My entire family (minus one sister) came together this Thanksgiving weekend. It had been discussed that it would be a wonderful time to take a family picture since the last real one (weddings not included) was over fifteen years ago. Since then two in-laws joined the family and twelve grandchildren. Thus it was decided upon that we would take a picture and I would photoshop my sister who couldn't make it in the photo.
I looked back at this sister who spoke and my brother who had teased her and caught another brother's eyes. He raised his eyebrows, which I interpreted as, "I heard that, sorry." I noticed that no siblings laughed at the "you're so gay" comment either, but no one said anything. I didn't either.
I decided quickly not to say anything for two reasons. The first was that all the grandkids were right there with us, twelve kids under the age of eleven. They don't know I am gay, or even what that means as far as I know. The second reason I decided not to say something in the moment was I am not a fan of public rebuke or confrontation. I knew that I could approach this sister later and talk to her about it.
This sister that said "you're so gay" has used this phrase, towards me, before at a family reunion just last year. I talked to her then about the comment and thought I had put the issue to rest. But now I was faced with dealing with it again. The comment itself does not bother me like it does others, but I thought it would be a good teaching moment.
So a little later while one of the sibling's family was getting pictures taken I approached my sister. She was still hurt about what my brother said to her, but I raised the "you're so gay" comment with her. She was flippant about it.
"To me it has multiple meanings, I wasn't trying to be rude."
I tried to explain to her how degrading it is now matter how she meant it. I didn't get through to her and in fact made her upset at me. I believe her feelings were still raw and maybe I should have waited longer before bringing it up with her.
Later that day, after dinner, I went over to her while she was cleaning in the kitchen and gave her a big hug to thank her for hosting everyone over the weekend and for all the cooking and cleaning she was doing. She hugged back and apologized for the comment earlier in the day. I accepted the apology, but if I am honest, I know at some point in the near future she will use it again and not think twice about it.
I still have some work to do.
I did find three positives out of this situation though. First, no siblings laughed at the "you're so gay" comment. I hope this was because they knew it was wrong. Second, the brother who caught my eyes right after the comment and raised his eyebrows, is the same brother who said he never really wanted to talk with me about any gay topics. He has been showing signs of acceptance. He was also the brother who has in the past told her she can't say things like that.