Him: Thanks for inviting me.
Me: This turned out to be a pretty good party, right?
Him: It’s so much fun!
Me: Did you eat your pie?
Him: Not yet. I will. I hid it. I know where it is. I’ll eat it.
Me: I worry you don’t eat enough.
Him: Sometimes I don’t, but it’s under control.
Me: Okay. How are you otherwise?
Him: Good. I go to one of the best design schools in the country. I have an internship 30 year-olds are trying to get. I’m working on many different projects.
Me: Ha. Sounds like you’re talking to your Dad.
Me: For a second it sounded like you were talking to your Dad, just now. Explaining your accomplishments.
Him: Could be. My parents are really down on me.
Me: Really? You’re so successful. That’s crazy to me.
Him: They constantly make me justify myself and they constantly make me feel inferior. Like I’m somehow disappointing them. I think I might hate them a little.
Him: No. This is real. This is something that is real to me.
Me: Okay, then. (Pause) Doesn’t sound like they recognize what a powerful young Homosexual they created. They should realize they’re lucky.
Him: They don’t. I think I hate myself, sometimes, too.
Him: I think I hate myself sometimes.
Him: What do you mean, no?
Me: No. That won’t do… That won’t do at all.
Him: It won’t?
Me: No. We can’t have that. We can’t have talented young Gays like you walking around hating yourselves. The rest of us need you to be vibrant, and strong. We all need each other.
Him: But they have a way of… Well… They have a way of tearing me down. Even when I tell them I’m doing good in school and I’m kind of an over-achiever. They always bring it back to me being Gay. And I’m made to feel like I disappointed them, or that I can’t possibly make up for it.
Me: They’re using shame.
Me: Yes. They’re asking you to feel ashamed.
Do you ever feel, around them, you can’t quite exactly be yourself?
Him: Oh yes. All the time. They make me feel like there’s a whole part of me I have to hide. Especially when my extended family is around. Like, they all know I’m Gay, but I’m not supposed to behave too much that way because it might rock the boat.
Me: Heavens to Betsy. What would Aunt Miriam say?
Him: Exactly. And my brother is going on and on about all the girls he’s dating and I can’t exactly chime in and say, well, I was naked in a hot tub with two other boys last weekend and it was weird, can I?
Me: Well, you could.
Him: My mother would have a fit.
Me: Of course she would. She’s shaming you. She is using your own fears and insecurities about your sexuality against you. She knows that, on some level, you feel bad about your lovely, unique Gayness, and she uses that shame to keep you in line. Straight people have been shaming Gays for thousands of years. It’s bred into their culture. They don’t even know they’re doing it, sometimes… Them trying to shame us is almost second nature to them.
Him: That sounds a lot like what she does. I have so much resentment of her. I hate my Dad for going along with it. They don’t treat me like they treat my brother.
Me: We need to remove all this hate from your person.
Him: Huh? Maybe. I hate my parents and I hate myself.
Me: I don’t care about your parents, but I won’t have you hating yourself, young man. That won’t do at all. Who do you hate more, yourself, or your parents?
Him: Oh! My parents. They’re really awful to me. They make me wish I wasn’t Gay or wasn’t here, even.
Me: That kills me to hear. All the more reason, then, to remove your own self-hatred, right? Then you can direct all of your anger where it belongs.
Him: At my parents?
Me: Or just bigoted Straight people in general. Three things need to happen, in order for a person to experience shame. What are they?
1) It must be agreed upon that certain sets of behavior are shameful, in this case exhibiting your homosexuality.
2) Someone must identify that set of behaviors and invoke shame upon the other person. This is done very blatantly, like yelling at someone, or very subtly, like avoiding eye contact or withholding affection. This is the type of shaming it sounds like your parents are doing.
Him: Okay. They do that, yes.
Me: 3) Someone must accept shame. The other person must decide to act in a shameful manner. Do you find yourself leaving the room? Acting contrite? Trying to make up for your ‘Gay outbursts?’
Him: Yeah. That happens a lot. But what can I do when they’re making me feel ashamed?
Me: You just took all the power away from yourself – They’re making me feel ashamed, you said. Who’s emotions are they?
Me: Exactly. So who’s in charge of those feelings?
Me: Exactly. So who makes you feel a certain way?
Me: You. Now you took the power back.
Him: But how do I keep from feeling ashamed?
Me: Identify and address it when it happens. Say something about it. Say, “I can feel you trying to make me feel ashamed, but what you don’t understand is that I’m the opposite of ashamed. I’m proud that I act, live and love the way I do, so I can’t accept your shame. It’s not my shame, it’s yours.” Just give the shame right back to them.
Him: I can do that?
Me: You can do that. Try it sometime. Feels good.
Him: Sounds hard to train yourself to feel and act that way.
Me: It requires vigilance. You have to keep reminding yourself.
Him: I’ll give it a shot. Do you think I still have time left to change my behavior?
Me: How old are you?
Him: Nineteen. It might be too late.
Me: Nineteen?? You got nothing but time. We only have the rest of our lives. We’ll get it right.