Sunday, November 20, 2011

Making Aunt Betty feel awkward

Sometimes, it’s the simplest ideas that are the best. GLAAD (the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) is promoting a simple campaign for the US’ Thanksgiving holiday this Thursday, one I think could be adopted anywhere.

“I'm Letting Aunt Betty Feel Awkward This Thanksgiving” is designed to encourage GLBT people who feel safe to do so to talk about their lives openly at the Thanksgiving family meal:
“We've all had those Thanksgiving dinners where Aunt Betty decides this is the perfect time to discuss a year's worth of ailments and medical treatments. Well, you know what? If she can talk about her polyp, you can talk about your partner.

“The fact is, while you're scarfing down mashed potatoes and staying silent while everyone else at the table is freely speaking their minds, you're missing a golden opportunity to make real, honest progress by talking about your life, and the things you care about. It's okay if Aunt Betty feels a little awkward at first, it's important for her to know that someone she loves cares deeply about LGBT equality. And the more we all talk about what's important to us, the less awkward those conversations will become.”
The point of all this is that familiarity breeds support: Poll after poll after poll has shown that those who actually know GLBT people, especially people they like, love or merely respect, the far more likely they are to support GLBT equality or—equally important—oppose those who would deny us our equality under the law.

In fact, GLAAD itself did a study of people who said their opinions on GLBT issues had become more favorable. Of those who had become more supportive of GLBT equality, 80 percent said that personally knowing a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person was a primary reason for their shift in attitude.

Polls have also demonstrated that younger people have far less difficulty accepting GLBT people and supporting GLBT equality than do older people. If people in our own families don’t know the realities of our lives, how can we expect strangers to view us as anything other than cartoons or caricatures?

Thanksgiving in the US is the perfect opportunity for GLBT American’s to bring their extended families into their lives. Christmas is another such opportunity, and it’s one I hope my fellow GLBT antipodeans will take advantage of. We, too, have unfinished work.

Having said all that, to me this isn’t really about a political agenda at all. Instead, it’s about ending the silence, opening up families to their full potential. Not every GLBT person will feel safe to be open in their own families. But as those who do feel safe embrace themselves and their families openly, the day in which all GLBT can be open will arrive more quickly.

That would be something to be very thankful for, indeed.

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