Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Why so much hate as a result of love?

You hear talks about hate crimes, and you hear stories of where a homosexual is attacked by a complete stranger, simply for being gay. On a less severe, yet more common level, you hear and experience stories of discrimination from others. What hurts most, I'd say, is when the hate comes from someone who was supposed to love you no matter what: a parent.

Okay, so my partner is in Korea, and I have this unbelievable opportunity to go visit her. One of my colleagues is married to someone who generously hooked me up with a buddy pass...making the flight affordable. My kids have also reached the ages where they can spend a week with someone else. So, I started thinking about ideas for where they could go. After all, I wanted them to have a good time wherever they are. I would feel guilty if I went off to Korea, having the time of my life and then found out the kids were not having a good time on their spring break. So...I knew their father was not an option. He has never opted to have them for more than his alternating weekends. And besides, he works that week. Then, I thought about all the times the kids have asked to spend more time with my mother. When I told them I had the chance to go see Kristin in Korea, they were incredibly supportive and asked me to see if Grandma would have them over.

First, let me explain that my mother and I aren't close at all. Our relationship has been strained since my teen years, when she started a new life that really had no room for me. Don't get me wrong, I tried. But, she doesn't like that I'm gay. Prior to that, she didn't like that I was divorced. Prior to that, she didn't like the man I had been married to. Prior to that, she didn't like that I was not a practicing Catholic, the way she thought I ought to worship. Prior to that, she didn't like my job as a client relations representative at a sperm bank, because she said it was against God's will. And prior to that...I was just a bad teenager who disappointed her. Prior to that, she claimed she was subjected to vicious gossip, because she was 15 and pregnant with me, and that I should be grateful that she gave me life, rather than aborted me. I feel very fortunate that my Nana (her mother, who is still alive, yet "gone" as a result of dementia) actually raised me and loves me no matter what.

Anyway, that was the "nutshell version." But, in the past few years, I thought about extending myself somewhat to my mother. People always tell me it's better to try and have a relationship, rather than carry animosity. I've long gotten over the fact that we'd never be the mother-daughter pair you see hanging out, telling each other intimate stories, etc. But, I had hoped we could just "agree to disagree" about issues...that she could be happy that I found happiness, and I could accept that she has her beliefs and that it's okay we don't see eye-to-eye. I had also hoped we'd have some sort of interaction outside of bumping into each other at the family Christmas dinner. Most of all, I'd hoped she could have a relationship with the kids...they hear all their friends speak fondly of times with their grandparents...and they wish they could have the same thing.

So...I thought this might be a chance. The kids requested that I ask her before anyone else about them spending their spring break with her. They wanted to go, because on the rare occasions we are in her home (usually an extended family gathering), they have such a great time with their aunts and uncles, who aren't much older than them. Plus, she works from home, home-schooling her kids, and helping manage my step-father's business. I was nervous about asking, but I figured the worst she could say is "no." I definitely trust her to look out for the kids, and I knew they'd be happy. Boy, "the worst" was a lot worse than I expected.

My mother not only said "no," which is okay, because it's her prerogative to have visitors or not, but she fired back with a negative preaching. She treated me as if I didn't understand the difference between love and platonic friendship. Among other things, she explained how she was closer to some of her female friends than she was her husband, but that her friends could never serve the role of her spouse. She also told me God didn't intend it this way, and reminded me that I "chose" to enter into an unhappy marriage years ago. She wouldn't refer to my partner by name, only stating "I hope you friend makes it home safely."

In the email exchange, I tried to be very tactful, but I did respond by stating I accepted her position on the matter. However, I asked her to consider that I'm nearly 33 years old, that I'm very self-aware and have no confusion between platonic close friendships and romance, and that even though she didn't approve, my relationship with Kristin is very real. I also mentioned "feeling gay" before attempting marriage, but that I didn't always have the confidence to come out with it. My mother then responded to it with two more emails, stating she will only accept that I chose to be a lesbian. She also took the opportunity to vaguely refer to the past, stating I made choices that strained our relationship. In addition, she referred to my failed marriage as a reason to support her belief that my current partnership could not be taken seriously (though I was 20 years old and way too young when I got married). that, I told her how I felt, and that I could have done without the assault-by-email, and reminded her I was only trying to reach out (because I have trustworthy friends who are having the friends over that week), and left the door open. I stated I was okay with our differences, but that I couldn't be disrespected. I said if she ever decided she could have a relationship with ME, to let me know. To that, I got no response, and I'm at peace with the fact that we may never have much of a relationship.

I think about my mother, and I think about the random people (i.e., picketers at Pride who waste perfectly good weekends expressing messages of hate), and then I think about extreme hate crimes. Of all the issues people debate, why is there so much drama about gays? This is one issue where, people could honestly agree to disagree and not be impacted. Who do we hurt by being gay? Which non-gays are inconvenienced by gays? Again, this is not to say others should feel obligated to change whatever beliefs or opinions about homosexuality...but how are others honestly hurt by us, and why is there such a strong of a need to either suppress us, harm us, or merely dissociate themselves from us?

Personally, I've been very fortunate. I haven't lost straight friends after coming out of the closet. Most everybody I've worked with or otherwise associated with professionally seems to accept me. At this point, nobody has harmed me because of it. Really and truly, the person most hateful toward me has been my very own mother...who really just needed a reason to be against me. But, these stories others tell me of being the victim of hate...I'll never understand the purpose of it.

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