When I was growing up, “That’s so gay!” was a definite insult. People called each other “faggots” regularly, casually. Get out in foursquare, complain about how “gay” that was. Someone cut in front of you in the lunch line, cry, “What’s the deal, fag?”

I remember asking my dad what that word meant.

My mostly conservative father, in his supreme tenderness explained that that word was a word that Robinsons do not say. He said it was an unkind way of characterizing someone who is different. Because that word wasn’t on the list of four-letter “no no’s” many of my peers said it often from a young age. I did not say it because my father taught me so. That word was unkind. For the record, my father also got mad at me once when I offhandedly called someone on TV “White Trash.” And I didn’t even know there was an N-word until High School, because derogatory words just weren’t part of the Robinson vocabulary. Some will call this being sheltered—sure. Maybe. But more so, for me, I think this was my family drawing their line in the sand and only tolerating kindness.

It wasn’t until my freshmen year of high school that I realized the way people said “That’s so gay,” was unkind too. I was in the parking lot of Chipotle on a lunch break. Some careless teenagers complained that something was gay, something inanimate and without sexual preference. My friend Hannah leapt to this charge, a Social Justice warrior the likes of which I’d never seen. Never mind that these boys were upperclassmen, never mind that she was not formally invited into their conversation. She snapped right in and said, “Is that gay? Is what you’re referring to as bad actually doing something ‘gay?’ Choose your words more carefully next time.”

I’ve thought about that a lot over the years. It is one of my favorite things that Hannah ever did. I learned something that day.

I belong to a religion that has drawn its line in the sand about Gay Marriage. It’s been easy for some to agree with, and I’m glad for them, but it’s been hard for me. I’ve been a supreme Middleman for a long time on this issue, (or, as I prefer, Middlewoman) and I’ve been able to see both sides so clearly. Being able to see both sides can feel ironically very muddy. I’ve cried a lot about the inability to reconcile the church that I believe in with the politics that seem logical (and kinder) to me. It’s been soul-wrenching, but sometimes I think that’s ok for thoughtful individuals to feel a little torn.

But today on Facebook, I realized something lovely: I’ve been an efficient pruner of hatred. The last political season helped me to “hide” the people filled with vitriol, the people who USE ALL CAPS and can’t agree to love each other when we disagree. As such, today I haven’t seen any of the words that would be banned in the Robinson household, and I haven’t seen the “IN YOUR FACE” attitude that also offends me because it means that some hurt at the result of your victory. I’ve seen polite and appropriate celebrations, and a few thoughtful expressions of dispute. I realize I have a lot of different friends. A lot of different friends that I really, really love. A lot of friends that, when put in the same room, might totally disagree with each other but would be able to discuss issues like gay marriage calmly, intelligently, and lovingly. When I think about it that way, I don’t feel like a lonely middlewoman in the middle of a tug-of-war, I feel like I am in a room full of kindhearted, intelligent people that just want the best for mankind, and I finally feel… not alone.
I know that the unkind words are out there from both sides of the spectrum. I still know that there’s Christians hating on gays, and gays hating on Christians, and lots of people still hating on lots of other people. I know that the wounds of divisiveness will need time to heal and that people from both sides should probably say sorry (but not sorry for disagreeing, not sorry for having different opinions, but sorry for expressing those opinions in a derogatory or unkind way).
But today I celebrate that the “F-word” my father taught me was unkind is becoming less commonplace. And today I celebrate that America slowly but surely is making strides that #lovewins. It is the sincerest desire of my heart that not just #romanticlovewins but love between brothers, love between sisters and #LoveBetweenEvenThoseWhoDoNotAlwaysAgreeWins today too.

  1. Jun 26, 2015

    Very well written. Thanks for sharing. I feel very similar to you. The thing that has turned me off of this topic hasn't been whether one side is right or wrong, it's been the vitriol that has existed on both sides for the other and the lack of tolerance for beliefs other than one's own. It's ok to disagree. Disagreement is a good thing. But we all should be respectful and kind to each other and treat each other decently like we'd expect to be treated. That's the kind of love that I hope eventually wins out. Thanks again.