I recently came out to my family and friends as gay and atheist. Throughout all of it, I have received an overwhelming amount of unexpected support. But, in every family, there is at least one bigot.
I have an uncle who, when I came out as gay, instead of rationally discussing it with me, decided he was going to start screaming Bible verses at me in front of the whole family. He ran off afterwards. I’d hoped that it was over and that he would just leave me alone, but he will not.
First, I started getting messages on Facebook telling me that I have “chosen” to lead a very wrong and sinful lifestyle. He said that he “loves” me, but I am going to burn in hell for “choosing” to be gay. He said I am a dark person and I am just angry at God.
I tried to explain to him that I did not choose to be gay and that I am not angry at God because I do not believe in him. He completely ignored this and just started spewing hate and bigotry again. I finally just blocked him from Facebook because I had enough of it.
Fast forward a few days. He found my blog that I write about atheists. He started to comment on the posts telling me I’m a horrible person, I am choosing to live the wrong lifestyle, that Darwin was an idiot atheist who didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, and saying that science has proved there is a God, etc.
Anyway, I guess my question is how do I handle a person like this? I have tried to just calmly talk with him about our differences in a rational manner. I have realized that he wants to be anything but rational with me. He wants to continue to spew hate until I “realize that I have done wrong, repent, and accept God and Jesus.” This wouldn’t really be a huge problem, but he lives in my hometown. I am in college right now, but every time I go back to town I’m going to have to deal with him, as he is at every family gathering.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
My congratulations for your coming out about both things, freeing yourself of two of the shackles of shame from society’s ignorance. You have made it a little easier for other GLBT people and for other atheists to free themselves as well.
Firstly, I think you have thoroughly confirmed that continued attempts to calmly and rationally talk with your uncle are futile. It is apparent that he only wants these interactions so he can continue to verbally abuse you and to inflate himself with his self-righteousness. Trying to educate him or argue with him any more is a demeaning waste of effort and only gives him the opportunity to further humiliate and frustrate you. Don’t participate in your own mistreatment.
One day a skunk got into my house, and my two cats confronted and cornered him. Instead of letting that interaction continue to its inevitable malodorous outcome, I managed to get the cats out of the way, let him out, and then made sure he couldn’t get in again.
Your uncle is a troll both in your life and on your blog. I’ve seen his comments. Multiple “spamming” entries with dozens of cut-and-pasted childish “arguments” and links from third parties is not acceptable blog etiquette. Like the trolls who too frequently infest this blog, don’t feed him and don’t give him a forum. Just ban him from your blog as you did on your Facebook page. Your blog is your property. It is like your home. If guests don’t honor your hospitality by minding their manners, they deserve being permanently shown the outside of your door. If they twist that into some kind of “victory” for them, so what? Trolls will twist everything you do and don’t do into food for their withered little egos anyway. I didn’t care what that skunk thought; I took control of who can be in my home.
Secondly, one of the functions of a healthy family is to prevent any member from abusing any other member. You mentioned that when coming out you received unexpectedly strong support from your family as well as your friends. Now is the time to put that to work. This is where your family’s support can be more than just verbal, and can mean something very real. Tell your supportive family all at once what your uncle has been saying and doing, and ask them to, as a unified group, get him to stop. His behavior is the unacceptable, hostile, unloving behavior, not yours. This would not just benefit you; his loathsome negativity affects everyone in the family to their detriment.
I know that this will be emotionally difficult, but taking a strong, assertive stand now will be easier than later. If he is allowed to continue berating you, your family will begin to get used to it, and they might become more prone to advise you to just shrug it off. Don’t take that advice. Such behavior when tolerated usually just gets worse. Make it clear to your family that unless they want more and more of his screaming, hateful, bigoted antagonism at family gatherings, they must make it unmistakably clear to him that if he’s going to act like a skunk, skunks are not allowed in the house.
Hopefully the third step will not be necessary, but you should also be prepared if for whatever reason your family fails to correct your uncle’s reprehensible misconduct. At the next family gathering where he is also present, if he starts in on you again at any level of intensity, immediately announce to everyone all at once why you are leaving, and why you will not be back until and unless they put a stop to one family member attacking another with hateful contempt and disdain.
Then walk out. Don’t yell, don’t swear, don’t slam the door. Always, always be the rational adult in the scene from beginning to end. Your calm equanimity will leave it to your family to have to supply the outrage rather than you, and they’ll have your uncle right there to vent it upon. Go be with your accepting and supportive friends where you can let out your anger and hurt. Have that arranged beforehand as a contingency plan just in case. If your family calls you, accept their love and express your love for them, but tell them also that love does not mean accepting unacceptable treatment, and loving families do not permit members to treat other members hatefully. One way or another, they need to keep the skunk from stinking up the house.
Stand strong, but also let allies come to your assistance. Be patient and resolute, keeping your dignity, but don’t just stand there taking some ignorant bigot’s crap. Take deep, slow breaths whenever you feel tense or tongue-tied. You don’t have to answer his absurd “challenges,” and you don’t have to justify yourself to him. In your most charitable moods, perhaps you can feel sorry for him. His world of self-assured privilege and superiority is rapidly crumbling around him, whether or not he acknowledges it. He is of the past. You are of the future. Keep building a future full of fairness, equality, compassion, freedom, and truthfulness. I wish you a happy outcome of this challenging situation. Please write again to update us on how things develop.
To all the readers, please visit Dustin’s thoughtful and candid blog at http://wvuatheist.blogspot.com and give him some support there as well as here. Thanks.
***UPTDATE: Dustin’s blog is now open to receive your supportive comments!***