Category Archives: covert homophobia

99 problems (and my story has them all): Diversity and “issues books”

For a while there, I had a great writing streak going. Ideas popped into my head at the most random times – at meetings, during conversations, while driving, or in the shower. I started carrying a small notebook with me so I could jot these ideas down before I forgot them – because too many times, I’d said to myself, “Oh, I’ll remember.” And, well, you know how that goes, I’m sure. It was like I couldn’t write fast enough. My day job was beginning to feel like this big inconvenience, because I didn’t feel like I had enough time to do justice to all these great ideas. But when an idea grabs hold of you, it’s hard to let it go. So I made the time to write, whether it involved staying up late, getting up early, or grabbing a few minutes here and there. The writing didn’t always come easy, and sometimes what seemed like a good idea in my head sounded clunky on paper.

And then . , . the well ran dry. For months, I’ve had trouble coming up with new, fresh, and compelling stories. Many writers I know have experienced this very thing, and in each case, the writing eventually started up again. But this felt a little different that what I’d heard people describe. It wasn’t like the well ran dry slowly, like a riverbed drying up in a drought. No, this felt more like the coin-operated showers you find at campgrounds – when your five minutes are up, the water stops abruptly, and there you are, freezing and dripping wet. Strange. And I had no idea why.

Until today.

Every spring, I attend a writing conference that’s hosted by my local chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Last year’s conference focused heavily on diversity in children’s books, probably in response to the well-publicized and much-needed #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. One of the workshops was “How to Write Diversity Into Your Stories,” which, ironically, was led by young White female associate editor from a large New York publishing house. At the end of the session, one of the questions I had was this: When writing for a diverse audience, how do you incorporate issues like racism, homophobia, class oppression, etc., in a way that’s appropriate for children?

“I wouldn’t focus too much on those things,” she said. “If you do, then it’ll be an ‘issues book,’ which are the scourge of the publishing industry.”

An “issues book.” I’d never heard the term before. But since the conference, I’ve seen that term tossed around quite a bit, along with its sibling, the “problem story.” Book reviewers tend not to like issues books, and if they do, it’s despite the presence of these issues. Most children’s picture books with LGBT characters fall into the category of “issues books.” Many books featuring people of color do as well – and when they don’t, the race and ethnicity of the characters aren’t really a central part of the story.

So now what do I do? I thought to myself. I’d written a manuscript about a girl who’s grieving the loss of her transgender sibling – an issues book. I’d started working on another one, at the request of my editor, about a mixed-race girl with two daddies who’s trying to figure out how to navigate Mother’s Day at school – another issues book. I’d been playing with a story about an intersex character, and another about a child whose mother comes out as transgender – which are, of course, issues books. Meanwhile, in the back of my head, round and round like the stock ticker in Times Square, I’m hearing, Issues books are the scourge of the publishing industry. No wonder I couldn’t get anything on paper! So many of my ideas involved addressing a character’s personal struggle triggered by oppression, and the last thing I wanted to do was contribute to a scourge.

That was only part of my epiphany. The other came this morning, when I read this article from the Diversity in YA blog. What they had to say about “issues books” basically boiled down to this:

  • If your characters are part of historically marginalized groups, then oppression is part of their experience.
  • If your characters have multiple minority identities, then the issues they face will involve these complex intersections. (For that reason, most books don’t include characters with more than one minority identity.)
  • Simple narratives that have a clean ending don’t reflect the realities that multiply minoritized people face.
  • As long as minoritized people face oppression, then books that realistically capture their experience will need to include issues – even if it seems like “too many issues.”

BINGO. This article nailed it. This is what I wish I’d thought to say at that conference.

It’s scary to me how easily this editor’s words derailed me, which speaks to the power of internalized oppression. I’ve studied internalized oppression for a long time (my dissertation focused on internalized homophobia), and I’m continually amazed at how, like a toxic mold, it can creep up and invades our psyches so easily. Internalized oppression may keep us from writing the stories we want to write. It keeps publishers from putting those stories out there – they fear they won’t make money, or they’ll be too depressing. But I don’t think it’ll keep readers from reading them – because, for many of us, they are our stories.

Just before I started writing this blog post, a little story idea popped into my head. I jotted it down, and later I’ll play around with it. Yes, that quickly, the idea well seems to be filling again.



Filed under children, covert homophobia, culture, intersectionality, intersex, LGBTQ youth, media

Does football have a gay glass ceiling?

Last May, when Michael Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams, lots of people asked me, “Are you going to write a blog post about Michael Sam?”

Later, over the summer, I ran into a colleague at work. We chatted, and he asked, “When are you going to write about Michael Sam?”

Last week, when I returned to work for the fall semester, another colleague said, “I love your blog. I read it every week. But when are you going to write about Michael Sam?”

Why haven’t I written about Michael Sam? Because I don’t care much about football. It’s as simple as that. Baseball is much more my thing, and lately I’ve been focused on Derek Jeter’s upcoming retirement. Because I’m woefully ignorant about football, I didn’t feel especially qualified to comment on Sam.

I will say this, though. Years ago, I was talking with a friend about the lack of out LGBTQ people in professional sports, and I said, “When someone does finally come out, it’ll need to be someone like Peyton Manning or Mariano Rivera. They’ll need to be so invaluable to the team that being gay won’t matter.”

Now that Michael Sam has been cut by the Rams, I still stand by that comment. And I’ll explain why, drawing from research focusing on the broad spectrum of minority groups.

Michael Sam’s situation is a perfect example of a phenomenon called access discrimination, which takes place during the hiring or promotions process. Federal legislation prohibits many forms of access discrimination – per the Civil Rights Act, an employer can’t say that an applicant didn’t get the job because of race, or sex, or religion, or a number of other factors. (Sexual orientation and transgender status, by the way, aren’t currently included in that list. Stay tuned to see if that changes anytime soon with the passage of an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act.) Because overt employment discrimination is illegal (not to say it never happens), access discrimination often occurs in more subtle forms. And when discrimination occurs in subtle ways, it’s hard to know whether it REALLY was discrimination, or if it’s a figment of your imagination.

Michael Sam could have been the victim of access discrimination based on sexual orientation. Or he just might not have cut it in the highly competitive world of professional sports. Researchers who study marginalized groups are aware of the challenge of identifying access discrimination when it occurs subtly. As a result, a wide range of studies have zeroed in on some “clues” that can tell you whether or not access discrimination may have taken place.

Clue #1: Your employer holds stereotypical beliefs. This is probably one of the more robust research findings. For example, several studies indicate that employers are significantly less likely to hire someone who has a very African American-sounding name (like Lakisha or Jamal) compared to a White-sounding name. Older workers are likely to face access discrimination if the person who is hiring holds ageist beliefs. And gay and lesbian applicants, according to research conducted by organizational psychologist Belle Rose Ragins, are more likely to face discrimination if the workplace culture is predominantly heterosexual. If the gatekeeper to a new job opportunity has strong beliefs about who should and shouldn’t be hired, you better believe it’s going to be challenging for the shouldn’t-be-hireds to gain entry.

Clue #2: You are applying for a prestigious position. A perfect example of this is the U.S. Presidency. Only one person of color has been able to break through into that position. As of yet, no woman has been successful in securing that job. Yet women and people of color have served in lower levels of government for quite some time. This “glass ceiling,” if you will, probably occurs for a number of reasons. For one thing, researchers have noted that members of marginalized groups are likely to be “tokens” on the job – single representatives of their minority group. As a result, they may be less likely to be mentored by senior employees and groomed for more prestigious positions. If you’re not an “old boy,” so they say, it’s nearly impossible to break into the “old boys’ club.” And that club, like it or not, can make an enormous difference in whether or not a person breaks into a high-level position.

Clue #3: You are applying for a job that is considered “inappropriate” for your minority group. A study published in Sex Roles a number of years ago indicated that males and females who were applying for “sex-incongruent” jobs faced a steeper hill to climb in getting the job – and being favorably evaluated later on if they were actually hired. This is a factor that is also highly likely to intersect with Clue #1 – if an employer has stereotyped beliefs, and the applicant in question challenges the gender/race/sexual orientation/age/etc. norms of the position, it’s highly likely that access discrimination will result.

Clue #4: Your qualifications are ambiguous. Both classic and current studies indicate that ambiguous qualifications are an easy scapegoat when access discrimination is happening. For example, in a research article aptly titled “Hard Won and Easily Lost,” researchers note that, for minorities in the workplace, making small mistakes on the job can be an employment deal-breaker. Drawing from Alice Eagly’s many studies of gender discrimination in the workplace, the article states:  “Although minorities with unambiguously strong qualifications are often evaluated fairly, when qualifications are ambiguous, stereotypes strongly influence judgments . . . . Thus, a Black job candidate with a stellar record will receive high evaluations, but a Black candidate with a mixed record will face discrimination when compared with a White candidate.” If you’re a minority, and you’re not The Perfect Candidate, then you’re much less likely to get hired for the job.

Let’s bring all this back to Michael Sam. Without commenting specifically on the decision-makers within the St. Louis Rams organization, I think it’s fair to say that many people in professional sports hold “stereotypical beliefs” about gay men – and that those stereotypical beliefs might be strengthened by the fact that Michael Sam is a gay Black man. (There’s Clue #1.) I think it’s also fair to say that getting a spot on the team is a “prestigious position” (Clue #2.) Some would say that it’s “inappropriate” for a gay man to play football in a world of heterosexual teammates. (That’s Clue #3). And Michael Sam was the 249th out of 256 draft picks, making him a good player but maybe not a Great Player (Clue #4).

So was Michael Sam a victim of discrimination, or was the cut fair? Even with all those clues, I really couldn’t tell you, because there’s no way to know for sure. I hope that another team picks him up. I hope that lots of other gay professional athletes come out of the closet, so the spotlight won’t be so brightly focused on one person. And I really hope that a miracle happens and that the Yankees clinch a spot in the playoffs, so that Derek Jeter will get one more shot at a World Series ring.


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Filed under coming out, covert homophobia, gender nonconformity, homophobia, intersectionality, psychological research, racism, sexism, stereotypes

A day in the life of a queer parent

What My Typical Day Looks Like

By Gayle E. Pitman

Wake up at 6:00. Make breakfast. Make my daughter’s breakfast. Make my lunch. Make my daughter’s lunch. Remember to give my daughter her vitamin. Kiss my partner go0d-bye (she leaves by 6:45 to get to work). Empty the dishwasher (if Amy didn’t do it already). Make my bed. Make my daughter’s bed. Remind my daughter to feed the cats. Sweep up the massive number of crumbs she managed to drop on the floor (how DOES she do that every day?). Find clothes for my daughter to wear – and ten seconds later, renegotiate that outfit while she sputters in a fit of anger. Wash face, throw on some makeup, brush my teeth, figure out what I’m going to wear (sometimes resorting to going through yesterday’s laundry, convincing myself that it’s-not-THAT-dirty!). Nag my half-naked daughter to hurry up and get dressed. Comb her hair, trying not to yank too hard at what the Tangle Monster left during the night. Get my daughter to brush her teeth. Put our shoes and coats on, get my daughter’s lunch basket, my lunch bag, my work bag, my purse, inevitably forgetting SOMETHING, and get out the door.

All this, and it’s only 7:30 in the morning. I could go on, but you get the idea, and no, I’m not trying to sound like Erma Bombeck. In many ways, this is a typical day in the life of a working parent – overworked, underpaid, too much to do, too little time, blah blah blah.

But I’m not just your typical, garden-variety mom. I’m one of two moms in the family picture. And because of that, I deal with things that straight parents never have to deal with. In fact, I think I stress out about things that I bet straight parents never even give a passing thought about. Straight people, for example, don’t have to explain why their family is the way it is. Imagine if I had a dollar for each time a child asked me, “Why does she have TWO mommies – and NO daddy?” Seriously – I get asked this quite a lot, and I feel compelled to come up with an on-the-spot explanation for a situation that really shouldn’t need explaining.

To be honest, the example I just gave doesn’t really bother me so much. I get asked a lot of questions, especially from kids, and I don’t usually mind answering them. The things that take up major headspace involve what I don’t see – the quiet, implicit, subtle attitudes that may never rise to the surface in an obvious way. People might act friendly on the outside, but hold horribly negative attitudes about LGBTQ people on the inside, and I may never know it – unless they inadvertently leave little clues for me to find. Like the unanswered invitation to a play date at our house: Maybe they didn’t get the e-mail message, or they were too busy to respond. Or . . . maybe they don’t want their daughter to come to our house, because they think we might be a bad influence. Or, watching my daughter playing by herself on the monkey bars, I wonder, Is she playing by herself because she’s determined to master those bars? Or is it because the other kids don’t want to play with the girl with two mommies?

The fact that these situations could be read in more than one way points to the reality of microaggressions in the lives of marginalized people. Derald Wing Sue, author of Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation, defines the phenomenon as “the brief and everyday slights, insults, indignities, and denigrating messages” that members of marginalized groups receive from people who are usually well-intentioned – and who are typically unaware of the underlying messages that they’re communicating. Microaggressions happen when people’s unconscious biases leak out in unintended ways – sometimes through what they say or do, and sometimes through what they don’t say, or don’t do. What makes the experience of microaggressions more stressful than obvious forms of discrimination is the inherent self-doubt it creates – especially because, on the surface, they seem so innocent and harmless. Is this person being homophobic? Or am I reading into it too much, or being too sensitive?  As several research studies have already indicated, that ongoing battle of self-doubt that microaggressions trigger is quite stressful, impacting both our physical and our mental health in a negative way.

Microaggressions show up periodically (I think) in all the various corners of my life. My radar is on the highest alert, however, in the school and parenting arena – with good reason, when you consider the research. A 2001 study, for example, found that one-third of students with gay or lesbian parents had been teased or bullied because of their parents’ sexuality – and that teacher intervention in these situations was either nonexistent or completely ineffective. A group of studies from the late 1990s and early 2000s indicate that teachers and student-teachers commonly held negative attitudes towards lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. (Transgender parents haven’t even made it onto the research radar screen in a significant way, although as an aside, Jennifer Finney Boylan’s book Stuck in the Middle With You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders is an excellent read.) And a recent study published in School Psychology Quarterly showed that, even when teachers or student-teachers had positive or neutral explicit attitudes towards lesbian and gay parents, their implicit attitudes (the precursor to microaggressions) towards same-sex couples – with or without children – tended to be negative. They say they’re okay with lesbian and gay parents, but their subtle actions might reveal otherwise – maybe, depending on how you read the situation. A scary reality, if you think about it, considering how much a child’s success in school hinges on the quality of the teacher-parent relationship.

I worry that my daughter will get bullied or teased – and that her teachers might not have her back. I worry that some kids might not want to be friends with her. I worry about building relationships with other parents, and wonder what they really think about us. I wonder if my daughter’s teachers are nice to us because they like us, or just because they have to be. And then I worry that I just worry too damn much.

All in a typical day of this working parent.


Filed under children, covert homophobia, homophobia, LGBT families, mental health, psychological research, stereotypes

A house divided

OK, I know I’ve already devoted precious blog space to deconstructing the “normalcy” of NBC’s television show “The New Normal,” which features a gay male couple. But here it is, registering on the radar screen once again. A few weeks ago, the January 8 episode of “The New Normal” contained a scene that was highly offensive to intersex people. The beginning of the scene features Gary, the director of the surrogacy agency that’s helping Bryan and David (the gay couple) have their child. Gary, depressed and despondent, is lamenting the fact that he’s single and that he keeps ending up with “losers” every time he goes on a date. Cut to a scene at a restaurant, where Gary is on a first date with a man who says, “And then, at age 6, I learned that I’m intersex.” Insinuating, of course, that Intersex = LOSER. (You can watch that scene here, at about 5:35 minutes.)

If that line was meant as a joke, the intersex community certainly didn’t laugh. A couple of days after the episode aired, Organisation Intersex International (OII) put out a call on their Facebook page encouraging people to report this episode to GLAAD as an act of defamation. “With intersex babies being subjected to nonconsensual infant surgeries proven to be harmful every day b/c of prejudice against those that do not conform to sex and gender norms,” their site read, “the last thing intersex people & their families need are jokes portraying them as inferior to others.”  Especially on a show that’s intended to show how “normal” gay people are.

Of course, pitting one oppressed group against another isn’t anything new. The LGBTQ community itself has seen its own share of infighting. (Should we include the “B”? Or the “T”? Oh wow, now we have to add this “I” thing?) But lots of other us-vs.-them dynamics have cropped up as well. A week after the episode aired, Nico Lang wrote a piece for the Huffington Post charging “The New Normal” with racism – or “gaycism,” a term coined by a GQ writer describing the trend of gay TV writers/producers of finding creative ways of embedding racist stereotypes in their programs. “Hipster racism,” they call it – using blatantly racist comments in a satirical way in order to sound edgy and, well, not-racist. Ellen Barkin’s character, for example, makes all sorts of overtly racist comments – and the other characters respond by rolling their eyes and ignoring her, because her comments are so ridiculous, and because we’re so 2013, so beyond petty forms of racism.

Except we’re not. In fact, this form of racism can be even more covert, insidious, and dangerous than anything the Westboro Baptist Church says. People can read Stuff White People Like and think they’re making fun of White people (oh, we who shop at Whole Foods, listen to NPR and TED talks, and take a year off in order to find ourselves), showing just how post-racist they are. But they don’t see that they’re potentially offending people of color, suggesting that they aren’t interested in eating healthy or pursuing intellectual interests, and failing to recognize that class-privileged activities like taking a year off (and shopping at Whole Foods, for that matter) might be highly desired but financially inaccessible. To use the words of Nico Lang in his piece, it’s “using mock racism to disguise plain ol’ racism.”

I see two problems (at least) with these forms of marginalization. One is that the use of “hipster racism” (or any form of racism, really) seems to lower the threshold for other offensive behaviors. To me, the intersex comment on “The New Normal” was so obviously out of line – but to a regular viewer who’s accustomed to the edgy and satirical [racist] humor on the show, the intersex thing could easily fly under the radar and be seen as funny. What’s more, not only does one form of oppression open the door for other forms, they can then start to feed off of one another and contribute to an overall belief system – an “intolerant schema,” as psychologist Allison Aosved and her colleagues refer to it.  If racism is fair game, according to the “intolerant schema” concept, then so is sexism, sexual prejudice, class prejudice, and religious intolerance. And intersex-phobia, if the January 8 “New Normal” episode is any indication.

Back in 1983, Audre Lorde had this to say in her famous essay, “There Is No Hierarchy of Oppression”:

Any attack against Black people is a lesbian and gay issue, because I and thousands of other Black women are part of the lesbian community. Any attack against lesbians and gays is a Black issue, because thousands of lesbians and gay men are Black. There is no hierarchy of oppression.

That brings me to my second concern, which is based on the simple truism uttered by Abraham Lincoln a century and a half ago: A house divided cannot stand. If one marginalized group is pitted against another, both will fall – and the dominant group will remain in power, untouched. The National Organization for Marriage, it was revealed last year, deliberately used this strategy in their campaign to block marriage equality efforts in Maine. Check out the statements below, which were taken word-for-word from NOM’s internal campaign strategy documents:

The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks—two key Democratic constituencies. Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage, develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots…

The Latino vote in America is a key swing vote, and will be so even more so in the future, both because of demographic growth and inherent uncertainty: Will the process of assimilation to the dominant Anglo culture lead Hispanics to abandon traditional family values? We must interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity – a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation.

A house divided. Divide and conquer.

How easy it might be to think, Well, “The New Normal” was making fun of intersex people, but at least they’re showing a gay couple. But the reality is this:

Every act of racism hurts the LGBTQ community.

Every act of sexism hurts the LGBTQ community.

Every act of elitism and class oppression, ageism, ableism (the list goes on) hurts the LGBTQ community.

And even one little joke about intersex people hurts the LGBTQ community – and all other oppressed groups, too. As Audre Lorde said in her same essay, “When they appear to destroy me, it will not be long before they appear to destroy you.”

May we remember these words, and hang together united.


Filed under covert homophobia, homophobia, human rights, intersectionality, intersex, overt homophobia, racism, same-sex marriage, sexism, stereotypes, Uncategorized

The grief that has no place

It was about 6:00 AM, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, when I heard the phone ring. My partner, Amy, answered the phone, and although I couldn’t hear the conversation, I knew this wasn’t an ordinary, lighthearted call. A few minutes later, Amy came into the bedroom, tears welling up in her eyes. “He’s gone,” she said, blinking the tears back. Her father, who had been ill for many years, had died that morning.

Grief is normal. It’s what we typically experience when a significant loss occurs in our lives. And grief has many faces – sometimes, for example, when someone has been suffering from a long-term illness, we may experience what’s called anticipatory grief. (Given the length of her father’s illness, I think Amy and her family have been experiencing this for a while.) Sometimes we walk seamlessly through Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance); often, our grief snubs its nose at those stages and instead takes a more complicated trajectory. We might even experience what’s called shadow grief, which is a response caused by reminders – a smell, a sound, a memory – that trigger feelings related to a more distant loss. (I might have a little of that going on, given that my own father died 15 years ago.) And yet, even knowing all of this information about grief, my own emotional reactions have caught me off-guard – especially given the fact that I’ve never had much of a relationship with my partner’s family. Although I don’t intend for my blog to be my personal journal, I’m going to reveal some more personal feelings – because I sense that, for several reasons, the homophobia and heteronormativity of our culture might provide some context for them.

For one thing, people in the LGBTQ community often experience family discord and disownment (either active or passive disownment) due to homophobia – and my partner and I aren’t immune to this. My partner’s family lives in rural North Carolina. They are regular churchgoers. They practice “Southern hospitality” – if you drop in unexpectedly, you will undoubtedly leave well-fed. They are cordial, polite, sociable – all those qualities that good Southern girls (and boys) learn early in life. And, like good churchgoers, they believe that homosexuality is a sin. They are friendly to me, but they do not acknowledge my relationship with Amy. As an example, in the obituary, the names all of the surviving siblings, children, and grandchildren were included, along with their wives or husbands. Except for mine – including my name would have revealed too much, most likely. When I first learned that my name wasn’t included, I shook it off. “It doesn’t surprise me,” I said nonchalantly after reading it. “That’s the way it’s always been.”

My response might have sounded slick, but the nonchalance was a front – a cover-up for much more complicated feelings. The reality is that I felt hurt, sad, and angry. VERY angry. Then I felt guilty for feeling so angry, and shallow for grinding my axe and making this all about me. And making someone else’s death all about you is not appropriate.

But then, grief takes on many forms, some of which look really ugly and inappropriate. In fact, it’s common enough that there’s a word for it – grief that’s “inappropriate,” or isn’t publicly recognized, is called disenfranchised grief.  Losing a pet can involve disenfranchised grief (“Oh, come on! It’s just a cat!”) Ending an affair suddenly after it’s been discovered can cause disenfranchised grief – the parties involved in the affair probably aren’t going to receive much social support for their sorrow. And disenfranchised grief, sadly, is not unfamiliar to LGBTQ people – the loss of a same-sex partner may not be treated the same way as the death of an opposite-sex spouse (as an example, the first segment of the 2000 HBO film If These Walls Could Talk 2 is one of the most gut-wrenching cinematic portrayals of disenfranchised grief I’ve ever seen). The more culturally inappropriate the grief (or the source of the grief) is, the more likely the grief process will be disenfranchised.

Disenfranchised grief probably explains a fraction of the messy feelings both of us have been experiencing. I’m not a blood relative, and I’m not accepted as a family member through marriage, so my grief process is disenfranchised, in the sense that my feelings exist in isolation, on the edges of the normative grief rituals (such as funerals, viewings, and memorial services). But Amy’s grief process is likely even more disenfranchised. Attending her father’s funeral meant missing a once-a-year visit from my mother – who is unconditionally accepting of our relationship. I imagine that, while Amy feels incredibly sad about her father’s death, those feelings are complicated by that dilemma in allegiances. Eva Reimers of Linkoping University (Sweden) addresses this issue in her 2011 article, “Primary mourners and next-of-kin – How grief practices reiterate and subvert heterosexual norms,” noting that, for many LGBTQ people, non-biological ties can be much stronger than the relationships we have with our families of origin – and those non-biological “chosen families” don’t fit very neatly into our death rituals and grief paradigms.

And yet, I think disenfranchised grief only offers a partial explanation for all these complex feelings. When I’m truly honest with myself about what my own feelings involve, I see that I’m probably not just grieving the actual loss of her father. Instead, I’m grieving a much deeper sense of loss – mostly involving the fantasies of what could have been. In his article, “Gay men: Grieving the losses of homophobia,” John Hart addresses the fact that the long-term effects of homophobia, for many of us, cause significant losses – and in our culture, there’s not a lot of open space in which to experience and grieve those losses. The losses due to homophobia are extensive – a list compiled by Warren Blumenfeld and published in his classic book Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price has been cited hundreds of times and used by numerous anti-homophobia educators. But sadly, many of us probably haven’t had the space to grieve these losses, even though we’re well aware of the toll homophobia has taken on individuals, families, and on the LGBTQ community.

Amy left on November 20 to go to her father’s funeral – ironically, the same day as the Transgender Day of Remembrance, an observance that memorializes the victims of transphobic hate crimes. We have so few rituals in the LGBTQ community that gives us the space to mourn the losses of oppression, and the Day of Remembrance is one of them. And we need more of those kinds of rituals, for the only way out of grief is through the grief.


Filed under covert homophobia, hate crimes, homophobia, LGBT families, LGBTQ, overt homophobia, psychological research, relationships, same-sex marriage, transgender, transphobia