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Last week I invited readers to be me for a day, addressing their personal feelings about homophobia and vying to win this wackjob blanket with sleeves in the process.
For those of you who are too lazy to click backwards, or too partied out from celebrating (or passive-aggressively not celebrating) the Super Bowl, here’s that question again, in its original form:
|Dear Miss Information,
My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost two years. We get along great, but his first language is German and he’s not big on emotional chats, so our communication is sometimes less-than-stellar. He knew that before him, I dated a woman for two-and-a-half-years. But when I took him dancing at a gay club, he was super-uncomfortable. After some prying, he admitted that he thinks being gay is wrong. I was shocked. How could I date someone so ignorant? What would my queer friends think?
I thought about breaking up with him, but I love him. He doesn’t think this is something he should worry about, much less try to work through. He isn’t hateful, he just doesn’t know many gay people. He’s perfectly nice to my lesbian friends. The language barrier makes talking about emotionally charged stuff difficult. I think about having kids with him, but I’d die if we had a gay son who had to deal with a homophobic father. I’m twenty-five and he’s twenty-two, so it’s not like either of us has totally figured out our belief systems. I just can’t decide if his current views are a dealbreaker. I still want to be involved in gay culture, and wish I had a partner who was cool with that. Is it okay to keep dating him, and just let all this slide? — Hoping It Will Go Away
Our winner is Nicholas T., who blended idealism (“be the change”) with realism (“Maybe you should learn German”), and did it all without immature name-calling or a single lederhosen pun.
Dear Hoping It Will Go Away,
You can’t just hope it will go away. You have two options: Change him, or leave him. You need to stop rationalizing and be the change. Can you love someone who would’ve judged you as "wrong," if he met you in the middle of your two-and-a-half-year lesbian relationship?
Yes, trying to change a partner is a bad way to approach a relationship: "He’s a fixer-upper; I just need to convert him from Mormonism and then . . ." But it’s not too much to ask that a partner grow as a person. You’re on the right track in getting your beau comfortable in the presence of queer friends, but you only mentioned lesbians. Introduce him to your male, gay friends and see if he’ll warm up to them before spilling the (fabulous) beans. You need to work on your communication with him now, because you’ll need open discussions and sharing in a long-term relationship. Also, maybe you should learn German.
If he doesn’t budge, you must leave him as a matter of political justice. Is it that heavy? Yep: You know homophobia cannot be fought except at the interpersonal level, with some kind of consciousness-raising. We (the pro-rainbow types) need someone to reach out to this guy, and by unhappy accident you are our best candidate for the job. It might break your heart, but his attitude breaks the hearts of millions. (And oppresses them — even if he isn’t an American citizen, the attitude behind the law is the root of our problem.) You’ve got to be able to look into the eyes of your queer crew, and look in the mirror every morning. If nothing else wins him over, maybe breaking up with him will make him reevaluate his intolerance, and effect change — but expect long odds and beware of inauthentic conversions.
Congratulations, Nicholas. Enjoy your Snuggie, and let us cuddle fetishists know if there’s enough room under there for two to get rowdy.
Second place is Nicholas R., who recommends an old-fashioned game of cross-cultural charades and an “if you can’t learn it, Google it” approach.
Dear Hoping It Will Go Away,
I’m sorry you had to hear that from someone you love. As a gay man, I feel the sting of what your boyfriend said, like a slap across my face. And your lingering disbelief and concern sound ulcer-inducing. This negative take on sexuality is the unfortunate result of some people’s upbringings and personal experiences.
That said, your boyfriend doesn’t sound like a hopeless case. You don’t have control over what’s already happened to him (wait, let me guess: conservative, hetero-sexist religious brainwashing?). But after two years together you’ve got a good deal of control over what’s happening to him now. Keep the lesbian friends around and introduce him to other sexual-minority folks. Take him to gay and sex-positive movies, and don’t shrug it off when someone makes a gay joke or drops anti-gay rhetoric around the two of you — take a stand. Seeing other people who are proud and respectful of themselves and others will make it a lot easier for him to follow suit.
If the language barrier prohibits you guys from connecting — but you think this guy is for keeps — you’ve got to work on that. Converse next to a computer, where you can use the web to translate. Write down important points you want to make. Draw pictures, play charades, whatever. Just get the channels of communication open, and keep them that way. You can’t help him with his views on "right" and "wrong" until you know their source, and you both feel comfortable enough to examine it.
Yes, it will require work to get him up to speed. And yes, you might feel like a jerk for trying to "change" him. But you can’t continue dating him without making him understand that you’re not doing anything wrong by loving someone of the same sex, that your gay/lesbian/bisexual friends aren’t doing anything wrong and that he isn’t doing anything wrong by being with you. Anything less is not fair to you, harmful to him and pretty damn cruel to any gay children you could have in the future.
Nice going, Nicholas R. A Nerve Premium subscription is on its way to your inbox. Remember: Free nudie pictures are God’s way of saying (s)he loves us.
Lest you think I have an overwhelming bias for the name Nicholas, coming in third is Christine, a travel babe/blogger who takes the phantom kids out of the equation and calls our asker out on her Johann-come-lately approach to cracking the Rosetta Stone.
Dear Hoping It Will Go Away,
It seems like your boyfriend simply hasn’t had much experience with the gay community, so your first task is to determine the seriousness of his prejudice. This means preparing yourself for a possibly deal-breaking conversation. Perhaps once he understands how important it is to you that he’s okay with the gay, he’ll snap out of any closed-minded ideas that were passed down from his family. But he might just be a homophobe, in which case you’ve got a hard decision to make: Dump him and stand by your gays, or keep him and do a lot of social juggling.
Regarding your ages, my first instinct would be to tell you to stop worrying about the whole kids thing. Actually, it’s my second instinct as well. But I’m going to set aside the age issue to address the language barrier. As someone who has lived overseas for several years and has had a sink-or-swim history with languages, I’m strongly recommending that one or the other of you become fluent in the other’s language, very quickly. What have you two been doing all this time? I suspect that without the language barrier, this issue would’ve come up a long time ago. And if you’re really serious about things like kids and the future, then you’ve got to do what is necessary so that you can openly communicate now — and for the next fifty years. That, above all else, is what holds relationships together.
Readers, what do you think of the winning answers? Do you think they nailed it or flubbed it all to hell? Think your advice is better? Leave a comment in the Feedback section — German or non-German — and get the discussion going.
©2009 Erin Bradley and Nerve.com