This isn't an easy blog for the day, but I have to get it out of my head and out here on the web where others can read it and help me chew on it.
I have an interesting family dilemma going on. I have a brother who's gay and has been out of the closet for some time. Now, we're not here to talk about his gay-ness. It's there. Let's all just get over it. The question for me is about some friends and family members who are struggling with this, and how he responds to it.
On one hand, I am entirely sympathetic to him -- knowing full well he stayed in the closet for years, I don't think we need to shove him back in every Christmas so someone else in the family doesn't have to deal with his gayness. On the other hand, I know how conservative some friends and family members are, and that they do occasionally speak up on the matter, but really are just quietly uncomfortable with discussing the whole topic. So far nobody had started any holy wars about this issue.
Well, until recently. A family friend sent this brother a book titled something unbelievably hilarious to those of us who are at least understanding of the homosexual community. It read "You Don't Have To Be Gay!" Packed with pseudo facts and anecdotal stories of gay men gone straight, it was a personal affront to my brother, natch.
The thing is, no one in the family sent this...and yet my brother has recently decided to discuss this issue with everyone in the family, fanning the embers of a conversation that no one really wants to have except him. On one hand, I see why -- I mean some people's bigotry or biases against something is in my view, not something to be condoned or encouraged. On the other hand, I feel that those who are more conservative on some issues aren't necessarily bad people, we just happen to agree on some very important issues. For that reason, for example, I will not leave any children I have to be raised by a more conservative member of the family, but rather a like-minded sibling if I were to die prematurely.
I guess for me it comes down to the difference between me being indignant at someone's behavior and beliefs or intolerant of them. I do believe it is imperative (especially in this day and age) that people learn to be more tolerant of each other. I can defend my ideas to the ground (act indignant that people are being racist or classist, for example), but it doesn't mean I have to be intolerant of them. In keeping the conversation going, more progress can be made than by slamming the door on the relationship. I realize that this could be construed as complacency, but that's not what I mean at all.
I don't think it's a matter of semantics. I think it's a matter of accepting that other people have different beliefs while still defending your own. Intolerance instead says "you're wrong, and you're wrong until you believe what I do." Sure, the people who sent this book were out of line and should be talked to, but expecting anything to come of it seems a bit naive.
Meanwhile, the loud voice in my head keeps saying ala Rodney King of the 1990s riots "Can't we all just get along?"