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Emily Rizzo

January 1997

The Parents' Corner

HOMOPHOBIA NOT ALWAYS THE ANSWER

Q. My mother is homophobic. She says she accepts me as a gay but she’s been giving me a hard time lately about keeping late hours.

A. Just as it’s easy for parents to focus on their child’s homosexuality as the root of all problems, so is it easy to make the mistake on the other side. The truth is that a lot of straight children, too, have problems with their parents. And when I say “children” I mean of all ages, a friend of mine who is 52 just complained to me that her mother, who is 79, is driving her crazy nagging her about her weight and housekeeping.

So before you charge your mother with being homophobic, take a look at the whole picture. Does she claim that you are late because you are gay, or blame “those gay friends of yours” for keeping you out late? Some parents are guilty of this. I remember at one of our PFLAG meetings a mother opened with a long lament “what’s wrong with gay sons, they never call their mothers!” Another mother pointed out that her straight son never calls her either and it’s simply the way lots of sons behave.

Now also look at your own behavior. Is your mother justified in her complaint? I assume by your question that you are living at home. Generally, most people still living with their parents have to abide by certain rules, which may not always appear fair, but think of it as the price you pay for room and board, not to mention as the price of admission for being part of the family. If you feel that your parents have established an unreasonable curfew, then see if you can negotiate it with them; perhaps they are willing to compromise especially if you can give them some good, rational arguments.

This is not to deny that many parents, even the most well-meaning, do harbor some homophobia; after all, in our society everyone (including gay people) grow up surrounded with it. It can take years to unlearn society’s negative stereotypes about gay people and most folks won’t even bother to do so unless someone they know or love comes out to them. Still, it takes some hard thought and self-examination to understand exactly how our prejudices shape our thinking and not everyone, especially middle-aged parents, find this an easy task.

Parents who are truly homophobic will often treat a child’s sexual orientation as a lightning rod for all other problems because it’s so easy to blame something which so many people in our society already find blameworthy. Some parents come to PFLAG in tears because their child is gay and when they tell their stories you learn that their child has a multitude of problems and that their being gay is only a small piece of the puzzle, yet that’s what the parents will focus on.

So you have to step back and examine if your mother is truly homophobic and how much of her behavior is due to that or is she simply doing what many mothers do: drive their children crazy!

Be sure to check out the unofficial PFLAG web page for a list of chapters, PFLAG pamphlets, and other resource material.


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