Friday, August 10, 2012

Dear Viral Homophobic Dad: If You Can't Say Something Nice, Don't Put It in a Letter!

"I'd rather have a dead son than a daffodil for a son."

So said Anna Marie Hoover (Judi Dench) to the first president of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Leonardo DiCaprio) in the best scene -- in pretty much the only good scene -- from last year's J. Edgar.

The moral of that particular onscreen exchange: Parents have been slamming their gay kids for decades now. When I was living in Buenos Aires, I dated several guys who refused to come out to their mothers and fathers for fear of how they'd react. One of them had already been punched in the face by a dad who merely suspected he might be gay. My ex punched his dad right back -- good for him! -- and his mom came thisclose to initiating divorce proceedings. How dare her husband hit her baby -- and accuse him of being that dreadful thing? There was no way my ex was going to come out after that!

The first guy I dated in Buenos Aires, unlike most of the others, had made the brave move of coming out to his parents shortly before I met him, and he ended up without a home -- and without parents -- for a brief period of time. I won't go into details regarding the things he had to do to survive while he was homeless (stuff you wouldn't wish on the worst problem child), but sometimes being ostracized by homophobic parents leads to much worse than hurt feelings.

Yes, this awful stuff has been going on pretty much forever, so it was kind of surprising a few days ago when I read about the letter a father had written to his gay son -- a letter in which he roundly castigated and disowned him -- that had gone viral after the son posted it on Reddit. Some people were acting like it was a new plot twist. For me, it was hardly a page turner. I'd heard it all before. Hadn't everyone? How could something so commonplace, so everyday, so routine, go viral?

I suppose it must have been an eye opener for those who perhaps had missed the ongoing debate over marriage rights in the U.S., people who had somehow overlooked the angry protesters shouting about how being gay is a sin punishable by an eternity in hell, people who had glossed over the recent hoopla concerning Chick-fil-A and its staunch support of anti-gay causes. Where had they been? Living in ignorant bliss under a rock?

This is the kind of crap that gay people have had to deal with since long before Oscar Wilde was in diapers, not only from their parents but from society as a whole. Part of me wants to find the guy (James, aka RegBarc) who posted the letter five years after his father wrote it and give him a big hug. Why? Because he's opened some eyes by spreading his father's hateful words, and because he probably could use the hug. Another part of me wants to ask him why now? Why at all?

A bigger part of me wants to direct my inquiries to his so-called dad. What was he thinking? How can you begin a letter to your son "James:" (James colon!), as if you were addressing a business associate, proceed to banish him from your life, and then dare to sign it "Dad"? What kind of a father does that? Does he actually deserve to call himself "Dad" at the end, after all has been said and done?

Most of all, I want to know why he wrote the letter at all. I know it was five years ago, but it's been at least a decade since people actually wrote letters. Was it because he was too much of a pussy to say this to his son's face? Was it because he knew that by putting his hateful message in writing, by giving it that extra personal touch and then giving it to his son to read over and over and over, it would make his words hurt even more (like a break-up email or that "Sorry, I can't. Don't hate me" Post-It that Berger left for Carrie on Sex and the City)? Was it the ultimate act of cruelty? Or did he figure that his son would one day overcome and post the missive on a social-media website, making him something of an anonymous viral star, for all the wrong reasons?

There's actually one thing I do love about the letter: the message that James posted in response to it. Every good drama queen knows that you always save the best for last, and James didn't disappoint. "F**k you, Dad." A perfect ending -- not a happy one, but a fitting one.

I impatiently await the day when others in James's position will all have the courage to say the same thing to those homophobic nuts who have the nerve to call themselves "Mom" and "Dad." F**k them, indeed.

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