Thursday, March 01, 2007

You're Someone Who Hates People You Don't Know...

Our December holiday party was attended by a diversity of people. These included four people in particular:

Emma and Katy are two lesbian women who have been together for three years are and formalizing their commitment to one another with a celebration and wedding ceremony this April. Sam and Bobby are two mentally challenged men, both in their late 50’s, who accidently met each other 3 years ago when they became roommates in a supervised living program. They have developed a friendship bond I expect will be life long.

Sam is Emma’s cousin. Emma drives 120 miles every Saturday to visit Sam and help him with his needs. She has gotten to know Bobby pretty well and after some concern and forethought, she has decided to invite them both to the big event.

I have some role as a case manager in this constellation. In checking with Sam’s family, I called the Rehab. House Manager, James, to ask him to gently evaluate and talk to Sam and Bobby about the fact that they will be attending a lesbian wedding. This seemed important for the comfort of all, including Sam and Bobby.

This is what happened when I spoke with James yesterday:

James: “kj, It’s already come up. Bobby was brought up to believe that gay people are child molesters. He said he could never like a person who is gay. I told him someone in this house is gay and he said that can’t be true because he likes everyone here”.

James: "Bobby told me, ‘That can't be true. I don’t know any gay people.’”

James: “So I told him, then you’re someone who hates people you don’t know.”

James to kj: “ We talked about people who are gay, about whether they are different from anybody else and why some gay couples would want to make commitments to each other and become a family. Then I explained about Emma and Katy. Bobby was shocked. He said, “But how can they be good people if they’re gay?”

James continued, “We talked some more. Finally I said, 'Bobby, you’re bigoted. You can’t go to that wedding'.”

I was ready to thank James. He had told me what was important to know. But then he said,

“kj, Bobby sought me out a few days later. He came up to me and said,

Bobby to James: “James, I was wrong. I like Emma. I know she is a good person. I want to go to their party.”

James: “Ok, Bobby. Then you should go. They would like you to go. That is why they invited you.”

James to kj: "It's been a good thing, kj. All the way around".

“You’re someone who hates people you don’t know.”

I’ve never heard bigotry and homophobia expressed so simply. I found myself relieved by such simplicity. Perhaps this is the #1 reason for so many problems and misunderstandings in the world.

I’ll be at Emma and Katy’s celebration in April. Jb and I will probably sit with Sam and Bobby. I’m happy to say that I imagine our biggest challenge will be reminding Bobby to eat with his mouth closed. Not so bad for another small step in a few simple lives….


  1. Very simple and right on the money - that's exactly what bigots are - they hate people they don't even know.

    I'm glad that Bobby apparently thought about it and changed his mind.

    I hope you have a good time at the wedding :)

  2. The simplest things can be the most revealing and profound!

    I have noticed that most bigoted people and chronic malcontents are people who are filled with fear of the unknown and the misunderstood. They are riddled with anxiety they deliberately channel into hate, because it's easier to save face when you hate rather than show fear. There's something very primal about it all.

  3. Nothing is ever simple.

  4. That is the perfect phrase to describe a bigot. Lovely story KJ

  5. It's good that he is starting to think about his original beliefs.

  6. Or maybe, hates people they don't understand. Because sometimes it's alos ignorance. What a marvelous opportunity for growth for Bobby. When we took our older son to the commitment ceremony (he was about at the time) for a couple of women we were friends with, his one question was whether they would only be able to have girl babies.

  7. elsa, thanks. nice to have you back.

    andrea, i agree. well said.

    ces, this sounds abit cryptic.

    tammy, thank you. the word "hate" could be substituted, but rejecting certain people you've never met has the same result.

    menchie, i'd guess bobby's direct experience and motivation became stronger than his assumptions.

    csl, hahaha. csl--i think you and i are abit alike!

  8. I read this to Jol, and he was very touched by the story. We recently had a discussion about the topic of steroetyping and making general judgements about people really based on nothing other than some category that person's been fit into... hating "people you don't know." I have found that the older I get, the more I've come to really understand that we humans are all connected by our very basic emotions and drives... the needs we have for love, friendship, security, home, and so on. Recognizing that is an important step to understanding that there is so much more to people than race or religion or nationality or sexual preference, and we have a moral duty to ourselves and the human family to which we belong to use that as a point of departure. I'm glad Bobby reached an understanding and will go to the ceremony. Love is a treasure and a gift to share!

  9. wow carla, what a treasure you have written here...

  10. Excellent writing KJ. I am sorry to say that eventhough we Dutch seem to be openminded about a lot of things, our new government is slowly turning the pages back.
    Thank you for visiting my blog and for your wonderful comments. I appreciate it very much.

  11. I am so proud of Charlotte's school and their inclusive wording of their literature and forms. The other day she came home from school with a book from the school's library. At first glance, I thought it was simply another prince and princess story ... I was thrilled when I read it and the story told of a prince who couldn't find a princess but he fell in love with one of the princess' brothers ... the two princes get married with much excitement and are crowned King and King!

  12. Bobby may be mentally challenged... but in many regards he is better equiped at individual thought than a lot of people. Many bigoted people lay in denial & validation.

    Thanks for sharing.

  13. About any topic or belief - not necessarily about this topic. Bigotry: I am utterly intolerant of some practices, so I think I may be a bigot according to the definition, and so are a lot of bigots who don't think they are. They just believe they are always right and because they believe in it, everybody else is wrong, like so many politicians. There are so many hypocrites who are so quick to say the politically correct thing in public and then are full of hatered inside their homes. I think it is better to bring things out in the open and have a discussion but when in the beginning someone expresses a differing opinion, they are immediately labeled a bigot, racist or homophobe. We will never move forward willingly. Everything has to be legislated or criminalized. Voluntarily it is difficult to move forward because when it is convenient, demagogues use this fear to further special interests. You know I am not referring to this topic alone?

  14. when i read this story back, it's so easy to substitute the word "hate" with any number of others: avoids, disregards, dismisses, misjudges, etc etc. the result is always the same: you miss the real person in the process.

    marloes, thank you for stopping by. how true that governments too often set us back when we should be moving forward. until we get mad enough...

    melissa, that is some story! such is the world that i could just see eyes rolling at even the mention of two princes. and yet, if we don't start when our children are small, how will diversity ever be familiar and comfortable?

    slb, yes, bobby wanted to go to the party badly enough that he took a look inside...

    ces, i view being intolerant of some practices as very different than dismissing someone because of their status or race or sexual preference, etc. and yet, you bring up such an important point. if we jump on oneanother with labels of any sort before there is any time to have even a dialogue, nothing gets heard or solved. i know the benefit of listening to and respecting eachothers' points of view in large part because of my precious friendship with you...

  15. Ah labels. We don't like them yet, if it gives us preferential treatment, we make sure the right box is checked. How bigoted is that?

    So we hear a man say "Don't call me (something), I am a person and a human being." Yet if "something" meant a special grant or quota, that person wants to make sure he is known to be "something".

    I don't really want to perseverate on this issue because it's not even what your post is about. I am talking more about the secret bigotry people feel.

  16. ces, what about this example:

    say an otherwise qualified disabled or gay person is not offered a job on the basis of his/her disability or sexual preference. perhaps the manager concludes, "the wheelchair will be more hassle than it's worth" or "our other employees will be uncomfortable working beside someone who is gay"

    following your point, that person then becomes "protected" by laws or quotas developed to assure that this kind of rejection does not/should not happen.

    aren't these two circumstances sufficiently different that they don't merit the same side of the coin?


  17. That is a wonderful definition of bigotry. My son is gay and it hasn't always been easy for him. He finally moved from Montana to Colorado because people are so much less homophobic there. I miss him terribly, and it breaks my heart that he has had to relocate because of intolerance and ignorance.

    Thank you for this post.

  18. Loved it, KJ.
    "You’re someone who hates people you don’t know.”
    How true of all the bigots!
    If only people took a little time to listen.

  19. Touching and sweet story! It's just a stubborn mental block that was removed. I love this post!! Wonderful and can't wait to hear about the wedding and if they behave...

  20. Wonderful story to clarify the point : it is all about knowing each other as a person.

  21. sometimes, it is because we are afraid that we mask our fear with indifference or hatred... it is ignorance that really makes most of us lose out on what is could be a very wonderful experience in life & friendship.

    have a happy wedding party and all the best to Emma and Katy!


  22. The more someone attacks a certain segment the more likely they are to be fighting an inner 'demon' identical to the source of their turmoil.
    Where would we be without an annual 'outting' of a virulent Fundamentalist Preacher who leads tens of thousands of others in his crusade to 'cure' homosexuality...
    schadenfreude to the tenth power.