When support is the same as hate

28 Mar

I happened across this article “So you support your gay teen, great: You still have to parent them” (http://www.today.com/moms/so-you-support-your-gay-teen-great-you-still-have-2D79442916). The thesis:

“The problem for most gay kids is that they can lose their parents whether their parents are hateful or supportive,” says Dan Savage, author, sex columnist and creator of the “It Gets Better Project,” which helps gay teens recover from bullying. “When a kid is queer, the hateful parent shuts down and wants nothing to do with them. But sometimes a parent who is accepting feels like they can’t be critical or interfere, and they don’t fulfill their duties as parents any more than the hateful parent does.”

Savage, who has a son with his gay partner, says that he frequently hears stories about parents who are afraid to tell their gay son that they don’t approve of his boyfriend for fear of sounding intolerant or who help their gay teen sneak into gay bars by securing them a fake ID — a double standard that he finds frustrating.

“You’ve got to parent your queer kid like you would any other kid. Would you parent your straight 17-year-old daughter that way? No, you would not,” he says.

Savage makes me think of Mia McKenzie’s critique of “allies” (http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2013/09/no-more-allies/). As McKenzie argues, being an ally is not about your beliefs (like, it’s OK to be gay). “It’s not supposed to be about your feelings. It’s not supposed to be a way of glorifying yourself at the expense of the folks you claim to be an ally to. It’s not supposed to be a performance. It’s supposed to be a way of living your life that doesn’t reinforce the same oppressive behaviors you’re claiming to be against.” And those oppressive behaviors include not saying what you need to say because your kid is gay (and you don’t want to be seen as or called homophobic). Back to Savage on this:

“Whether it’s a dating relationship you don’t approve of, or it’s your kid saying, ‘You said you loved and accepted me for who I was, and now you’re not letting me enter a Mr. Leather contest in a dog collar when I’m 16 years old,’ your response should be, ‘This has nothing to do with your being gay, and everything to do with the fact that I’m your parent and I don’t approve of the choice you’re making,’” says Savage. “Love them by parenting them — that’s the key.”

And as McKenzie puts it, being an ally is about what you do. It’s about “currently operating in solidarity with,” which includes helping your kid learn what their sexuality has to do with the rest of who they are and their relationships with other people, including you.

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