It’s been nearly three years since I deleted my favorite aunt on Facebook. The unfriending happened on Saturday, June 27, 2015, the day after the defining gay Roe v. Wade-caliber moment, the one in which the U.S. Supreme Court declared all state bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.
That’s when Aunt Juliet decided to crash our celebration and denounce us on Facebook by reposting a sermon on the sinfulness of homosexuality.
Since then, I’ve heard from her three times. I ignored the first two messages, but I opted to make the third time the charm when the latest one arrived in my Facebook inbox on May 5.
Happy birthday Jeremy!!
I sent her a “Thank you” response on my actual birthday two days later, adding her name and one exclamation point, which I intended as signs that I was open to more than perfunctory birthday greetings two days early.
If she took my bait and started an actual dialogue with me, I would tell her like it was–and is. With Donald Trump threatening the LGBTQ gains of recent years and all but endorsing straight white male supremacy, my aunt, an unapologetic fan of the President, needs to know why homophobia is even more dangerous now than it was in 2015.
We would finally, as they say, clear the air, and remove the stench of homophobia she sprayed into it nearly three years ago.
Actually, my mother’s younger sister first stunk up the air between us on Valentine’s Day 2004. We were at my brother’s wedding, and it was the first time she’d seen me in person since I came out a little more than 12 years earlier.
I had just introduced her to my then-boyfriend, and in a one-on-one moment, she told me how sad she was that I would never have a spouse (i.e., a wife) and kids, all the things heterosexuality would have supposedly granted me that her multiply divorced self was living without.
Then she pulled out an old clunker that most out gay men have heard at some point, usually from a relative who doesn’t have the guts to disapprove of us outright.
“I don’t understand it, but I accept it.”
It felt like she was mourning the official end of our once-close relationship. I was so determined not to ruin the occasion that I bit my tongue… hard.
My brother’s wedding day turned out not to be the best moment to be a gay member of the ulta-religious Afro-Caribbean Helligar clan. (I was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but my Antigua-born mother met and married my father in his native St. Martin.) The stench of homophobia was in the air, and my least favorite uncle (on Dad’s side), who was performing the ceremony, made an even bigger stink than my favorite aunt did.
I was best man, and I was so nervous about getting it right that I totally missed the thing Uncle Achille said about two men in the Garden of Eden. Being the fire-and-brimstone Bible thumper I’d always known him to be, he had to drop in some judgment, which must have been for my benefit and for that of my other brother, who is also gay.
How dare we both bring our boyfriends to such a sacred straight occasion?
He made a crack about how God created Adam and Eve, not “Hemp and Shemp” …or something to that effect. The names were not as relevant as the intended message: God hates f*ggots.
My mother complained about her former brother-in-law at the reception, her voice dripping with disgust. I wasn’t sure if Mom’s reaction was about what Achille had said or the pulpit from which he’d chosen to say it. She was angry for her two gay sons, and I loved her for it. Like my dad, she’s never made me feel like a second-class romantic for being gay.
As for my uncle, I had only one personal encounter with him at the wedding. It was when he walked into the men’s room and caught my boyfriend and me in a warm embrace. He glared at us but didn’t say a word, not even when I asked how he was doing.
At my boyfriend’s urging, I ignored the silent treatment. My uncle had always been irrelevant to me, and by that point, he may as well have been non-existent.
Eleven years, four months and 13 days later, my favorite aunt ceased to exist for me, too, at least on Facebook, when she became the first and only family member I’ve ever un-friended. The deal breaker arrived on the morning I learned that the U.S. Supreme Court had declared gay marriage legal. (It was already the next day in Sydney, which is where I was living at the time.) There it was in my Facebook feed, courtesy of my favorite aunt:
The post itself wasn’t worth debating. It was contradictory passive-aggressive junk, hate dressed up in Sunday church clothes.
On a personal level, though, I couldn’t understand why a woman with at least two gay nephews would spread such antigay rhetoric in a place where she knew we’d likely read it. Was she trying to douse a celebratory occasion with some good old-fashioned negativity, just as my uncle had done on my brother’s wedding day?
At least Achille had the guts to express his homophobia in his own words. Although my aunt didn’t have the nerve to speak for herself, I still got the message. In her opinion, I was… I am… defective.
I probably won’t hear from her again until next May 5. She’ll likely continue to cross “Wish my defective nephew a happy birthday” off her to-do list every year, never grasping that it’s not enough to merely “accept” or even “support” my sexual orientation. Her “love” will never be enough as long as she fails to grasp the gospel truth about the L-word.
No matter what the hypocrites at the pulpit preach, it is never a sin.
Seriously, who has time for this shyt? Why do people continue to occupy spaces that are unashamedly toxic to them? I don’t speak to homophobes online nor offline! I don’t care if you’re my aunt, mama, uncle or brother! If you harbor those feelings in your heart while using religion to justify it, f^ck you!
because to some people.. and to certain cultures.. family is family and blood is blood.
It is the duty of those who understand most to understand those who understand least
It might hurt at times yes, but family is all about sacrifice. They will never understand you unless you stay in their lives and make them understand. it may take them years, but change only occurs when the people are around you.
I don’t do “blood is blood”, that is a jacked saying in this day and age when families are not always built the same way and blood family is not always loyal, good to you or even healthy for you. I agree that family is important, but 4 of my brothers and sisters are adopted and I love them no less than my biological siblings and they are every bit family.
But I don’t care WHO you are, blood, adopted, honorary family, whatever, if you are gonna disrespect me over something I have no control over, you can be gone from my life. Point blank period.
“I believe the Bible”. Yes. That book where a man walks on water that isn’t frozen and turns water into wine. A very, very believable book…. Now back to my unicorn.
I wonder if she believes the many parts of it that endorse slavery. Both new and old testament.
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. (Ephesians 6:5 NLT)”
Start at 1:15….
LOVE AND RESPECT…
I have shared it with many people who are struggling with family…
People of all lineages pick the weights to tie around their necks…then scream for help and demand for it to come in their prescribed manner…best not to tie them around your neck in the first place…
Family is such a misnomer…I have said the following to several family members who wonder why I have not seen or engaged with them for 10+ years when we do encounter each other…
“I know who you are but what you are has no place in my life”…
and keep on walking….
Because with family, one often builds a long, trusting, and loving relationship over the whole of a lifespan, that’s why. We put up with each other’s foibles, faults, and peculiarities because we grow used to it. I know my parents would rather I be straight and a christian but that is not going to happen. However, it is not a discussion they bring up and they welcome my boyfriend into their home–two vital points. If either of those points changed, they’d be mostly removed from my life, possibly totally.
I don’t know why you would bother to allow her to contact you at all or to respond. People like that are toxic and just by contacting you she has caused you to expend a lot of your energy thinking about her and her poisonous attitude. Be done with her and put your energy into your positive relationships.
People like this truly annoying me. Rather than assert yourself and let your homophobic family know how you feel, you’d rather unfriend them on FB. Yeah, that’s really showing her. #thatabitchmove
Grow a pair and write that woman off. Ignore the woman. She’s a troll.
If she ain’t paying your bills then pay her none of your mind.
@Cylest: I honestly have no idea why my comment was deleted, so I’ll try again with a slightly softer tone:
Jeremy is vastly miscalculating how an older person uses and reacts to Facebook. The aunt undoubtedly has no idea what “ghosting” is, nor has she noticed (much) that he’s been doing it for some time. She probably just thinks he’s been too busy to communicate with older relatives. A perennial lament of older relatives, long before the internet: since the days of 13 cent stamps (1970s) or the Pony Express probably.
Now, Jeremy has told tens of thousands of people how offended he was but his aunt STILL DOESN’T KNOW. Pretty silly. He’s not even that young either; he’s 49.
Does “ghosting” work as intended? Seems it does not.
Aires the Ram
When I was 32 years old, my very own Mother outed me and bad-mouthed me to not only her large family, but to the few family members left on my Fathers side. She did so because I had to write my Father a letter stating that he either begin treating me with the same respect that he treats his friends & family, or he would never see me again. My Mothers reaction was to do the above mentioned. Needless to say, the Christmas cards, birthday cards, invites to family birthday/graduation/etc. events stopped coming. In very short order, I understood how they all were very toxic to me, and I needed to move on in my life without them. FFW>>>>> (28 years), I don’t miss them, and in 28 years not one of them has ever bothered to contact me, even when my folks died, not one card in the mail. Just because they’re “blood”, or “family”, doesn’t mean you must hang on to them, or teach them a lesson that they’ll never accept or learn anyway. Leave them, as you would any other toxic relationship.
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