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?