Some people, and some groups, seem to beg you to hate them.
And, it’s easy to do. Saying we hate a person, or a group, allows us to dismiss them, like Glinda did to the Wicked Witch of the West. “Be gone, you have no power here.”
Out of sight, out of mind. Once dismissed, we don’t have to give the people we hate another thought. If they’re in a group, they’re all the same. They’re the enemy, such as Trump, Nazis, the KKK, gay Republicans, Born Again Christians, child molesters, Trump voters, axe murderers, The Salvation Army, Scientologists, the Taliban, straight white men, the NRA, Mitch McConnell, etc. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out of my heart, mind, and soul.
And yet, and yet, many of us are inspired by the teachings of a man who told us to forgive people as so much as 70 times seven, which means always. “Forgive them? They haven’t asked for forgiveness. The hell with that,” we say. “They’re all evil, I hope they die, and I want nothing more to do with them.”
Hate is easy peasy. Except, when it’s not.
Take for example, a residential drug and alcohol facility for, among others, furloughed convicts, many with psychiatric problems. Their everyday dialogue is described by one staff person as “rude, crude, and lewd,” filled with homophobia and racism. Recently, a bisexual staff counselor came out to her small group session, telling the men that she wouldn’t tolerate any more of their anti-gay or anti-Black talk. Word got back to the facility’s executive director, who immediately wrote to compliment and thank the counselor for speaking up. The boss was thrilled the issue was being dealt with so openly and firmly.
Likewise, another staff person wrote to the counselor, saying, “I want to express to you my sincere gratitude and appreciation for addressing the problem of gay slurs and homophobia with the men in the Friday morning group session. I heard about it from a client who was very appreciative of your actions … Addressing the problem of gay slurs and homophobia … may run some risk of criticism and attack, especially from some of our more ‘macho’ minded clients. The benefit, however, is helping our GLBTQ clients to feel safer, accepted, valued, and respected as they seek to work through whatever substance abuse or mental health issues they may be facing in life.”
The bisexual counselor replied, “I appreciate your kind words. I did get some pushback in group, but I just know what is right, and what is wrong, and all of the ‘jokes’ felt so wrong. I asked the guys in group on two separate occasions to think about how their jokes would make someone who identified as GLBTQ feel. It shut the slurs and joking down temporarily. Finally, I banned it completely from my groups because it kept coming up, and I was just tired of it. It was too much for me to hear because I found zero humor in the talks whatsoever.
“I have also asked that they do not use the N-word in my group or in my presence. We have an African American group member, and I couldn’t believe I heard the N-word being thrown around like it was nothing. That word is no longer used in my groups either.”
She added, “I identify as bisexual, and every time these derogatory, hurtful-to-the-core sayings are used in group, my heart starts to beat faster and louder. I feel tension rising within, but I never want to be the type of group facilitator that pushes my personal agenda onto the class.
“The feelings I had reminded me of high school where I saw several popular boys picking on a gay male classmate. Of course, at that time, I didn’t feel I had a voice, as a freshman, to stop the hate that I saw. Today, I am a grown woman, and I can stop it during the groups that I facilitate. Although, I ‘came out’ to the group that day, I knew that it was wrong what they were doing from the first ‘joke.’ I asked the guys if in jail they talked in the manner that they were talking in my group about this topic. They stated that the men who were gay or bisexual … enjoyed the ‘banter’ and the ‘jokes’ because they laughed along with them. I took this time to share that although others may laugh with them, it ultimately is not coming from funny laughter, but from uncomfortable laughter most likely. I further shared that what they were doing was not only hurtful, but in other systems would be considered cause for serious concern.”
What does this great example of the power of standing up for yourself, and for others, at work, and in life, have to do with the topic of “hate,” other than we hate straight male prisoners who bully LGBT and queer people? But what about our hate of The Salvation Army? We still hate The Salvation Army, right? They’re homophobic, or maybe not.
This incident happened at a Salvation Army alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility. The executive director, who recently recommended the promotion of an openly gay employee, and who wrote to compliment and thank the bisexual counselor, reports directly to The Salvation Army. The staff person who thanked the counselor, and who emailed to tell me what happened, is an officer in The Salvation Army.
OK, so maybe we don’t hate those members and employees of The Salvation Army, but we hate everyone else in the group. It’s easier that way, at least for us, because we don’t have to give it much thought. They’re all the same. Or, are they?
Two Guys and A Dog is a semi-regular column from Brian McNaught, who has been a leading educator on LGBTQ issues globally since 1974. Visit Brian-McNaught.com to access his books and DVDs for free. “No one has done a better job of chronicling what it is like to be gay in America.” – Former U.S. Congressman Barney Frank.