My wonderful aunt who has lived on the Iron Range for many years has been extremely supportive of “queer” rights. Her son is gay and I knew that it would be safe for me to come out to her. I didn’t know that coming out to her would create a long lasting friendship that would not only benefit myself, but benefit other gay and lesbian couples across the state of Minnesota.
One evening, over the holiday break, I stepped into my aunt’s bedroom and she was munching on some cheese and crackers with venison summer sausage. She delightfully offered me some, “Hey there, have some cheese and crackers!”
She was lying comfortably on her bed watching some late night television, “Come join me! We don’t need to be shy round here.”
Knowing her supportive nature I lay next to her and watched some television and brought up the marriage amendment facing Minnesota voters. We had commonly discussed the matter saying that it was a waste of tax dollars and time to be fiddle-flipping around marginalizing a minority. With these tumultuous economic times, we agreed with Scott Dibble’s stance that this is, “politics of resentment” – myself feeling that this amendment has been nothing but a political football to kick around a minority and a slimy tactic to waste time causing Dayton to back out of his campaign promises. It worked.
But, politics aside, I knew I had to talk about the approach the grassroots movement Minnesota for All Families was taking to make a difference. I told my aunt that an open dialogue about marriage being about love and commitment is more effective than talking about equality and human rights. And she bit in hard asking strategic and progressive questions.
“I don’t think I have really brought this up with anyone. It’s not like it’s every day discussion. How do you even bring about the conversation?” she asked interested.
“It can be awkward,” I said. “because it’s a controversial issue that doesn’t come up much. And it’s best not to be a militant homosexual about it and be in people’s faces. No one likes that. But when a conversation comes up about marriage, or someone is talking about what love is or perhaps even the marriage amendment, push it. We all have our own opinions.”
“That makes sense, no one likes an in your face, hey you, support gay rights because I do approach. It should be natural conversation. Or as natural as possible.”
It was late and we decided to head our separate ways. I went back into the guest bedroom and I hoped that my Aunt would go out there and really stir up the conversation. She, like me, always had a problem with keeping her mouth shut, or in my case, my blog closed.
A couple days later we were sitting down in my aunt’s living room sipping tea and coffee as we sat on her couch. I had gotten back from some holiday adventures even further north than the Iron Range where the cows and the cold weather were the only comfortable conversations one could have. I was happy to be back in the progressive atmosphere of my aunt’s home.
“I was at the bar the other evening and some drunk was blabbering about dem gays and I says, hey, hey you – I am a registered nurse and there is nothing wrong with gay people, I know the research!”
She continued to tell her story, “Then he got real silent and backed off a bit, then a bit later the amendment came up and I stated my beliefs there too, because, why let only the other side’s opinion be stated? I have my right to an opinion too! The old drunk bafoons.”
So, to me, it wasn’t a matter of how to start the conversation. It’s a matter of keeping your ears open and keeping the conversation alive pushing your own beliefs to change the ideas of others who haven’t fully thought out the other side. I would say that the conversation I had with my aunt that I learned to have at my community action trainings at the end of 2011, will surely make a difference come voting time 2012. It works – don’t hesitate to open up the conversation.