At one point last week I was pretty sure that Chick-Fil-A had ruined my family.
When the anti-gay controversy about Chick-Fil-A broke out over the summer, it was a no-brainer for C.J.’s Dad and me to have a conversation with our sons about the company’s beliefs and decide as a family that we weren’t going to eat there anymore.
Most people assumed our anti-Chick-Fil-A stance was based on our love and support of my gay brother. It’s a correct assumption, but a limited one: My husband, my sons and I decided to boycott Chick-Fil-A in love and support of the entire LGBTQ community. And, more importantly, because in our house we believe that all people are created equal and deserve to be treated that way.
To us, there is no excuse for hate and discrimination, not even the go-to “the Bible told me so” explanation. Call us crazy.
We also wanted to use the situation to teach a life lesson: sometime you have to sacrifice in order to stand up for what you believe in. Chick-Fil-A has long been a favorite of C.J. and his brother. They would miss the food for sure.
Our kids agreed with our decision. Our 9-year-old son, CJ’s brother, actually wrote a letter to Chick-Fil-A President Dan Cathy. Even 5-year-old C.J., who is gender nonconforming, understands that the fast-food chain is mean to some people and that’s not okay.
My husband and I made it quite clear to those close to us—especially those people who, on occasion, feed our kids when we are not around—that we would not be eating at Chick-Fil-A.
That was our decision, though—if someone we knew didn’t make the same decision, we were disappointed but we didn’t un-friend them. We just asked them to get their fill of those homophobic nuggets, sandwiches and waffle fries when we weren’t around. Sometimes you have to agree to disagree.
We’ve learned that sometimes that’s easier said than done.
Last week, a member of our family had a few moments alone with our oldest son and engaged C.J.’s brother in a conversation about Chick-Fil-A. That lead to this family member explaining the biblical definition of marriage and what the Bible says about homosexuality to our 9-year-old.
We. Were. Pissed.
We felt like we had been purposefully betrayed and deceived, like our son had been part of talk that was inappropriate because of our beliefs, his age, the topic and the family member’s knowledge that we are LGBTQ allies through and through. And that’s not even taking into account that our son’s beloved uncle is gay and his brother has a very high likelihood of being gay or transgender.
Once we took a few days and few steps back, we realized that we assume that people in our family’s lives will behave as we expected them to.
“The easiest way to get your expectations unmet is to fail to communicate those expectations to the person who is supposed to meet them,” someone said to me recently. We had never clearly communicated how we expected the adults in our lives to conduct themselves around our children when it came to matters of religion and being LGBTQ.
So we sat down with this family member and, for the first time, said out loud what we expect of them and others. Initially, it felt weird to do it. But afterward, it felt weird that we hadn’t done it earlier.
We had never said out-loud to the people in our lives:
1. Please do not talk about religion to our children. We believe that God is more about love, kindness and inclusiveness than he is about fear, hate and shame. We believe that He created each person perfectly and without flaw and that, more than anything, he wants each person to be treated that way. And, if judgment is necessary for entrance into Heaven that it is God’s to give, not ours.
Whether you agree with our religious views or not, let’s all play it safe and refrain from engaging children in conversations meant to sway them. If you feel like it’s your calling to spread the word of your God or your religion, please don’t spread it onto our children.
2. If you have something unkind (at best) or hateful (at worst) to say about the LGBTQ community we have to insist that you do not say it around us or our children. We’ve ended friendships for less and do realize that sometimes family ties are a little trickier to deal with.
All that being said, anyone—family or not—who teaches our children that their uncle and other LGBTQ people aren’t equal, are sinful, and should be excluded from things like civil rights will be eliminated from our lives.
3. When our family is around, please conduct yourself as if a member of the LGBTQ community is in your presence. Because our child is gender nonconforming and has been for more than half of his life, statistically speaking he has about a 75% chance of being a member of the LGBTQ community.
4. Bullies aren’t just at school; all too often they are in the home. Because of his gender nonconformity, our child has a much higher likelihood of attempting suicide, experiencing major depression, abusing substances, developing addiction and practicing unsafe sex and behaviors. We can lower the likelihood of all of those things being in his life if we protect him from bullies.
Our home and family has to be a safe, loving and accepting place for him. Always. If you can’t help create that kind of environment then you are probably helping to destroy it —which means you shouldn’t be a part of it at all.
Thankfully, our family member listened to our expectations and agreed to meet them in the future. We agreed to forgive and try to move forward. We also agreed that Chick-Fil-A wasn’t what almost ruined our family–that family member’s actions and our failure to communicate our expectations did.
Would you allow someone with different religious beliefs to talk to your children about religion without you around?