The Huddle: Hugs and other things for homophobes


One of the most viral videos of the week was “First Gay Hug (A Homophobic Experiment),” and if you haven’t seen it, here’s your chance.

Amazing, no? A hug might not change every self-identified homophobic person’s mind or heart, but what could? The video, along with the death of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps, prompted this week’s Huddle topic, something that is surely not come to with one simple answer that can affect change in everyone. But if there was one thing you could offer someone who who was homophobic to try and change their views on LGBT people, what would it be?

Heather Hogan: Because I am related to and dear friends with dozens of people who were homophobes before I came out to them, I would give all homophobes the gift of someone they love coming out to them. I come from the Martin Luther King Jr. school of political thought: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction….The chain reaction of evil–hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars—must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”

Chloe: Homophobes are never going to love us, and if we cannot be loved, we might as well be feared. As Machiavelli said, “It is far safer to be feared than loved if you cannot be both.”

Lucy Hallowell: What Heather said plus the luxury of time and a couple of cute babies. It took longer than I would have liked for my wife’s family to come around. It wasn’t always easy to wait for them to catch up. But man, once we had a kid it was like like a lightbulb when off and they realized we were more the same than we were different. Also our kids are fucking cute so what were they going to say, “No, I’m sorry we won’t be holding the adorable newborn because of all the lesbian germs?”

funeral protests

Ali Davis: Obviously some homophobes will always be recalcitrant, but I think what I’d give most of them is one to five years of living, working, or volunteering in close quarters with a patient, out queer person. I still believe that it’s the ignorance that allows the fear to fester.

You can’t argue someone out of a hostile “religious” belief, but you can erode them out of it drop by drop through just being a normal person around them, someone with good and bad days and human hopes and fears and, oh, yes, loving relationships.

It’s a turn they have to make on their own, the realization that the not-so-bad person at the next desk or helping out with the blood drive just doesn’t line up with all the hate-dogma they’ve been taught, and it’s a turn that people make slowly, and not without some screw-ups and crisis points, but people do make it.

I’m not saying it’s our responsibility as queers to be Mary Sunshine all day or to accept the permanent mantle of The Big Gay Questions Go-To, but being out and normal and involved in activities that aren’t just LGBT causes can slowly do a hell of a lot. Please insert your own inspiring trickle-of-water-creates-the-Grand-Canyon metaphor here.

That said, my evil side would very much like to give Rick Santorum a soul kiss from RuPaul.

Leftist human rights activists stage a p

Elaine Atwell: I think there are kinds and kinds of homophobes, some of whom just need the benefit of a gay person in their life or even on their TV to teach them that we are people too. But I also don’t think that will help everyone or that is the responsibility of every gay person to be a paragon of virtue and educate every homophobe. You gotta know when to kindly take the hand of your oppressor and teach them that you are warm-blooded too, when to bang with both fists on the walls of power, and when to just step back and let time wash the hate and the haters away.

Valerie Anne: “I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy.” I’m with Heather. My grandfather used to say offensive things on a regular enough basis that the second thing my mother said to me when I came out to her (after the supportive stuff) was, “Let’s not tell your grandparents just yet.” He ended up finding out (because he was more savvy on the internet than any of us anticipated) and was more upset that no one told him. “She’s still my granddaughter, and I love her,” he said, as if it was the most obvious reaction in the world. He watched a pride parade “to see what it’s all about” and gives me bigger hugs than ever. I think having someone you love come out and realizing they’re still that same exact person is the best way for someone’s eyes to be opened, in a way that will keep them open.

Dana Piccoli: This is a really good and difficult question to answer. When I was younger, I would have come out red hot, fire shooting from my nostrils. Now that I’m older and I’ve watched the world change around me, I think the best thing I could give a homophobe, is time. Time to get to know me, or someone like me or you or any of us. It’s much harder to have hate in your heart, when someone has opened up theirs to let you see inside it. The world has too much fear, and not nearly enough empathy.

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