"Hi guys! I am getting married to my beautiful fiancee in 3 weeks! I couldn’t be happier. The only problem is that my dad refuses to attend the wedding. He welcomes my fiancee in his home and treats her well, but due to his strong religious convictions (and pastor’s advice), he does not intend to be there. (My fiancee is a lesbian priest, by the way… it’s made for some interesting discussion with dad) I’ve more or less accepted that it’s his burden to bear, but what would you ladies say to him?"
- Question submitted by Anonymous
Honestly, I wouldn’t say anything to him. I don’t have good words when it comes to religion because I find it nearly impossible to comprehend having faith in something/anything that would tell you where the line was when showing support for the ones you love. That doesn’t make sense to me. The whole point of having faith is to believe in something bigger than you so that you can shoulder some of the doubt and hurt and find strength, forgiveness, and love where you didn’t think possible. Having faith in something is about loving without judgment, being kind to everyone around you and recognizing that on some level we are all the same little beetlebugs trying to make it in the world.
I would instead tell you that I think he is making a mistake. I think he will realize he’s missing something that I’m sure he’s looked forward to for your entire life and it doesn’t even makes sense because he loves your partner and celebrates your love for your partner. If he doesn’t support gay marriage, he doesn’t support it and you will have a much happier and fulfilled day if he is not there to tell you that he doesn’t support it.
Getting married is about tax breaks, picking your kids up from the doctor with no probs, and making a commitment to someone in front of everyone you love. For some, “everyone you love” includes a higher power. For others, “everyone you love” includes just your partner and your best friend as a witness. For others, “everyone you love” means your entire family (all 63 cousins included). The one thing all these scenarios have in common is that the folks who show up are the folks who love and support you and want to bear witness to this fucking cool thing you’re doing. Get married, share that day with the people who want to lift you up on their shoulders and say “fuck yea, you two are meant to be, this rules!”
I agree with a lot of what Dannielle has said, but I also carry a very specific set of convictions and beliefs when it comes to this very, very complicated situation. Last August I got married, and several of my relatives — relatives who love me immensely and who open their home and hearts to me and Jenny (my wife) — did not attend for religious reasons.
A few weeks after Jenny and I got engaged, I sent an email to my extended family, knowing that for some of them the wedding would create a very hard question in their lives: Do the thing that they were told was right and good with their higher power, or do the thing that meant supporting someone they loved. My email told them that I understood whichever way their hearts took them, and that my wedding was a celebration of a partnership with someone that I loved. It was a celebration in which I wanted to have only those people who could feel at peace while seeing us exchange vows. I told them that I knew, regardless of their presence, that they loved me.
Many people didn’t understand how I could say such a thing and truly mean it — because in most of our minds if you love someone, THAT is the thing that trumps all else. The common line of logic is: if you choose not to be a part of a beautiful moment in my life, how can you even say that you truly love me or truly support me? In my mind and in my heart, however, I truly believe the two experiences can co-exist; I think that you can love someone and simultaneously believe that your decisions are informed by more than just that love alone.
It is going to be painful to not have your father there. It was painful for me not to have some of my aunts and cousins with me — and those weren’t even my immediate family members. However, what I would say to your dad, if anything, is that you will miss him and that you wish that you could be together on this incredible day, but that you want to keep him close. See if he would want to come to the reception if you are having one — a couple of my family members felt that they couldn’t be there for the ceremony itself, but wanted to celebrate at the reception.
Now, I will tell you this: most of this makes absolutely no sense to me. I don’t understand the world the way my aunts and cousins understand it, and I certainly don’t understand why attending a reception is okay but seeing the ceremony is not… but I feel I don’t need to understand that fully. I know that the people who were not in attendance love me. Fiercely. As much as they love every other member of my family. That is how your father loves you.
This world is a fucking crazy place, and our brains are shaped by so many factors that it is impossible to ever truly know how someone else experiences things. Your father’s attendance is not a marker of his love for you. It will hurt, but I think that telling him that you know he loves you, telling him that he will be in your heart on your wedding day, and staying close to him as much as you can through this very tricky time (for both of you, by the way — no matter what he says this is not an easy decision for him either) is the path that holds the most clarity and the most love.
As a person who has gone through this, my heart is very much with you — and I know your wedding day is going to be fucking incredible. xo
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"Hi. So… My friend’s grandpa is sick and he’s in the hospital and stuff and I never ever know what to say when she brings it up. I usually sit quietly/awkwardly and do my best to be supportive but it always seems so lame. What are you supposed to say when someone mentions that someone they love is sick with an inoperable tumour? Help. I’m really tired of not being supportive enough."
- Question submitted by Anonymous
Ugh, this is so fucking hard and I am both sorry for your friend and for your struggle with being there for your friend.
I went through a similar situation with my BestFriendForForever, and I went the route of trying to be the constant in her life. I was the idiot who made jokes and sang Miley Cyrus and danced with the WII game (oops i’m not hip) and would sit in her living room watching Veronica Mars and eating Thai food. I noticed a lot of people were saying they were sorry and looking at her like the world was crumbling. And they were right, her world was crumbling and we all felt that overwhelming sorry feeling. BUT I didn’t know how to do that, so I did what I knew how to do.
I think you can ask your friend what she needs. I asked mine. I was like “am I doing the wrong thing?” and she said I wasn’t. She told me she appreciated me staying true to being an idiot because that was pretty much the only time she was giggling, even if it was a forced giggle.
Maybe your friend doesn’t know what they want, maybe sorry is enough. Maybe just knowing you’re around and you’re there and you’re listening is enough. You are already such a wonderful friend, and I know they are so grateful to have you.
Yes, all of that… and I’d like to tell you that you probably aren’t ever going to feel like you’ve done just the right thing, because there really isn’t a “right” thing when it comes to facing an illness or losing someone we love.
To the best of your ability, you have to keep being you — just like Dannielle said. That means doing the things you did before, and it also means speaking about the way you are feeling. You can say to your friend, “I know you are hurting and I never know quite what to say… but I just want you to know I am here for you in any way that you need.”
It might feel weird saying the words, and it might feel weird after you say them, but your friend will hear you, and that is what counts. When people we love are sick, we hear things in a way that is not possible in any other situation.
When I was 21, I almost lost my mom. She went in for a routine procedure, something went wrong, and she spent over a month in ICU. We very much thought she was not going to make it through. During that time family came in from all over the country, and my friends called and texted and came to my house and did their absolute best to be supportive. Apart from the fear and sadness during that time, do you know what I remember? I remember laughing and drinking wine on the deck with my aunts, I remember joking about the most ridiculous things and laughing and sharing string cheese with my friends, and I remember knowing that if I needed any of them, I could reach out in a moment.
That is all you need to do for your friend to help them – just let them know you are there, and keep sharing your Pringles with them (or your organic carrots, I don’t know what you all LIKE).
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"My 13-year-old recently told me she’s bi. My husband and I are both totally cool with it, as is our 11-year-old son. The problem is my family. I’m worried that my dad and his wife are going to react badly. I’m close to my dad, but I would do anything to protect my kids from getting their feelings hurt. Any advice on how to talk to him about this? I just want to protect my little girl’s feelings, ideally without having to distance myself from my dad."
- Question submitted by Anonymous
My first suggestion is you talk to your kid about what they want. You might find that your daughter ALSO doesn’t want to tell your parents. Maybe she, too, feels like it would be more trouble than it’s worth.
On the other hand, she might feel her identity is worth the trouble. She might prefer to have hurt feelings over (technically) lying about who she is. This varies from person to person. I don’t care if people know my identity. If they know, they know, if they don’t, who cares?! It doesn’t affect them at all and I will live my life open and happy, regardless. However, I have friends who would rather be disowned by their aunts and uncles than hide who they are.
I think what it comes down to is that it isn’t really your choice. The feeling of wanting to protect your daughter at every turn is completely understandable. In fact, it’s fantastic and noble and wonderful and sweet. However, it isn’t realistic. The same way you can’t protect your daughter from a broken heart, you can’t protect your daughter from people who want to disregard her identity or, even worse, hate her because of it.
Your parents might surprise you. They also might NOT surprise you, but if you don’t give them a chance, you’ll harbor a resentment toward them for no reason. If you talk to them (if that’s what your kid wants) you at least have the chance to (as aforementioned) be surprised. OR you have the chance to start that dialogue, to talk to your parents about their concerns, to express your personal upset with their negative reactions, to really help them understand why you daughter is still the same kid she has always been. You have a chance to talk to them about what, until now, was just a very distant idea about the way people identify. Now they have the opportunity to learn from someone they know and love. It’s a cool and very powerful thing. It may take time, but better to invest time then to give up before you’ve tried!
I agree with every word that Dannielle said up there: talk to your daughter first & tell her your concerns, move forward together as a team, and (here’s the point I want to elaborate on) allow your parents time for their process, should they need it.
Of course you want your child to believe that anyone’s love for them could never be affected by who they are… and for the most part, that’s actually completely true. Even people who throw their children out of their homes because of who they are tend to have the exact same amount of love for that child… their love just twists and turns into something horribly ugly because they do not have any tools to process the information at hand.
Now, it doesn’t sound like the response of your father would be so extreme — but even if it is a minor upset, it is sure to cause you pain. Probably, in all honesty, more pain than your child. Either way, it will not make any member of your family feel good… but the most important thing to remember is that the love your parents have for you or your child isn’t going to change — it just may bend and shift as it navigates new territory.
Your dad may not know as much as you do about the LGBTQ community. He may have opinions rooted in things he has heard over the past several decades. My mom was raised Roman Catholic and when I told her that I was gay, we went through over a decade of struggle as we worked through her beliefs, understandings, and love for me.
Don’t be afraid to tell your child that some people — even people who love her — need time to process. Is it ideal? No. However, in the world we live in, it is a reality — and a reality that you and your child will now see even more in your day-to-day lives.
Last thing: Regardless of how your parents react, your kid has the incredible advantage of having YOU in their corner. If your dad says something off base, it is obvious that you will go to bat for your kid. I have had that experience from the kid-perspective, and I cannot tell you the love and pride that fills your heart when your parent stands in strong solidarity with you.
Thanks for being so wonderful.
Everyone Is Gay has started a new project to help parents who have LGBTQ kids: Check out The Parents Project!
"Some of my younger cousins are being raised pretty religiously as Christians… One of them said that gay people make her feel sick, I’m really afraid to come out to them, what if they don’t want to be around me anymore?"
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Broderick Greer as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions
I am tired of people using religion as an instrument of physical, emotional, and psychological violence against other human beings. I am tired of this becausereligion comes from a word that means to re-ligament. Religion, when practiced with human flourishing and the Divine’s glory as the end, it makes humanity, and the cosmos itself, more whole. The way your cousins are practicing religion is not re-ligamenting our fragmented world. It is, in fact, fragmenting it further. It is tearing our ligaments of shared humanity apart. With this in mind, I would like to offer a handful of observations that you may or may not find helpful on your journey toward wholeness.
1. You don’t make your cousin sick. Her sickness is prejudice-induced. We live in a world full of variety. There numerous kinds of species, linguistic families, academic disciplines, and reality shows (Ok. There’s only one kind of variety show: tasty trash). Variety in sexual orientations and gender identities is no different. Some people are asexual. Some people are straight. Some people are queer. Some people are transgender. Does seeing a person with a different color shirt than hers make your cousin feel sick? How about people of a different eye color than hers? Your cousin must learn to let difference empower her, not nauseate her. Her prejudicial posture toward you has nothing to do with you and everything to do with her inability to differentiate her emotional capacity to embrace difference from her weak stomach.
2. Fear is crippling and unsustainable. You stated that you are afraid to come out to your cousins because you disclosing your sexual orientation might cause them to not want to be around you anymore. This is a legitimate feeling. You don’t deserve to live your life afraid of the responses of people who supposedly love you with no strings attached. The fact that you are willing to wonder aloud about your about your relationship with your relatives is proof of your deep courage. You are not defined by fear. You are defined by the life you so desperately are embracing, question by question. Keep asking questions. Keep wondering about your flourishing and the relationships that matter most to you. When you stop asking those questions, your quest will come on to an end. Fear does not define you. Let your inquisitive, curious spirit define you and your courage sustain you.
3. God longs for your (and creation’s) wholeness. Since I am a Christian, I can’t help but speak as a person who believes that the God disclosed in the person of Jesus Christ is wholly love. Wholly. There is no fear in love. In love, in God, there is a deep longing for the flourishing of humanity. This means that God longs for not just your wholeness and flourishing, but the wholeness and flourishing of communities, nations, ecosystems, and the cosmos itself. Any feeling of fear, condemnation, or shame does not originate in God. It is from somewhere else. Any affirmation of your unique, beautiful humanity originates in God’s overflowing love and affection for you. Dwell on that affection. In Christian parlance, that dwelling is called contemplation. In contemplation, God invites us to be completely absorbed in the love that Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the one whom Jesus calls “Father” share among themselves.
Throughout history, God has reached out in dramatic and subtle ways to share this love with you. Soak in it. Bathe in it. And, however difficult it might seem, invite your cousins to do the same. You, and they, will be better for it.
Though I have approached your question as a person firmly rooted in the Christian tradition, I readily acknowledge that compassion is not unique to Christianity. Anywhere a person or community is actively engaged in the difficult work of compassion, inclusion, and love, there exists true human flourishing. I encourage you to surround yourself with the people and communities that will embrace you with you compassion, empowering you to be the person you want to be, in deep and rich ways. Compassion knows no limitation. It is not bound by race, class, national borders, socio-economic immobility, or sexual orientation. Offer it freely and receive it freely.
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“I’ve been raised as a Jehovah’s Witness [JW], but I know I’m gay and that the religion is not for me. How should I tell my mom? I’m still in high school and I’m afraid she’ll kick me out.”
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Mel Mendoza as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions
Well for starters, you probably shouldn’t just open the Questions Young People Askbook, point to Chapter 28 on Homosexuality and say, “Hey Mom, I got something to tell you about this chapter…” And try to avoid reading her the passionate bromance between Daniel and Jonathan in the book of Samuel in order to get her used to the idea. Instead, consider these tips:
Be Prepared. Unfortunately, being kicked out for being gay is a possibility for many JW youth. It was for me. Coming out, as a Jehovah’s Witness, has to do with remembering that you have people outside the Organization who are there to support you and help you. When I knew that I was going to be coming out to my parents, I called a few friends from work and school and told them about my situation. Many were willing to help take me in for some time until things cooled down or until I could find more fitting accommodations. You’re also still in high school, so there are many counselors available to help you out if you are having a hard time. There are other resources that are available on the intranets, as well.
Be Yourself. Usually, when you are a JW coming out, you are coming out twice: once as a person who identifies as LGBTQ and once as a non-JW. I think that you should try to be as honest with your mom as possible. Sit her down and let her know you love her and that this is why you don’t want to keep anything from her. If you feel afraid that she won’t love or accept you, tell her. Let her know that you have thought about it and have come to the conclusion that the religion just isn’t right for you. She’s going to ask questions. This can be a very good transition into the way you identify as gay. (Try to avoid talking about creationism, excommunication, and other problems you might have with the teachings and doctrine.) Come out to her. Confidently tell her that you know it isn’t a phase. Reassure her and remain as calm and as respectful of her beliefs as you can be. Let her ask questions. Give her time to process.
Understand. There may be backlash. Your mom may call the elders. She might ask you to meet with them. She might ask you to pray and think about it. In situations like these, the best thing to do is keep yourself composed and try your very best to understand where she is coming from. What she says and does, in her mind, is out of love; unfortunately, sometimes this love hurts us. Try to think positively and be patient. Still, remember to stand your ground. You have the right to find happiness. Remember that Biblically, Jehovah gives everyone free will and a chance to choose how they want to live their life. You are entitled to that, too, and your mother will come to understand this in time. (Disclaimer: If you are a baptized Jehovah’s Witness and are called into a meeting with the elder body and would not like to be disfellowshipped, simply do not attend the meeting. THEY CAN NOT DISFELLOWSHIP YOU IF YOU ARE NOT THERE. This does not apply to those who write a letter of disassociation, which is personally NOT recommended.)
Maintain respect. Above all else, remember that respect is earned. If you expect your mother to respect your choices and lifestyle, you should always do your very best to respect hers. She finds inner peace, love, and purpose living as a Jehovah’s Witness. Don’t speak disrespectfully about God, the Organization, the brothers and sisters, or their teachings/comments. Don’t start breaking rules and rebelling against them because you no longer consider yourself a JW. Remember that your parents are watching to see just how “bad” you become when you go into the world. In situations like these, if you remain the bigger person, parents can be very surprising.
Find your community. I cannot stress how important it is to find and develop a new, uplifting support system. Reach out to the Gay-Straight Alliance at school, if there is one. If there isn’t, think of starting one. Taking on a task like that can keep you busy and distract from any possible unpleasantness at home. Talking to people on LGBTQ hotlines and utilizing other resources will help boost your confidence and self-esteem when things get difficult. Volunteering and getting to know other wonderful people in the gay community will help to recreate that brotherhood and community you felt in the congregation. In the long term, the community you choose will be able to hold you up and give you a strong foundation for your growth as the individual that you deserve to be.
Remember that you deserve happiness and fulfillment. In the words of mydrunkkitchen’s Hannah Hart, “It [will be] hard, but better.”
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