People change – that’s a fact of life.
My coming-out story is like many other LGBTQ individuals. My loved ones said horrible, hurtful things when I made the tough and personal decision to come out. I think about these experiences as I reflect on the recent decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court, including their most recent ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. It’s easy to believe that things are changing for the worse. Without action, we could be headed back to a time with fewer rights and opportunities. However, as I think back on a conversation I had with my dad, I am reminded that oftentimes change can be good.
This past Father’s Day, I sent my dad coffee from the trans-owned coffee shop I frequent. I got a text message from my dad thanking me for the coffee and asking me to call him because, in his words, “I’m not sure I understand the labels, and I need some clarification.” I called him later that night. He was confused with the company’s name ‘Queer Wave Coffee,’ because when he was growing up, ‘queer’ was used as a derogatory word. I explained how the term “queer” is now used as an inclusive term. He seemed satisfied with this explanation and then launched into a story that surprised me.
He told me he was struggling with his relationships with his church. He found he was connecting more with the members closer to my age than those closer to his age, most of whom he had grown up with or known for many years. He explained that the members closer to his age were closed-minded and refused to consider other opinions. In comparison, the younger members were open to listening to other opinions and discussing why they believed what they did. He saw that they weren’t afraid of change.
He also mentioned how he had been invited to join a group of friends from a different church to protest at Planned Parenthood while carrying their legal firearms. He was fearful these friends would claim he was not a “true Christian” because he refused the invitation. He questioned whether the protesters ever took the time to learn why the individuals sought support from Planned Parenthood because he wondered could the protesters even relate to the individuals walking into Planned Parenthood?
My dad then explained his frustration with this group of protesters because he feared he would be associated with the group. When people drove by these protesters, they saw white-older-aged men protesting because of their “Christian duty.” Because my dad is also a white, older-aged Christian man, his fears of being stereotyped in the group seemed valid to me. He feels his obligation as a person with privilege is to stand up to these individuals who attempt to scare people by waving signs while carrying weapons under the guise of Christianity.
Without my prompting, he said he knows the price for standing up against this perceived injustice could mean his relationships with these people, his relationship with the church, his relationship with the town, and the loss of customers who frequent his business. He ended by saying that he was ready to pay that price with a resolve in his voice I had never heard before.
My mouth was agape. Here was my father, who twelve years earlier, in his words, “reacted horribly” when I came out now questioning how the men he grew up with could be so unwavering in baseless opinions and grappling with what to do with his privilege. It should be noted that this conversation was one of many since my coming out, including countless apologies.
Yes, change seems like it is going in the wrong direction, but it is seemingly small, but very important, conversations that you have with your family members, friends, and loved ones that can put us back on track for good change. As election season looms near, I encourage those who are able, and especially those with privilege, to have these sometimes difficult conversations. It can make a huge difference.
With a perspective,
NCLR Summer 2022 Law Clerk