A Reflection -
Late last year, after fully emerging from my advocacy closet, I spoke at the Central Florida Light Up the Night for Equal Rights event, part of the national Join the Impact network of events fighting against LGBT discrimination and hate on a renewed national platform.
Due to one-on-one conversations I had with my family members before and after the November election that wrote more discrimination against LGBT people into the Florida Constitution, I decided I would not do as my family would have liked from those conversations. I would not drop ‘the issue’ once I learned how many of them voted against my rights. I decided to come out publicly sharing my story at the Light Up the Night for Equal Rights event so others could know my experience.
I was very angry at my sister for asking me not to bring up this topic at family holiday gatherings. I gave much thought to this request. My sister, who supports LGBT equality didn't feel family events were places for such conversations. Further, she believed no one in the family was going to change their minds, so talking about LGBT equality would only spur on a fiery debate, detracting from the joy of the holiday season.
Such contention drove a massive wedge between my family and me. During this time it was a shock to my system to hear my mother say in support of her position to deny me my rights, "We love both you and Joey (a partner I was with for six years who the family knew and loved). We bought him Christmas and birthday gifts all these years." It hurt equally when my sister said, "For the kids’ sake. Please don't talk about equality at Thanksgiving."
Gifts are not enough – and for the kids’ sake I hoped they would have had the opportunity to get involved and learn both sides of this vital debate. The kids are living in a time I believe, that will shape civil rights for LGBT people throughout their entire lives. They need to know what is happening around them because as continuing pressures mount, they should be well versed in this fight just as children in the 1960’s should have known the gravity and circumstances of desegregation or kids in the 1920’s should have been fully aware of the fight for woman’s rights or prior to that about the abolition of slavery.
The issues of our world don’t belong to adults. For the children’s sake they ought to be taught about the vast differences of the people around them and what they can do to help promote equality for all.
Though I still believe any place is a good place to talk about equal rights, I see now that an alternate approach to using holiday time to discuss our differences might have been for me to hold a family meeting outside of the ‘joy’ of the season. I could have invited the whole family to sit down at a table and share my concerns on the issue while listening to theirs. This still could have ended up like some of the crazed health care reform town hall debates as of late where the opposition rants instead of carries on reasoned debate. But, to get your opposition in a room for the hopes of reasoned discourse is always the most honorable of goals.
A Future Aspiration -
I have to be honest; the day will come when I am in another long term committed relationship. I want my partner (or should I start calling him my husband - I think I shall) and I to know our union is as secure as any of my family's marriages. And when the day comes when child must be parent, as is inevitably the case, I want my family to be in full support of my equal rights so I can be in full support of them as they wane. It may sound harsh right now, but I am not presently inclined to take care of my parents in their final years or if they were to become sick today because they do not support my rights. My current stance is, 'My husband and I are not going to lay a finger on my ailing parents. My parents are not going to move in with us and burden us without first supporting our protections for equal access to the over 1,000 protections they take for granted every day.'
I would never vote against the equal rights of my loved ones. And it angers me still that they did so to me. And of course, in every case their vote was based on their ‘faith’; meaning the beliefs they espouse which are based on interpretations of the Bible given to them by their religious leaders. It really is unfortunate churches don't have 'Reality Check Day' to bring in people of opposing views on subjects such as LGBT equality so parishioners can see that the message from the pulpit is only one viewpoint on these complex issues that affect millions of Americans.
And families like mine should make an effort on their own to really get to know LGBT people other than the LGBT people in their family. The elders in such families couldn’t look at other LGBT people as they do their own – as ‘kids.’ (Thought I am 32 years old, we all know how older family members tend to always see kids in the family as, well kids. Which, of course cycles back to the need to elevate kids to be more active participants in the family and encouraged to share ideas and information in regard to cultural diversity.)
As you may be able to tell, I can't say due to this divide I am especially close to the adults in my birth family (except my sister - I believe she and I are starting to see eye to eye). And their discriminatory views are the reason why our divide persists. I guess they are content they will go on to their eternal reward not having the relationship with me I have always hoped for. We'll see where the future leads. I hope my family ends up coming around and ending up on the right side of history. If they do, I’ll be sure to celebrate such news here.
Here is a link to the speech I gave late last year. It was given after Thanksgiving and before Christmas:
Thanks for reading.
Alan L. Bounville
PS I am working on another speech right now that will be submitted to the Equality Idol Contest for the National Equality March. If my three minute video is chosen, it will compete on You Tube as one of the top five videos submitted for the contest. The winner will be flown to