December 3, 2013

Family Picture – Part One "You're So Gay"

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.

My other sister asked a friend of hers, who wasn't photographer but had taken a class, to take our photos. We did this because of the cheap price we could get her for. The outfits were coordinated, location and time set. We started taking the photos and as my family does often we started teasing each other. My brother said something that really hurt/bothered my sister and so she said, all while posing for a photo, "you're so gay." Mind you, both my sister (who wasn't there) and I are gay and out.

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.


  1. It's been really interesting seeing my family's learning curve throughout my coming out process. I've seen a bit of the "you're so gay" comment, too. I'm trying to not let it bug me...but it does...I wish they could get it.

    Way to take advantage of that teaching moment, though!!!

  2. I am glad that you have made this stand with your family. I think it is important for MANY of US to take the stand that we will not allow others to demean and disparage gay people by others' uses of "you're so gay". I also think some people truly do not get it. Which is sad. But, I think the more we work at it, like you have been working with your siblings, and this sister in particular, eventually, they will "get it". That is my great hope.

    If I may share something personal related to this? I had a 7th grade student a few years ago who used that term, "You're so gay", in class OFTEN. Each time he said it, he and I had a discussion about it. After our second "real" discussion, I thought we had made progress, but it cropped up again, a few days later. This time, we had another private discussion about it in the hall. I said to him, "You have told me you are adopted. And, that you have African-American blood in you. Is that right?" He said yes. I knew from previous discussions with him that being African American was VERY important to him. I asked him,"How would you feel if, when someone did something that someone else thought was stupid, instead of saying "oh, you are so gay" they instead said, 'oh, that is so black"." His eyes about popped out of his head. He said he would HATE that. I told him that was EXACTLY what he had been doing with his use of "you're so gay", that people are who they are, and all deserve to be treated with respect. He told he hadn't "gotten" it before, but he did now, and he promised me I would never hear him say those words again. I had him all that year and the following year, and I never heard him talk that way again. Yay!

    1. I believe it is the same with any teaching moment. No one really gets it until it becomes personal. Great teaching example Duck!

  3. I wouldn't count on your nephews and nieces not knowing. Kids are smart observers--much more than we give them credit for.

    Still, I had a niece who would post "that's so gay" on her Facebook wall all the time and one day I decided to post a reply:

    "did you call me sweetie?" she never ever posted that again...

    Sounds like you've handled this with a lot of tact and respect for your relationship with your siblings--baby steps!


    1. I agree on the keen observation of kids. If I were around them more often I believe they would piece things together, but I only see them once or twice a year and only for a day or two at that. It will be interesting as they get into their teens though. I want to live a open enough life that they can ask me whenever they discover it.