The conversation went a little like this.
Person Close to Me: “The way media popularizes being gay is disgusting! We just really want to protect our children from thinking that lifestyle is okay.”
Me: Blink, blink.
It has taken me more than a minute to even begin to understand how to respond, but I think I have it now. Unfortunately, Person Close to Me has not the ears to hear, so I guess I will share it with y’all here. Maybe you can share it with a Person Close to You who may need to know.
If you think that popular media depictions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is “making it popular” and might somehow convince your children to “choose the homosexual lifestyle”, you are seriously lacking basic understanding of, well, reality. Let’s take a look at the ways your “thinking” is, and there really is no better word for it, ignorant.
A. Popular Media ≠ Real Life
If all you or your children know about LGBT lives is what you’ve gleaned from Glee, Modern Family, Transparent or Ellen, AND you think that comprises a full and real depiction of the lives of flesh and blood neighbors, I encourage you to think carefully about that for a moment. Ask yourself, do the straight folks in Friends, Game of Thrones, Veep, Better Call Saul or The Americans capture in accurate, deep and complete ways, you and your lifestyle?
B. Being gay is not “popular”. Being gay in a straight world is hard. Harder than you know.
Statistics From PFLAG NY
(the founding chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People) quickly reveal that the struggle is real.
LGBT students withstand physical and emotional bullying to such a degree that they are twice as likely to drop out of school. Gay teens attempt suicide at higher rates than non-queer kids. Gay kids are way more likely to be rejected by their families and churches. Subsequently almost half of homeless youth in American shelters are LGBT.
C. Being queer is not a choice.
The only choice is whether or not to live a lie or the truth. The choice is whether or not to live in a constant state of self-loathing, fear and closeted darkness or to live as you are created to live, loving yourself and who you were created to love. If you really think that watching a couple of seasons of Glee or scarfing down popcorn with an episode of Modern family will “turn your kids gay”, then why am I not straight as an arrow after watching almost half a decade of June & Ward, Lucy & Ricky, Ma & Pa Ingles, Rosanne & Dan or Ross and Rachel?
D. Do you know a lesbian, transgender, bisexual or gay person?
If you do not want popular media to paint such an exciting and alluring picture of the “homosexual lifestyle” then please, I pray, get to know some real live LGBT people in your community, workplace, school, church or family. I promise you they are there and I guarantee that their lives are more complex (and likely far more mundane) than the flimsy caricatures flickering on any of your screens.
And I mean really get to know people. Ask your queer coworker about the picture of their family on her desk. Have the lesbians next door over for board game night. Sit next to the gay man in church and ask him about his favorite hymns. Share a funny pooch story with the transgender woman at dog park. Invite the little boy in the princess dress to your daughter’s birthday party. Because if you are not willing to be in real relationships with real people, all messy and vulnerable, then we are all doomed to living in one dimensional hollywood sets squinting across the street at cardboard cutouts of our neighbors.
And best I can tell, that’s not what Jesus meant when he commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
PS – B asked me to tell you that if we are the lesbians next door invited over for game night, can we please play Boggle?