You were right all along: They really do hate you. Well, the occasional stranger is going to hate you because, after all, in their world, they’re going to feel better so long as they can hate somebody. But generally speaking, the hate comes from the usual regular and predictable basis. Here in America, we’re talking about the folks who brought you exorcism of the demon of homosexuality, conversion therapy (still legal in 35 states!), and the “we just love you with the love of the Lord” baby talk. Sure, parents can hate their own, and parental rejection will be felt for a lifetime, but it’s the evangelicals who proved the justifying doctrines. Even nonreligious parents and others get their justification for hate from the fundamentalists. Sadly, we’ve all known people who just couldn’t take the hate one minute longer. Their deaths are a reminder: hate is serious business.
Remember the observation that we become what we hate? Turns out that being closeted and repressing who you are is a problem for religious fundamentalists and parents too. Both groups have their own repression to deal with. They know hating is not right so they deny it and then, voilá, they don’t hate you. They love you. Except that they do hate you. Getting love from the hateful people we’re talking about is like getting a hug from a porcupine. Remember when love used to feel good?
So what can you do about all this hate? Well, you could avoid dealing with it, stay perfectly bland and never talk about “you know what”. That’s usually a temporary move. You’re still gay, they know you’re gay, and you know that they hate you for it.
Or, you could actually face your fears (of rejection and disapproval) and you could face their hate (of the most intimate, most personal and frankly, best part of yourself). Here’s how to start:
First, begin by being honest with yourself. Their saying that they love you while also rejecting whole parts of who you are doesn’t mean that they do love you. OK, that hurt. All of us can sympathize with you but first, just let that fact sink in: They hate you. There’s a straight, future version of you that they can absolutely adore, but the you who is here right now, not so much.
Second, start talking to safe people about this. Then, talk about it some more. Talking helps all of us process our feelings and our thoughts. Talking with people who are safe helps us grow from the feelings that overwhelm us to a place where we have our feelings instead of them having us.
Third, from time to time, all of us need a bit of professional help. No, silly, not a hitman. Therapy can help in handling the ignorant hate that litters our lives. Your therapist can and should help you figure out your feelings AND figure out what to do about those conversations that start with, “well I’m not homophobic, but….”
Fourth, you remember how both evangelicals and parents who give their children hate got their ideas from the fundamentalism that permeates the very ether of America. Because of that unholy alliance of religious extremism, ignorance and bigotry, many of us have made Christianity, religion, and even religion’s big brother, spirituality, into the enemy. This was a mistake. Our spirituality, like our sexuality, is one of the better parts of who we are. None of those haters have a patent on God or any other spiritual idea and we have our own spiritual options, thank you. Remember how Jesus turned sharing an everyday food like bread into something holy? There’s nothing stopping us from doing the same. Start with abandoning the sterile spirituality of evangelical and parental haters. A simple act, like listening to a friend or giving someone a hug can become a sacrament of healing.