The holidays are upon us and that means we’re all prepped to spend some quality time with the family. As with all things holiday-ish, it can be a little complicated: who has to sleep on the couch in the family room (me); who gets to wrap all the last-minute presents (me); and who gets to avoid talking about his homosexual lifestyle in front of his younger siblings? Yep, you guessed it…me!
My parents have known just how gay I am for almost a decade. It’s just that Mom and Dad prefer that I keep my 18-year-old brother and 11-year-old sister in the dark when it comes to my sexuality. The fact that I am not allowed to tell them definitely speaks to the discomfort my sexuality still causes my parents. And it’s not just with my siblings either. There are huge swaths of my family who probably don’t know that I am gay. It’s not as if my life would be terribly improved if I came out to all the various aunts and cousins I have living in California. Wait…did I just say California? That’s right. The same state where voters just approved Proposition 8, overturning that state’s Supreme Court ruling granting marriage equality to same-sex couples. The margin of victory for Prop 8 was roughly 4 percent, which makes me wonder about all those family members who may not know how important it is to me that I have the right to marry the person of my choosing.
Political Organizing 101 teaches that the opinions of close friends and family members have perhaps the greatest amount of influence when it comes to our decisions on Election Day. It also teaches you to know on a scale of 1 to 5 which voters are with you (1s and 2s), which are against (4s and 5s), and which are persuadable (3s). I have no idea when it comes to marriage equality for gays and lesbians if my aunt in Long Beach is a 1, 3 or 5.
Evan Wolfson, founder and executive director of Freedom to Marry, has said that the “recipe for social change is simple: information over time.” He emphasized that we need to keep having multiple conversations with our friends, family, co-workers and others in our circles about how the right to marry impacts us as individuals. We need to exercise patience and persistence, understanding that someone might need to hear from us four or five or 15 times before they can find common ground with your cause.
According to CNN exit polls, the people who most supported Prop 8 are groups with whom the GLBT community doesn’t always do the best job engaging: weekly churchgoers, Republicans, African Americans, people age 65, and older and married (i.e. heterosexual) people. I can’t help but wonder if that doesn’t have something to do with avoiding those uncomfortable conversations with our family members. I still have no clue as to whether or not my parents’ views have softened. But now is as good a time as any to find out. So get ready, Mom and Dad. This Christmas we’re gonna be spending some quality time talking about marriage equality.
Jamaal Young is a columnist for New York Press
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