Friday, May 28, 2010

A Letter to My Local Homophobe

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I work in a relatively conservative county and leading up to the last election, pretty much the only "Yes on Proposition 8" (the ban on gay marriage) signs and stickers I saw were when I was in that county.  Most of them are gone, but there is one house I pass by when I take a walk on a break at work that has a sticker on one of their cars.  It breaks my heart every time because I think about our family and all the other families that don't have the same full legal standing as heterosexual families that live, work and play right next them.

Before Simon, it was mostly a political issue for me.  On principal I wanted me and all other queer people to have the the same rights and privileges as straight people.  However, when Simon was born, and especially when he got sick,  policies designed to prevent same sex families from having legal protections took on a whole new meaning for me.

I realized that in another state, as his non-biological mother, I could very easily have been denied leave from my job to be with him while he was critically ill in the hospital.  In another state, I wouldn't be allowed to adopt him. I could have been denied access to visit him in the hospital by hospital staff.  When Laura was forced to quit her job to take care of him, they could both have been without health insurance because they wouldn't be legally linked to me.  I realized, on a really visceral level, just how cruel and destructive these types of policies are and what they're really about.

I'm not hung up on the issue of marriage versus domestic partnership versus civil union.  What I am stuck on is this category of policy, that says same sex couples are inferior and do not deserve the same recognition under the eyes of the law.  I could totally survive if gay marriage doesn't pass in California. It feels like a luxury.  We are very, very lucky to live in a state that offers quite a few legal benefits to same sex couples.  But the Prop 8 campaign reinforced for me how many people really do harbor animosity towards families like mine and that they're trying (somewhat successfully) to shape policies that hurt us.

So, I walk past this house 3-4 times a week, and every time I see that sticker it hurts.  I can tell they have children by the toys in the yard and their huge passenger van. I can tell that they're Christian by their Catholic radio sticker.  And I can tell that they have some feelings about queer people.  So I did the best think I could think of.  I wrote them a letter introducing myself and left it in their mailbox.

Here it is:


You don’t know me but I walk past your house 3-4 days a week on my break from work. Every time, I'm struck by your Yes on Prop 8 sticker. I'm guessing this may not be your intention, but every time I see your sticker, it feels like someone is standing in my face, yelling "I hate you and I hate your family”. I wanted to let you know what kind of an impact it has.

I thought the most constructive thing to do would be to take this opportunity to introduce myself. I'm guessing (maybe incorrectly) that you don't know any Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender (LGBT) people and in particular LGBT parents. I have found that actually meeting or knowing about a real live person who is happy, healthy and well adjusted AND gay can sometimes change things for people who seem to feel the way your family does about people like me.
I can tell from your house that you have children. I am also a parent and the issue of Proposition 8 has taken on a whole new meaning for me since having my son, Simon.

I have known I was a lesbian since I was 17. When I came out to my family, they were distressed because they were very concerned for my safety. They knew that people who have been taught to be homophobic do and say terrible things to people like me. However, my entire family including my parents and grandparents, were also very clear that they loved me unconditionally and would support me in leading the happiest, healthiest, most fulfilling life I could live, even if I were gay. That meant more to me than probably anything in my life.

I met my wife, Laura, over 8 years ago through a mutual friend. We were good friends for some time before we fell in love. A year and a half later, when Laura asked me to marry her on the Ponte Neuf bridge in Paris with an antique diamond ring, I gleefully said yes. Our family and friends were thrilled and we had a large, beautiful wedding in Tilden Park, at the Brazil Building with over 120 family and friends.

Laura has known her whole life that she wanted to be a parent. I was a little more reserved about the idea, but after overcoming my fears that I would not be the kind of present, attentive parent I wanted to be, we moved forward with our process. A year and a half after we were married, Laura gave birth to our son, Simon.

Simon became gravely ill with a serious heart condition when he was almost four months old. He was in the ICU at Children’s Hospital Oakland for four months and nearly died numerous times. One of the things that sustained us as parents through that time was love. Love for each other, love for Simon and the love that so many other people showed us. Our doctors and nurses, friends of friends and relatives of friends prayed for us, sent us emails, gave us hugs, brought Simon toys and supported us as a family.

We were later shocked to learn that many of the people who were so kind to us in the hospital were evangelical Christians. They were able to treat us with kindness, love and compassion AND be Christian. They supported us as a family even though they may have had issues with us being gay, because they knew it was the truly good and kind thing to do. They did what Jesus would have done.
Which brings me to Proposition 8.

The only thing Proposition 8 and policies like it does is hurt families. It doesn't do anything to strengthen your family or those of any other straight people. It just hurts families like mine, especially families with children.

My being gay and being in a happy, healthy relationship doesn’t actually hurt other people. It won’t make your kids gay and it won’t make my kid gay. Anyone who has spent any amount of quality time with gay people knows this. Prop 8 isn’t going to make it any less likely that someone is gay or that gay people will create families together. Instead, it just makes us sad and feel scared that some day someone may hurt us or our families. And it makes the people that love us feel the same way. Fear and hurt are the opposite things that I would I hope loving Christian people like the ones that you seem to be, to bring to the world.

I am lucky enough to live in a state that has some policies that help me provide for and protect my family. I am the sole breadwinner right now because Simon is too medically fragile to be in day care so Laura stays home with him. In other states with policies that seek to deny LGBT people the basic privileges straight people have, I might have been denied the right to visit my own son in the hospital while he appeared to be dying or he might be denied health insurance through me. That is simply cruel.

Denying Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people the same privileges heterosexual people have doesn't actually help anyone. It just creates a culture in which people are fired, injured, killed and isolated for being gay. I know the goal of these types of policies is to somehow strengthen society but what they really do is divide us and hurt us. All of us. It hurts my parents when someone treats me badly for being gay and it will hurt my son when someone is cruel to his parents for being who they were born to be. It hurts me and I venture to say that in some ways, it also hurts you.

In the spirit of love, I want to reach out and invite you to learn about my family. We have a blog that we started at that tells our story about living as a family with a critically ill child. You will probably laugh, you will probably cry and you may find that you come to see us as three of God's perfect creatures.

Jaime Jenett

 I haven't heard from them and probably won't, but I sure feel better.

NOTE: We did get a response (although not from this particular family)

Written by:


Jen said...

I am honored to know you Jaime. Even more proud to have you in my family. Thanks for touching my heart and making me cry first thing in the morning sister.
Love you.

4rest4trees said...

Beautifully written. I love that you did that, and were so gentle and non-confrontational in your letter. It's a strong argument to make, that Christians are supposed to be open and accepting and loving to all. There is a terrible disconnect between what is preached and what is lived. For some. Hopefully, not for most.

A soul who comes into this world to endure a childhood illness may be playing a selfless role. Helping you and your partner express limitless love and compassion, maybe. The sort of love and compassion that is not always shown to you and your partner. You are fortunate for that child, as well as for each other.

Sol said...

Wow. Beautiful and heartfelt letter. It moved me to tears

I'd really like to believe that you're not wasting your time trying to reason with these people or appeal to their human decency.

Mom said...

This is such a beautiful letter,and also painful to read!

My parents raised me with the understanding that you love who you love and that love is what creates families. I have very strong opinions about prop 8 and the treatment of gay families (and individuals) in this country.

I know about the issues, I sometimes talk about it, I sometimes raise questions. But I do not advocate enough for something I feel is so incredibly wrong, and potentially dangerous to children's development. I do realize that after reading your letter.

I was wondering whether I can share your letter through Loki's blog? I am pretty sure we have readers who do not support equal rights, and I would love for them to read this. It is so much more powerful than me sharing my opinions. Of course I fully understand if that does not feel appropriate to you!

On another note, we started blendarized foods inspired by your testimony! Thank you!


Holyoke Home said...

Mazel Tov. Congratulations for creating such a beautiful tribute to your beautiful family.

Thank you so much for sharing this!


sage said...

gorgeous. what a lucky family you have and what a generous invitation to think a little differently. thanks for sharing.

L Cisneros said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Ahh, this made me cry. Good for you.

JC in MN

Mondays with Mac said...

So heartfelt! Good for you!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for participating in Blogging for LGBT Families Day! Wonderful story and amazing letter.

Jeri said...

Dear Sweet Jaime,
I just read your post, and the response, and I had actually read the guest blog you had written on Glennon's blog. I've been trying to find it and re-read it. I'll keep looking. I watched cutie-pie Simon sing "Bringing Home a Baby Bumble Bee" on YouTube. I'm in love with your family.
Thanks for reading my post, and for your loving response.
I want to use the right words, and need some time. I'll respond here, and also on your blog. It may take a while, as my life spins out of control sometimes.
Just wanted you to know I saw, and you made me think. Thanks.