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When you don’t stand up to homophobia, you are just as much to blame for the bigotry that exists against the LGBT community.
I was away this week in Las Vegas for an academic conference. Unfortunately, I had called my girlfriend in Los Angeles to spend some time with me given it was her Spring Break and we hadn’t seen each other in more than 3 weeks. The week turned out to be a disaster due to the harassment that her Mexican-American parents subjected her to for coming to Vegas with me. They would not believe that I was there for a conference and moreover, accused us of eloping. Hello world –
1. I don’t run away, and
2. If I did have to run and hide somewhere, it definitely would not be smoke-infested Las Vegas while I am battling a very painful Pharyngitis
That was not the end of it. I had to bear the brunt of her daily crying and moodiness, miss most of my panels and skip other activities that I had lined up for us during leisure time. In-law dearest would not let up — on Wednesday (after we had spent most of the day at the hospital due to my illness), her mother was begging for her return to the Catholic Church. Lets not shy away from the reasons: going to church might make her little gay daughter a little less gay and she might meet a nice, handsome citizen Latino boy to marry.
No matter what excuses she draws up, the bottom-line is that the parents are in denial about her homosexuality. And she emboldens and encourages them with cowardly tip-toeing around the issue. She brought me home to them a month ago as a ‘meet the parents’ and that was a disaster. I tried my best–even went out of my way to buy a bottle of Hennessy Cognac for her Dad (that she decided he did not deserve after the night was over). To put it nicely, they would have preferred a male Latino high school drop-out to me simply due to some differences in sexual organs.
We somehow parted on good terms on Friday afternoon and she went to meet her parents. To make a long story short, her mother had the audacity to CALL ME after taking Andrea’s cell phone and asked me to stop calling or talking to Andrea (With pleasure — my throat hurts and I am in no mood to speak to anyone). But it gave me flashbacks of a similar incident that happened 10 years ago.
It reminded me of a scared, more noble and hesitant version of me that listened to another homophobic mother in a different country, speaking a different language, telling me to leave her daughter alone. I left her alone then but that daughter would finally elope and find me 6 years later to resume some sort of relationship. And I just sat on the train wondering whether we had really made any progress in ten years. Six years from now, would Andrea not regret lacking self-respect and pride when it came to her homosexuality vs. parents? Should we not take responsibility for thousands of LGBT kids out there who are unable to fight back due to economic and political reasons and are looking for role models to emulate? Is encouraging and emboldening homophobia from our parents in the ‘First World’ when we are consenting adults that stand on our own feet really the way to make change in this world? I don’t think so.
What irks me most is that I spend countless hours working for the rights of undocumented immigrants like Andrea and her parents. On a political level, I am left wondering whether we should really devote our time and energy working predominantly for a community that would turn around and harass us, take our rights away when they get the right to vote. I know her parents do not speak for all Latino families but it still hurts to confront homophobia and ignorance from an undocumented family when we are working so hard for immigration reform in this country.
I believe Andrea has a responsibility to take a stand for her rights. There are many of us who have to assume that we don’t have a family when we come out. I am not interested in calling a group of homophobic people “la familia.” It is a process that takes time but it is more rewarding and liberating than succumbing to illogical, medieval demands.
Today, Andrea might dump me for her parents. But that would not change the fact that she is gay. What happens tomorrow when she meets another woman and wants to bring her home? Would the cycle of homophobic nonsense continue because her way of dealing with it has been cowardly? All things considered, we must take a stand today and not budge from any ultimatums that we deliver: “Mom, Dad, I am gay and that is not going to change. I am a consenting adult with the right to be happy with my partner. If you are alright with it, great. If not, prepare to lose me forever. “