“I respect you, but you’re an abomination.” What does this mean?
“I’m very supportive. I have nothing against them. I respect them. I just don’t understand it, never will. Depravity. Perversion.” How does this even make sense?
About a month ago I was at a pool party at the home of one of mom’s friends. There, surrounded by adults much older than me, this topic came up. I can’t say it was a discussion; they all agreed with each other in their incredibly ridiculous statements. As far as I know, I was the only person there who belonged to or identified with the LGBTQ community. As far as I know, nobody at the pool party knew that. I’m pretty sure none of them know. Maybe they suspect something, but I doubt it. In any case, the possibility of somebody in the group being part of the very community they’re talking about most likely didn’t even occur to them. And if it did, that didn’t keep them from expressing their horrifying ideas.
As I sat there between “I have a gay daughter, but…” and “It just goes against nature,” among other word-shaped knives and rocks aimed at my head, I felt the urge to cry. I saw myself getting up, walking into the house, and locking myself in the bathroom to cry. Instead I sat there, thinking I shouldn’t do anything to draw attention to myself. Having shared some really pleasant hours with these people, in that moment I felt so out of place, so unwanted, so alone. It dawned on me that, to them, I would always be an outsider, and a disgusting one at that. I was an abomination. I was a thing not worthy of their compassion, understanding or respect. Every time the word respect came out of their mouths I felt as though I had been transported to a different reality where people strung together random words that made no sense and everyone understood each other, except me.
Trying (and mostly failing) to keep my cool and prevent the tears from falling, I wondered if these people, who have now revealed their true form, know what they’re saying. What is respect, anyway? Some meanings that the Merriam-Webster dictionary gives to the word respect are: “to act in a way that shows you are away of (someone’s rights, wishes, etc.), and “to treat or deal with (something that is good and valuable) in a proper way.” The Free Dictionary includes words like “consideration” and “appreciation” to define it. How could they claim to be considerate, appreciative, and aware of my rights, and in the same breath call me disgusting, perverted, and evil?
At one point, a sixty-something woman talked about her daughter’s relationship with another woman and mentioned the fact that they’ve adopted a child together. She believes she respects her daughter; she thinks she’s considerate. She really believes she treats her daughter in a proper way. The daughter isn’t allowed to kiss her partner in front of people. The child’s upbringing comes into question (“Can you imagine what that can do to a child?! Being raised by two women?!”). This is, apparently, what respect means.
I looked around for some kind of support on people’s faces. What I saw instead was a group of people who despised me; a group of people who hated me and I’d have to share the rest of the evening with them. I’d have to smile at them, laugh with them, drink with them. I’d have to talk to them. I’d have to make my pain invisible, unnoticeable. I’d have to make them think I’m one of them.
All I could do in that moment was hide the shattered bits of my soul, my happiness, my trust, and my comfort, and pretend it does not affect me or involve me in any way. I had to put some distance between my real self and that person sitting on my spot. She looks like me, but we’re quite different.
This is only a small part of me, yes; but it touches every thing I do. It’s in my conversations and the interactions I witness or become a part of. It’s there when I wake up and even after I go to sleep; I know I’ve seen it in my dreams too. It’s in my laugh, my tears, my heart. It’s in the ever-present fear of rejection, mockery, and violence. And this small (but huge) part of me is constantly under attack, no matter how many times the attacker tells me they are peaceful.
If you support me, why can’t I kiss my partner in front of you? If you believe I am good and valuable, how could I be a bad influence to children? If you really have nothing against me, why does every thing you say sound like hate? The only possible answer that comes to mind is that you don’t actually respect me. You hate me, but you don’t want to say it out loud.
So, what is respect? What do you mean when you say you respect me?