are directed at you, the parent or ally of an LGBTQ person.
How one handles it when hearing negative comments depends on the situation. If you overhear someone saying negative things, is it safe to say something and what do you say? Frankly, I’m a little chicken about confronting someone I don’t know and I’m just overhearing them. I’d love to hear what you would do in that situation. For me, I think I would ignore it and move on.
If I’m in a social situation and someone I don’t know says something negative, I might simply say, “I find that offensive.” I might also say, “I have a gay son and he’s one of the finest human beings I know. He’s successful, happily married, gainfully employed and gives back to his community. I’m very proud of him.”
What if it’s at work? One has to consider whether that is creating a hostile work environment. If someone repeatedly makes negative comments, knowing you or your child is a part of the LGBTQ community, it is appropriate to report them to human resources or a manager. I’m not sure what the rules are from the EEOC but it would be worth checking it out. A call to the ACLU might give you additional information about how to proceed and what is legal in your state, in your situation.
What if it’s personal friends or family? I think it’s important to stay calm but that’s easy for me to say! I’m not so sure I would be able to do that, but I think getting a point across has a better chance if I’m calm rather than angry. I find it helpful to write out my thoughts and feelings before confronting someone. It’s also helpful to talk to another understanding adult.
I might say something like, “When you say that, it makes me feel hurt and angry. This is what I know…” and state the facts. This won’t work with everyone. Some people have their minds slammed and nailed shut. They have no interest in what you say or how you feel. You likely know if your friend or family member is one like that. If so, it’s not likely to change no matter what you say.
Then you have to decide if you want that kind of toxicity in your life. I’m not suggesting it is easy to cut off a long-time friend or a family member. It might help to make two lists. One is what positive things you get out of that relationship. The other is how it is negatively impacting you. With some people, you can just agree not to discuss it and that will be fine. But others feel it is their duty to tell you that you’re wrong or your child is. Is that something you want to live with? It is up to you.
I’d love to hear what your experiences with this are. Please share them in the comments of the blog.