Sorry, being from “another time” doesn’t count.
TW: homophobia, transphobia/deadnaming
Look, everyone’s got that family member that simply cannot get with the program. There’s always some racism, a touch of homophobia and transphobia or a sprinkle of casual sexism. I’ve heard it all, much like I can imagine for many of my readers. Not that more understanding families don’t exist because…they do. I just want to talk about something plenty of families, including mine, tend to sweep under the proverbial rug: stop making excuses.
I’ve heard plenty of bizarre nonsense from my family, but one has become glaringly obvious. Recently, my youngest sibling came out as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns. They also asked to be called a different name. My immediate family handled it very well. My mom does her best to stay educated and my brother even helped them decide on the new name. However, my 70-something-year-old grandparents came to visit in October and my mom had to explain everything to them. The overwhelming reaction was, “Isn’t [Cleoh] too young? Do [they] even know what that means?” UGH. Seriously? When my mom messaged me about how they responded, I was furious. Apparently, my grandmother made some remark about there being “no nonbinary people” when she was a kid. My grandparents were adults by the time the American Gay Rights movement was in full swing.
First, there is no such thing as being “too young” to be queer. Five-year-olds have expressed feelings of being born in the wrong body and people have discovered they’re not straight after 30 years of straight-passing marriage. Second, being older or from “a different generation” is not an excuse. Sorry grandma, but I can and will call bullshit. It is absolutely false that all queer people alive right now are millennials or Gen Z. Absolutely false! While Gen Z might be “the gayest generation,” with a survey by Gallup finding that one in six Gen Z people identify as queer and 30% of millennials identifying as queer, LGBTQ+ Gen Xers and baby boomers have also always existed. Another survey from Gallup shows that around 3% of Gen Xers and 2% of baby boomers identified as LGBTQ+ in 2020.
Another excuse that drives me crazy is political affiliation. I get it. The two-party system has us all screwed up. But let’s be honest, your politics don’t excuse your behavior. My grandparents have slid under radars before through Democratic affiliation, but that’s not even a real excuse. Everything from subtle racism to blatant homophobia (my grandmother literally asked my mom if I was “still gay” … smh). On the other hand, I have a very Republican former military uncle. I remember being at his house one time and somehow, we got to the topic of his oldest son, and he literally said, “If my son were gay, I’d kick him out!” Let me tell you, the moment my mom and I locked eyes was intense. I get that one’s beliefs are important to them, but at what cost? I also understand that I’m not in charge of changing their beliefs either, but when I don’t feel comfortable being myself around you, just know I’m not going to do a great job of staying connected.
And here we are, folks, the most irritating excuse of them all: willful ignorance. I literally stopped using Instagram because of the level of pure arrogance present on that platform. Posted resources? Someone’s going to debate it. Posted statistics? Hmm, debatable. God forbid you post a personal experience. The comment section is a good place to lose your appetite for the day. For as lucky as I am to not be a victim of unsolicited dick pics, I’ve been sent plenty of messages laden with slurs and misinformation left unchallenged. I once posted a survey in response to a false claim and was met with a storm of “who asked” and “no one cares.” Does this give these people an ego boost from being ignorant? Beats me. It baffles me to know there are people who are so misguided and entitled that any challenge to their beliefs is immediately wrong. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. To me, growing as a person involves learning new things and educating myself before aligning with anything. Ignorance through means of limited information or something to that end is different, but complete belligerent ignorance is unacceptable.
Honestly, I can’t make any promises about my family or yours getting any more progressive or understanding, but at the end of the day you’re not alone. Everyone is at a different place with their beliefs but just remember that you’re not obligated to indulge them. I understand the conflict between knowing this is someone you’re related to and knowing they’re subscribed to harmful beliefs. Just remember that you are your own person, and you don’t owe passiveness to your family. Your beliefs and your identity are more important than pleasing your family. You are valid and worthy regardless of how your family feels about it, and your growth matters more than someone else’s opinion. Go forth and break the cycle of ignorance! I believe in you!