Two of my friends just started a GSA at our school. They’ve been encouraging all of their friends to come support, and the turn out for the first couple meetings has been quite great. There are a few (straight) members, however, who feel somewhat uncomfortable being a part of the club because of their religious views.
Yesterday one of these such friends came up to me and asked if I was going to the meeting. I said, “Yeah, you?”
He said something like, “No, probably not. I mean, I love [one of the co-leaders who is one of his closest friends] and I totally support him, but it just feels weird for me to be there…Like, I have a ton of gay friends and I don’t treat them any differently and I want them to be happy, but my personal belief is that marriage is between a man and a woman because it’s been a sacred thing that way, so it’s difficult for me to be part of something where I don’t fully agree with everything going on.”
“I think that’s totally fine,” I replied. “Religion is really important to you and just the fact that you support your gay friends I think is enough. You don’t have to be the biggest gay rights advocate to be part of the club.”
He said that he understood that, but it still just didn’t sit right with him. He had spent a lot of time thinking about it, he said, because he supports some ideas and loves his friends (particularly the co-leader) so much and doesn’t want to hurt their feelings. “I just don’t know how to tell him all this,” he said.
He said that the night before he ran into a problem when he realized that he needed to get his GSA permission slip form signed. I didn’t tell him this, but I avoided that problem by telling my dad it was for a different club. 😉 My friend said he ended up asking his dad, and his dad felt very uneasy about it. “You’re doing what?” was the response he got.
But what was unique about my friend’s situation was that his dad didn’t stop him. His dad said, “Alright, you can do whatever you want, but I feel a little uncomfortable with this.” Which I thought was inspiring. Other parents should take after him. Parents who value their religious and political beliefs more than anything should uphold those in their house, but if their child challenges it, they should be open to letting them adopt whatever ideas they want, but also being aware of possible tension.
My friend said that he and his dad got into a huge argument — not about his joining the GSA, but about gay rights in general. He said it was some sort of “screaming match” with his mom sitting in the corner begging them to stop. This broke my heart. He said his dad had always beat around the bush in talking about gay rights, and that night my friend asserted him and demanded an explanation of his views. It was probably a very odd argument, with my friend’s dad firmly standing by his beliefs and my friend looking anywhere for some guidance.
Ultimately he decided — because of his own personal beliefs, not his dad’s influence — that he wouldn’t be a part of the club. He was devastatingly conflicted and nervous to tell our friend. He told him during lunch that day and our friend was so understanding and not at all upset, just as I had assured him he would be.
This is a little story about a lot of inspiring people. My friend for acknowledging the importance of this subject and taking the time to really think about it and his place within it; my friend (same friend) for standing up to his dad and asking for answers; his dad for asserting his beliefs but leaving my friend open to his own ideas; our other friend for being completely understanding, grateful and not at all judgmental toward my friend for his openness about this internal conflict. It just reminds you the point of the whole fight: love.