Nadine Smith

What would you do? Bigoted comments at Thanksgiving

Filed By Nadine Smith | November 24, 2010 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: bigoted family members, family problems, Thanksgiving

A friend asked: "What's the best way to respond to homophobic or other bigoted remarks at Thanksgiving without losing your dignity or throwing a wet blanket on the whole family affair?" What do you think?


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To "That's so gay," I usually respond, "No, gay people have better taste than that." It doesn't cause a fight, but doesn't let the message go unsaid.

We have a rule; no religion and no politics. I consider bigotry a religious based insanity, so my family either shuts their cakeholes or I don't attend.

I just get up and walk out. I don't put up with ignorant shits any longer.

I don't make a habit out of smiling and letting unkind words pass unmentioned. All too often they're spoken because the speaker feels they can get away with it, that their (privileged) position is unassailable.

Calling them out needn't be a grand affair or even necessarily generate drama. A simple "now that's an unkind thing to say..." can suffice. If they truly were spoken without malice, out of ignorance, it's better that the speaker know that their words sting.

I would call them out on it. Ask them something like "So why do you think that?" or "Do you think that's really true?" to get some sort of conversation going where you can explain your side. If they ask you why you're pushing the issue, say that you found their remarks to be hurtful or rude and you want to help them understand. If they respond negatively to you, then they're probably being the wet blanket and you can ignore them and talk to them after the meal if possible.

This is the first Thanksgiving I;ve been home since 2000 for, and there are some elements of my family who despite the fact I transitioned in 1994, still misgender me.

Drawing the line in the sand on this one with the most egregious violators by feminizing their names if they are male and masculinizing their names if they're female.

After I do that, I'll conclude the teaching moment with, "You don't like it? That's how I feel every time you misgender me or use a name I haven't used since 1994. It is a sign of disrespect for me when you continue to do that."

I'd use a little bit of Thanksgiving appropriate silliness and tell them to "stuff it." Not exactly mature or mind changing, but it shows I'm a contender and I have my wits and humor about me.

I think the challenge is not the correcting part, because most of us are experts at that. The challenge is not allowing the family mythology of "oh, _______ is SO sensitive" or "___________ has NO sense of humor" or "___________ isn't being fair to expect everyone is going to get everything 'right'... they're so PC and unreasonable." As long as those kinds of mythologies are allowed to fester there really is no moving forward except on a very surface level.

Nadine, thanks for this post and I really think think it's an important subject which warrants an entire book (*hint-hint*). There are a lot of queer/trans people in this situation whose holidays are going down the tubes because of it.

We're going to Thanksgiving dinner to my partner, Darlene, parents' house, located in the northern part of Georgia. Darlene told me that her parents love it when we attend holiday meals at their place because the family crazies (translate: "religious bigots") will not show up. Apparently, that part of the family gets on everyone's nerves.

However, we are still trying to train Darlene's parents to use her legal name. It hasn't even been a year since she changed her name, so we still have a long way to go.

without losing your dignity or throwing a wet blanket on the whole family affair?

Humor. Humor is the only way to achieve that fine line that I know of. But humor requires being able to laugh at one's self and one's group.

Walking out, calling them out, using the same damning habit -- these things are all aggressive challenges that ultimately do throw a wet blanket on the whole affair or can cost one their dignity.

This might sound odd coming from me, but in the situation described -- a family affair on a day when one is meant to be thankful for what one has -- it is very much how I respond and deal with things.

That said, there will not be any family gatherings where I am concerned. Not out of any issue I have, but rather issues that some members of my family have. So for me, it's all about cooking for people I give a damn about, and then the only thing I have to worry about is classism.

I am privileged to be a total Ditz. I smile and blow kisses.

Kathy Padilla | November 25, 2010 9:32 AM

The last time I looked the guest in the eye and said with a deadpan voice "gay people are funny". Though I think you need to rotate your material. He got a bit pissed off for a few seconds - couldn't think of what to say - and stopped it.

That's easy. Steal some of grandma's crazy pills, slip them into his or her drink, kick back and watch the fun.

That is a gravy boat moment

Something minor - let it slide, life's too short.
Something major - leave, immediately, keeping silent.

There IS a book - It's called "Setting Them Straight" by Betty Berzon. It's about dealing with homophobia in everyday life, but it would work for biphobia as well. I haven't re-read it thinking about transphobia, but it might be helpful there too, although less so.

I know it's off topic, but that photo is kind of hot.

I'm just saying.

I depends on who and how it's said. Dumbasses, kids and the unintentionally clueless shouldn't be treated the same as hardcore zealots.

To the former I usually say something general like "hmmm. that doesn't describe me or my friends. Where did you get that impression?"

To the latter? I avoid them. If it's unavoidable, I make sure to get just buzzed so that I have no compunction about schooling them. It won't change their mind, but usually there's a couple of people who will agree, which will force the jerk to back down.