Social Question

christeb's avatar

My daughter is gay? How obliged am I to homophobic in-laws?

Asked by christeb (37points) April 24th, 2016

I started dating my, (now) husband when my middle daughter was ten years old. When she was about 16 after struggling with her identity for a couple of years, she came out to us as gay. We supported her immediately and advocate openly for rights of all LGBT. However, I never discussed this or any other controversial subject during family functions with my boyfriend’s extremely conservative, Christian family. During the family’s political discussions (where everyone seemed to pretty much agree with each other), I always politely excused myself from the conversation and walked away. The issue of LGBT was never brought up during these discussions so I was not overly emotionally invested in their political opinions anyway. I observed my husband deal with his family and their extreme views in the same manner. I did however notice that around the time my daughter came out that my sister-in-law (to-be) became somewhat cold and distant. I wasn’t sure if I was being overly sensitive, but little details like receiving Duck Dynasty camping chairs as a Christmas gift (right around the time there was a backlash for their homophobic views) and not receiving invitations to her house anymore I noticed but may have gone over my head. Then our Save the Date e-mails went out. Within days of sending out our Save the Date wedding announcement a vicious comment was written on my face book page (where I had posted a news article about Texas lawmakers buying a cake to celebrate traditional marriage) from a joint FB account of my boyfriend’s sister and her husband about their feelings of “homosexuals” being an abomination, etc. I immediately began crying and called my husband. After talking to him, I felt reassured it could not have been his sister who wrote the comment and that as soon as she saw what her husband had written she would be horrified and call to say how sorry she was. Not only did that not happen, but within the next 24 hours she chimed in and together they quoted related bible verses, changed their profile picture to “speak truth” and just generally made it clear they were both in agreement with the comments that were made. My husband responded by making a FB statement that he would not tolerate anyone disrespecting his family or making homophobic comments. Although I had made a similar statement, my words had been ignored, but at my husband’s comment she immediately deleted her facebook page and called him on the phone. The conversation was not productive and she said she was sorry for the way we felt, but that was what she believed. After the conversation, I wasn’t sure how to handle her invitation. On one hand we wanted to go ahead and invite her, but my husband kept pushing the conversation about what we should do away. Days before our wedding she sends him a text saying that because she loves him and did not want to cause problems with me she would not be attending our wedding. I cried so hard that I caught a terrible cold the day before our wedding. My husband called her again and after talking to her for over an hour came to me and said she was crazy and they could not reach a resolution. This time his sister expressed that she had a responsibility to her son not to expose him to “homosexual” behavior and that if we were waiting on an apology one was not coming. She told him they had already made the decision not to attend our wedding and my husband agreed that would be best especially considering both my daughter and my daughter’s girlfriend would be there and would not be asked to pretend they weren’t together. I found out later that right before the wedding she texted other family members saying that although her brother wanted her there, he had to do what I wanted him to do, so out of respect for him she was not going to attend. This is not what he and I discussed at all. We were both on the same page of basically complete confusion about what we should do, although in agreement that we supported my daughter. I spent many days from invites all the way to my wedding crying because I knew I would never be able to pretend all was okay at future family functions. Although his sister still does not invite us to functions, his parents occasionally do. When I see her, she smiles and speaks sweetly and I try to do the same. However the strength and energy it takes to do so is so overwhelming I cannot continue to muster the will to do so. I resent that I’m spending my favorite holiday with people I have to pretend with and I am left with a migraine and energy drain that can last for days. I would never allow even my own mother to do and say the things to me that she did, so I’m having a hard time justifying forcing myself to be in her presence. In addition, it is nigh impossible to fake feelings, although it is apparent to me that in my husband’s family that not only would confrontation be unproductive, it would also not be appropriate or welcome. Although his whole family is aware of the situation, everyone pretends the whole thing never happened. Am I being fair in expecting the right to withdraw from family functions where I have to interact with her? And if not, how do I handle my body’s toxic reaction to being forced to repress my feelings during and after these interactions?

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18 Answers

Seek's avatar

Woah. That is really hard to read without paragraphs.

NerdyKeith's avatar

I’d remove all of these people from your Facebook page immediately. You’re better off disassociating from such bigoted people. They are too negative. You are totally right to withdraw from attending family functions if your husband’s sister is going to be there. It doesn’t sound that she’s really sorry, especially with that half apology.

Seek's avatar

Ok, powered through.

1. Anyone willing to spend money in order to give a backhanded insult is too stupid for you to worry about.

2. Be glad they weren’t at your wedding, no matter what it took to get them not there. Trust me, asshole family members are the last people you want there on your day.

3. There is absolutely no reason at all that these people should be given the power to make you cry. They’re spending their life hating people, trying to please the God that gave them two rules: Treat others how you want to be treated and love your neighbor as yourself.

They have WAY more problems than you do, and should be thought of with all necessary pity, and otherwise completely disregarded.

christeb's avatar

Seek: Sorry about the lack of paragraphs. This is my first question and did not mean to make it so long either.

NerdyKeith: Yes, I do remove all people who do this from Facebook usually pretty quickly. It took me about 24 hours because she was family.

Thank you both for the support. I’m from a very conservative family in Texas and most of the time feel like I’m petty and unforgiving because I can’t seem to accept their beliefs and just get along with them. (and by beliefs I mean racism, homephobia, etc.)

Seek's avatar

@christeb Believe me, I understand. I’m a recovering Pentecostal, and when I started my “recovery”, I basically cut off contact with that entire side of my family. It was incredibly hard, but frankly those people are making a choice to be hateful and negative, and you have every right (as I did) to have no dog in their fight.

Judi's avatar

What does your husband think? Is he willing to avoid family functions where she might be there?

Jak's avatar

Reading between the lines suggests, to me anyway, that the husband may be lukewarm inn his support and not ready to cut family ties. Which is a shame, because the wedding vows clearly state; “Forsaking all others and cleaving only unto you”. He needs to declare himself as your advocate and just stop attending functions. This smile in your face shit has never been something I could stomach, and I refuse to be put in a situation like that. This is not to say that he should not see his family ever, but the functins with the fake, backhanded shit have got to go. You don’t need the upset, and they don’t need to eat of the cake of high handed moral superiority.

christeb's avatar

Judi my husband does not push us to go to family functions where she might be, but his mother asks me directly and I have been pushing myself.

However Jak is right that he is lukewarm in his support to cut family ties. I myself have been lukewarm in cutting the family ties, but after I went to his parents’ house yesterday and sister arrived, I excused myself early and realized I could not do it anymore. I called him at work and told him this.

Our discussion of this has led him to say that there needs to be some resolution of this situation because as he states “we have every right to be at family functions as she does”. He feels this can be done by setting up a meeting between me, his sister and himself and explaining to her our feelings. Once we do this, he feels we should be able to interact and be cordial. I do not see this as working for me, so this is where I’m having a dilemma.

I should say that my husband has always been very close to his family and it was knowing this that made me so upset before the wedding. I knew he would end up having to choose in some ways and I didn’t want to be the cause of that.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

1. Holy shit that was hard to read
2. You rock
3. I don’t like some of my in laws either I realize my wife can never turn her back on her family so I put up with some things I normally would not. YOU are not obligated to put up with them but I would just avoid drama when possible. Don’t try to make your husband distance himself unless it is his choice but you sure can. You are a good mother and you have a good husband plus a brave daughter. Count your blessings.

Jak's avatar

You may end up needing to rethink your relatinship. In what way is your daughter being affected by this? she is an important factor here. I broke off an engagement years ago with a man who had a very traditional family from Sicily. They were subtly ugly to me and our second Christmas together they specifically invited him and not me. He went. I broke it off the next day. He cried and sent roses by the dozen for months. My house was literally overflowing with roses. I remained steadfast. I knew that this issue would crop up again and again. It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t nice and I did not choose to start the fight but I by god ended it. And the crap you’re dealking with is exactly what I refused to ever have in my life. This will never end. People like that never stop.

CWOTUS's avatar

Welcome to Fluther. Hell of a first question. Ditto on the need for paragraph breaks. But that’s not why you’re here.

May I suggest that if your husband supports you and your daughter (emotionally and figuratively, that is), and if your mother-in-law is specifically including you in invitations to family events … that you just go, and rely upon them – those two, specifically (have faith in their honor and decency, in other words) – to defend you from any overt cruelty, intimidation, bullying and other bad behavior from anyone else at the event that you’ve been invited to, and you concentrate on defending your daughter (and her friend, if she’s included at events) from the same.

In fact, you might ask your mother-in-law directly to “pray for you and your family”. Not “to change” or “to see the light” or “to change your daughter”, but just the kind of “know peace, know God” prayer that I’m sure true Christians know full well and understand. Their religion may inform their politics in certain manners, and there’s nothing you can do about that. But their religion should be about love, should it not? Ask those who understand that to put that belief into practice.

Should they fail to meet your expectations, then you can discuss that with them and make plans based on what you learn then. But you can’t live any kind of life afraid of “what someone might say or do”. That’s how the terrorists win.

Good luck to you.

christeb's avatar

Jak, I believe my daughter is unaware of the whole conflict. I have tried my best not to discuss it in front of her. If she does know, she is not letting on.

Usually my daughter pretends not to care about others who don’t support her. But this is a child who up until her teens was always surrounded by family and friends who showered her with love. Not only did she come out as gay, but also vegetarian and atheist, causing everyone she knows (we live in Texas), except immediate family to withdraw from her and I can’t believe that loss of acceptance it is not affecting her.

ibstubro's avatar

I don’t see any way out of complying with your husband’s request:
“He feels this can be done by setting up a meeting between me, his sister and himself and explaining to her our feelings. Once we do this, he feels we should be able to interact and be cordial.”

You have the upper hand there. You’ll have the opportunity to pin your husband down to certain minimal standards that his sister is going to find difficult to match. If mom is so worried about her baby boy attending functions, maybe she should be included, too.

Honestly, what religion are these people? It is (literally) crazy to hold this much animosity against the the non-blood child of an in-law.
Have you told us all the story? Was there something more that set sis off?

christeb's avatar

ibstubro – they have not directed any animosity toward my daughter directly. They are very polite to her when they see her and as they told us all of the anti-gay comments have been made “in love” and that we are thinking with our human minds while they are being led by the holy spirit. They do not believe their actions contradict treating us with love.

The religion in question is a large, charismatic, non-denominational church and their beliefs are not at all unusual in this place, especially in the years where rapid changes in LGBT rights have been made. As far as more to the story, I can only say that I have always avoided all political or religious controversy when with all of my husband’s family. On the other hand, I have openly advocated for LGBT rights on my face book page, although not excessively. My daughter too has openly stated atheist beliefs on her face book page. It is clear I am the opposite of what she would want in her family, but until we started planning our wedding, I thought we had a mutual respect regarding our disagreements.

Also I want to note that my sister in law’s husband is much more confrontational than she is and it is he who made the initial comments. He has confronted other family and/or friends about their tattoos, drinking, whatever he feels they are doing that is ungodly. It may be okay with them, but it wasn’t with me, although I told him this as politely as I could.

ibstubro's avatar

I don’t understand why the sister should be so concerned about the sexuality of the child of an in-law that she doesn’t even really know. Are you sure she isn’t just a bitch jumping at any sign of weakness? If that’s the case, I’d advocate catching her in the bathroom and putting it on the line for her.

In any case, the way I see it, this is between you and your husband. It’s stupid for you to try to keep him from his family, and short-sighted for you to allow him to go without you. Either he can’t live without the family gatherings and you need to buck up and find a way to make it as bearable as possible, or he needs to tell his family that the situation as it stands is intolerable.

I think you need to give serious thought into the meeting your husband is proposing. Then you need to do some serious planning for the meeting.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Your responsibility is to your daughter and your own family. Having your daughter exposed to negative, homophobic attitudes is not healthy for her mental health. She has to be your priority.

However, it seems to me that you have tried very hard to remain part of your husband’s family unit by turning a blind eye to their attitudes. I think you’ve gone above and beyond already. I would unfriend them or block them from your Facebook page if there is ever a repeat of homophobic comments being posted. Yes, she can believe whatever she wants. You don’t have to read those comments or potentially expose your child to them. So one more such post, block her.

As to attending family events. If you want to go the event, go. Otherwise, don’t. If your husband wants to still go and see his family, that’s his choice. Don’t try to stop him or to get in between him and his family, just let him know that your own child comes first.

None of my family came to my second wedding. They were invited. I’m the black sheep, so they all refused. As the saying goes, that says more about them than about me. The people who were at our wedding love us and care about us. People who love and care about us are the only people I’d want at my wedding. So try to put the sad moments behind you and focus on the positive aspects of your wedding day. You can’t change people. You can only change how you react to their behaviour and attitudes.

Zaku's avatar

I’m not going to read that text block, but if I had a gay daughter and homophobic relatives, in-laws or otherwise, I would stand by my daughter against any BS from anyone, and call them out or do whatever else I thought was called for.

So I’d say you have zero obligation to them, when it comes to supporting your daughter.

msh's avatar

It’s not your monkey to carry on your back. Support your daughter. Support her spouce. Show love and positive support- the parents should catch on.
The couple having children may expedite this evolution on the in-law’s outlooks.
If you get cornered by them for ‘behind the hand’ comments- look at them without expression, then turn away with an : “Excuse me, please”, and move elsewhere.
Cudos for the positives for those you love and are supporting.
Nice job.

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