Discussing Proposition 8 With My Dad

My parents like to watch TV during dinner. Last night, we were watching the Chinese news, and a segment came on about the Chinese efforts to promote Yes on 8. I figured that was a good time to open up a discussion on Proposition 8 with my parents.

My mom isn’t very political (unless it’s Taiwanese politics, in which case she gets all riled up), so I asked my dad about what he thought. He said that he believes in traditional marriage and that the alternative is “weird,” so he was going to vote for the ban on gay marriage.

When my dad asked what I was going to vote, I told him that I would vote No on 8, because what does one couple’s marriage have anything to do with anyone else’s marriage? I also noted that “tradition” can change over time because of changes in society.

When the US was first created, only white males could vote. Black people were property. Over the years, black people became free and were given the right to vote (but still were segregated for another 100 years). Women were given the right to vote (but are still to this day often paid less in the workplace for the same job that men do). Yes, the right to vote is somewhat different than the right to marry, but my point is that tradition is not necessarily static. After all, interracial marriage was banned until 1967.

(Side note) In typing that last paragraph, I noticed that I wrote “were given the right to vote.” So, is voting (and marriage) a “right” if it has to be “given” to people?

Anyway. The conversation ended pretty quickly after that (agree to disagree), dinner finished, and I went back to listening to the Savage Love Podcast (also called the Savage Lovecast), which I newly discovered yesterday. Amazing podcast, by the way; I think I’m in love with Dan Savage.

One of the callers on a recent podcast was from an 18 year old guy who was contemplating coming out to his extended family as a way of saying “I’m gay” and “vote No on Prop 8” at the same time. Dan Savage’s advice was to bite the bullet and just do it. Not only will it be liberating to come out, but it might also mean a few more votes against Proposition 8.

Nervous out of my mind but drawing courage and inspiration from the Savage Lovecast caller, I approached my dad in the kitchen while he was washing the dishes and said “Would it change your mind about Proposition 8 if it meant that I couldn’t get married?”

At first, my dad didn’t really understand what I meant. I looked straight at him, waiting for him to understand. My mom came in and talked about something completely unrelated. I asked her what she felt about Proposition 8, and she said she didn’t know anything about it; she usually just votes for whatever my dad does.

After my mom walked into the other room, there was an awkward moment with my dad (or at least it was awkward for me). Then I asked if he understood what I had said. He said he did, but I’m not going to get married now anyway. He said “You can’t even support yourself, how do you expect to get married?”

I said that that wasn’t my point, and he said that I’m certainly not going to get married to a MAN (his inflection). If I want to marry a woman, it’s okay. I said it doesn’t really work that way, but then he just went back to talking about how I don’t have a decent job and can’t support myself, so how can I think about marriage. He started rattling off expenses that I can’t afford with my current salary (rent, car insurance, gas, food, etc.).

There was no arguing with him. My dad is probably the most stubborn person I’ve ever met. He changed the subject, and there was no going back. I gave up and walked off.

This was the second time that I tried to come out to my parents. The first time was in March of 2002 when I told them over the phone. They didn’t believe me, saying I was too young, I hadn’t met the right girl, it’s just a phase, etc. We haven’t talked about it since. My parents are traditional Chinese parents, where they completely ignore anything remotely shameful and only talk about the things that make the family sound good.

So, in the end, I tried to come out to my dad, and it didn’t really work. My coming out stories are never that exciting. Chances are, we’ll never talk about this again. And chances are I didn’t change his vote either.

This makes me wonder if I ever actually need to tell my parents that I’m gay. I don’t think they’ll ever approve or even really understand it. They’ll continue to ignore or sidestep the situation. But so what? I think I’ve reached a point where I don’t really care if my parents accept it or not. If their opinion on this doesn’t matter, why should I worry about what they think? Do I even need to continue trying to come out to them?

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16 Responses to “Discussing Proposition 8 With My Dad”

  1. J. Says:

    M, please be bold. For the coworker’s story, bring it up to the HR so they shut her up. For your dad, let’s him know that voting NO it very important to you. He can vote otherwise, but if he vote NO, you will appreciate him very much. If you can’t confront him in person, leave a written note after breakfast before going to work.

    He is right on one thing though, that you should be by yourself. If the work doesn’t pay what you deserve, please move on to another job, even move out of town, or move to Canada. With a postgraduate education from a decent school, you can do it.

  2. Prince Gomolvilas Says:

    Hi, Mike, this is a beautifully written post. The fact of the matter is, by now, your parents know that you’re gay. Whether they choose to accept this will be entirely up to them–it’s out of your hands. They may just decide to ignore it for as long as they can. But they may eventually, like my mother, suddenly see “the light” and embrace every part of who you are. Who knows. Asian parents are so unpredictable and a little bit crazy–whether you’re gay or straight. I wish you well either way.

  3. ulla Says:

    wow!

    please please please share your story, do the interview on my blog?

  4. Tricia Says:

    I really don’t understand your dad’s reaction. I think I could understand anger or acceptance, but I don’t think I understand just pretending he didn’t hear what he just heard. So, I just wanted to offer my support. I can see how this would be frustrating for you. My aunt waited for her dad to die to come out. I’m glad you’re not waiting around for that.

  5. Paula Says:

    I’m going to suggest a different tactic. Here’s my perspective as a straight, married, very traditional mom of three kids. To someone like me, having a family member announce that they are gay can feel like having the world turned upside down. And yes, I have experienced it. I don’t think you should give up on ever having your parents understand, but I also don’t think you should try to make them understand in a confrontational manner. And I really think you should leave proposition 8 out of it; you can’t ask them to accept that their son’s experience of life fall outside of their traditional social understanding and in the same breath ask them to help change the social tradition they are grounded in. Your dad’s vote on proposition 8 is less important to you than your dad’s understanding will be.
    I personally support proposition 8, and I have a gay family member who opposes it. I doubt we will ever discuss this particular issue, because it is not one we will ever see eye to eye on. I do hope that he can understand I am not trying to hurt him or other gays by defending traditional marriage. I hope you can understand the same. I believe that marriage is the institution that ties a father and mother to one another and to their children. I do believe that such marriage was instituted by God, and I do not believe it is in society’s interest to change that. I sincerely hope that you and your parents will be able to understand one another. Love for a family member, and understanding of their perspective, does not necessarily mean agreeing on everything. Good luck to you.
    -Paula

  6. Enzo Says:

    VOTE YES ON PROP 8!

    I am going to vote Yes for Prop 8 no matter what any poll predicts. I don’t have anything against gay and lesbians, it is their lifestyle. But you have to admit that they are a minority of population and honesltly they are different than the straight people.
    So why should the majority give in and change the centuries old instituation and definition of marriage only because some very minor part or popultion wants so. I would even probably consider it as a personal insult. And it is definetely an insult and vulgarization of marriage for most of religios people, for whom the marriage has sacred meaning as well. So why don’t anybody want to protect the feeling of religous people, for example, ah?, the majority of which do support the definition of marriage as a union of man and women only. It’s been like this for centuries! Are we in postion to change that? Let’s instead come up with a new institution specially intended for gay and lesbians couples whith equal social
    regulation as traditonal marriage but call it something different.

    The long term goal behind the legalilization of same-sex marrigae is very obvious – it is to acustom the soceity to the idea that they are normal as everybody else. But the truth is they are not!
    I am not saying this with any negative sense, I am simply admitting the obvious – they, and their life style is not traditional and different!

  7. Giggall Says:

    I agree 100% with Paula. Marriage is one of God’s many sovereign designs, I wish more people would read Romans 1:18. Marriage is for man and woman, with no disrespect to gay people. These all all man made laws over looking Gods laws. I encourage to vote yes on 8.

  8. Jason Says:

    Oddly, my mother treats this issue in much the same way, but she’s in Tennessee, where gay marriage was already banned. Anyway, have hope. They’ll come around some day. For some like my father, the road has involved joining Focus on the Family as a reaction to my coming out, but I think even he’ll come around too.

    As for the argument above that “traditional” marriage is being protected by Prop 8 and similar measures, I have a few quibbles. 1) One person’s tradition is another’s abomination, so keep your religion off my laws. 2) We’re talking about civil marriage here, the kind that deals with tax laws, property rights, etc., not religious marriage. 3) If marriage is about two folks protecting children, why to straight folks with kids get divorced so much? Seems like the children lose there.

    Anyway, hang in there. I understand how ignoring the issue can be more painful in some ways than outright rejection, but at least if they’re ignoring it, they’re probably thinking about it.

  9. Amy Says:

    I just want to say I love you, and I accept you the way you are. I think your parents will come around eventually, but family is more than just biological family. You have many close friends who understand you, and judging from the comments on this blog, tons of people who may not have met you in person, but understand what you’re going through. I think you are really brave, and… Tradition is a stupid reason to keep a thing. Traditions are meant to be questioned every generation, and updated to fit in with modern times. Change is good. And a society can be judged by its treatment of people on the fringes. Just because there are less gays and lesbians than straight people doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the same rights. Vote NO on prop 8.

  10. johnbisceglia Says:

    Of course vote NO on PROP 8, PLEASE, but it is a sickening, disgusting vote in the first place.

    Imagine a heterosexual man sitting back peacefully as society voted on whether he, his wife, and his children deserved the rights and protections of civil marriage. What would HE think of PROP 8 in CA? Would he even THINK of opening up his wallet to fund a PR drive to gain a chance to “win” this civil right? Or would it be “Live Free or Die”?

    Yet we (the gay community), and our allies have agreed – AGREED – to hash out this “debate” with a public PROP 8 lottery (it’s not a debate…I KNOW I DESERVE MARRIAGE).

    Here’s my “NON-Debate for PROP 8” – It really doesn’t matter what others may “think” or “not think” at this point. I will not pay an organization for Human Rights, Family Rights, Civil Rights, or Constitutional Rights. I will simply refuse to file my IRS tax returns until my FAMILY is equal under the law.

    VOTE ON THAT!

  11. Cain Hamm Says:

    Christians! Don’t be fooled by a Mormon LDS trick! Save Christianity and vote NO on proposition 8! See http://www.Baytzim.com/ for the real, Christian, story.

    BTW: The Mormons have been instructed by their leaders to deface and vandalize their own signs to make themselves look like victims. It’s an old trick, and a shame the Media fell for it.

  12. julian Says:

    For all the “Yes on prop 8” people above, I assume you are all people of God. This is something I’ll probably never understand being an atheist so please forgive me, I don’t mean to attack anyone just stating the argument.

    By your God, we are all created equal, I love just as much as you, I want children probably more then you (cuz u can), I pay more taxes alone then an average American family! I deserve to be treated equal! If a straight woman can marry a total drug junkie to be the father of her child, fu*k I should be able to marry a man who can support a real family! a real man! Please EXPLAIN to me the fairness in that, is such what your God wants??? Just because its been this way for 100s of years doesn’t mean its fair, women can vote now right? less you forget that!

    Now, your God defined marriage yes, but marriage is not “owned” by your religion or your God-righteous perspective. Marriage existed long before Christ, all over the world, even people of other religion. Who are you to say what it should be and whom its for? So the government put it up for a vote, but what is unfair is that basic human rights should not be voted with influence of religion. The biggest historical conflicts were because of religion, I personally have no faith in a world ran by religion, no offense, just a bad proven track record.

    It is a sad day when America has to “vote” for human rights, free world you say? Christian countries allow same sex marriages: Belgium, Canada, Netherlands, Spain and Norway. We just elected a black president! yet such inequality still exist…

  13. auradis Says:

    Wow your dad sounds so much like my mom. I’m not a homosexual, but the whole avoiding-the-topic and focusing on money/occupation…Chinese parents are so similar to one another. I wish you luck in communicating with your parents!

  14. Kevin Says:


    I don’t think I would ever come out to my parents. Like you said, they’re really good at sidestepping the reality of the situation.
    My mom says that she’s a traditional taiwanese woman and doesn’t like to change, so she voted for McCain and yes on 8… I couldn’t tell her how sad I was when she told me that…

    Its weird though, because I know my parents just want me to be successful and happy, but at the same time that would go against a lot of their traditional values. I don’t think they’ll be able to understand or change her ways, so I don’t tell them. I do tell them that I am happy though…

    (I have a feeling that parents will always have something to pick at anyways. So even if I were extremely successful with everything in the world, they’d still have something to say…)

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