Trans*forming Family

thoughts on the transition journey of our entire family, from the proud mother of a transgender youth

A line in the sand drawn with a chicken beak

I’m not sure Dan Cathy realized what a can of worms he was opening when he spoke to The Baptist Press  and stated that his company’s position is that they are supportive of “the biblical definition of the family unit.” The resulting spotlight that shone on Mr. Cathy’s other remarks on the subject and the donations made through Chick-fil-A’s charitable organization WinShape revealed that the comments by Dan Cathy were more than just a one-off statement made by someone who works for the company. For many, patronizing Chick-fil-A meant financially supporting the organizations that condemn LGBTQ individuals, including one organization that is a designated hate group.

The resulting backlash seems to have surprised many people. On one hand, i am hearing people who don’t understand why “the gays” are so upset over one man’s words. On the other, i am hearing shock that so many people lined up for the Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. I can think of no better example of the U.S. culture war than this.

I’ve seen several articles over the past few days (including one i shared here previously) about peoples’ personal experience, mostly on Facebook, with friends and family over this topic. I’ve had my own similar experience.

I have a friend i’ve known for about five years. We met through the local homeschooling community. I’ve always known she is more conservative than i am, both politically and religiously, but we usually avoided those topics and otherwise got along well. When her father became ill several years ago due to Alzheimer’s disease, she and i became much closer, since i lost both of my grandmothers to that disease and was close to my mom as she cared for her mother right through the end. When my son disclosed that he was transgender earlier this year, this friend was one of many who offered support and praised our courage.

When i checked my Facebook news feed on August 1st and saw that she posted a photo of her young son at Chick-fil-A, along with comments from her about the appreciation day as well as other posts from her speaking in support of the day and Dan Cathy, i felt hurt, angry, confused, and sad. I knew that she was Facebook “friends” with some other teenagers from our homeschooling community (thankfully not my son), and i felt horror that they would see those images. For the first day or two, i couldn’t respond. I didn’t know how, or what to say. Honestly, if i had seen her car in the drive-thru of a local Chick-fil-A on a random weekday, i wouldn’t have thought much of it. I know that one of the local store franchise owners is gay-friendly; i know of at least one gay person who has worked there, and i have some local gay friends who don’t plan to stop eating there. But to go so boldly and proudly on that  day, the day that Mike Huckabee declared was a day to

affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we espouse

what could that possibly mean except that she agreed with Dan Cathy’s statement and everything he stands for? And furthermore, since the media storm that followed his statement, there’s no way she could not  know about the money that is being donated to the anti-lgbt causes. Is she really okay with her money going there?

So, after a few days, she wondered aloud on Facebook why everyone couldn’t just get along. She said she shops at both JCPenney and Chick-fil-A. I guess that somehow eased her conscience? At that point, i felt the need to respond. I tried to express how much it hurt to see her supporting a company that actively works to suppress the rights of my son and his community. I tried to explain that once you have knowledge of where a company spends its money, you have a responsibility for what you’ll do with that knowledge. I tried to be respectful and well-spoken, keeping in mind our years of friendship. She deleted me as her friend and blocked me so that i can no longer see or contact her on Facebook at all. Our difference of opinion meant that i am no longer worthy to be part of her life.

However, one thing that this experience has showed me, is that this controversy is a line-in-the-sand issue. I think those opposed to same-sex marriage are worried: they have a President who has affirmed same-sex marriage, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been repealed, Proposition 8 has been ruled unconstitutional, and there are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender celebrities, politicians, musicians, athletes, and television show characters all making LGBTQ life real to everyday U.S. Americans. And i think the gay community is fed up, tired of being bullied and marginalized and treated as less-than instead of equal-to.

I think this is about a lot more than one man’s opinion or the right to free speech. It’s about the shape of our nation’s future for LGBTQ people, and whether we are going to let a particular conservative dogmatic religious viewpoint dominate the lives of others, or whether we are going to stand up and say “enough!” and demand equality. Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A aren’t the cause of oppression for the gay community, but the kind of words they speak and the organizations they support are at the root of the oppression that the gay community faces on a daily basis. It is the belief that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans* people can be changed, cured, and/or should not exist that is at the heart of LGBTQ inequality. I think that is why this controversy has sparked such a reaction, and i think the reaction is long overdue. I, for one, have decided i will no longer be silent for fear of offending. This battle is too important. I know what side of the line i’m on, and i am proud to be here.





22 responses to “A line in the sand drawn with a chicken beak

  1. pasupatidasi August 5, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    wonderfully put! i had to add some of my own thoughts in my reblog of your post. i feel that it is important to vote with our dollars. and of course, that is what the throngs of ‘anti-gay’ folk that chose to line up that day were doing too….as for me, i will not eat there and give my ‘green energy’ to this franchise.
    sorry about your facebook friend, but so proud of people like you, (and i like to think, me) who can and do try to bridge the gap by overlooking the narrow mindedness of some of our acquaintances. realising that if my existence and the existence of my child, once being out in the open should offend them, it is they who have bombed the bridge…i feel sad for them.

  2. ginak2012 August 5, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    Proud to be standing right alongside you! So sorry that the homeschooling “friend” responded that way. I don’t understand why they are all so scared to just have a dialogue about these issues.

    • transbeautiful [Karen] August 5, 2012 at 8:36 pm

      It was a sad experience. But good has come from it. I made what my husband jokingly refers to as a “warning post” on Facebook which i considered sharing here, but decided not to, which basically stated that i usually keep my opinions to myself unless asked, but can no longer do that, and why. I shared some statistics about LGBTQ youth suicide and homelessness rates as well as the statistics on the number of youth who identify as lesbian/gay/bisexual/trans* who are in my state’s foster care system. And i basically said that anyone who supports organizations that actively work to tell these kids that they shouldn’t exist is part of the problem and i am going to speak out against them, even if that means losing friends. I thought i’d lose more friends, but actually i’ve had several people re-share my post, and i’ve gained a few new friends from it. So…a silver lining, i guess?

      • Dave August 6, 2012 at 7:52 am

        —> No academic sounding mini-lectures this time, I promise! <—

        Just a few things I want to say to Karen and regular readers of this blog. First, that Facebook status she mentioned wasn't just bold, it led to meaningful and respectful dialogue between some of her mutual friends on the issue who hold different views on homosexuality and civil rights like marriage. Something to think about when you are worried about being more open about such topics.

        Next, I have "known" Karen (for a while) online in various formats, from message boards to social media to blogs. Yes, during all of that time she has always been as caring and intelligent as she sounds on this blog. You may have suspected as much, but there's confirmation for you. Along with others we had previously discussed our support in general way for rights and well-being of groups such as the LGBT community, but obviously it's always different when things hit home.

        By sharing so much of her journey and that of her family (as much as they are willing to let he share) on issues ranging from religion to political engagement to music preferences and more, Karen has made herself "real" to those who have known her online and in effect has asked others to be just as genuine. She isn't just some semi-pretend character assembled from her most flattering social attributes and cropped photos for the benefit of an online audience. So when she began sharing this new chapter about her son Jacob, it wasn't just some remote sounding story from far away. It felt personal. This is part of the gift she shares that I am sure some of you can feel by just by reading this blog.

        Other than a high school chum I recently reconnected with at a reunion who lives on the other side of the country, I know very few GLBT people. Including him there are only two others, who I see once in a while, that I've met within the last year or two but that I don't know too well (and who are much older). I have no extremely close and personal friends, immediate relatives, or people of similar intimacy who have come out as GLBT. So for me, these issues (like the story with Chik-fil-A), while not unimportant, have had a kind of distance to them.

        Thanks to people like Karen and to her willingness to share so much of herself (sometimes, I suspect, with trepidation), this is changing. I am more aware of how my lack of personal connections to a community can create silent and unintentional neglect or indifference. Yes, it is hard to decide how to be pro-actively supportive. Every major corporation seems to have ties to sweat shops, environmental disasters, unsafe or unhealthy ingredients or components in their products, animal cruelty, third world dictators, modern day slavery, or people with political views one may not like. As Karen mentioned, there are gay and gay-friendly people who plan to continue eating a Chik-Fil-A in her hometown. But as challenging as increased awareness may be at times, knowing what it can mean to those who might otherwise suffer unseen and unheard makes the challenges worth it.

        So, thank you Karen and thank you to all the other "Karens" out there. Thank you for your friendship, thank you for your example, and thank you for the wonderful job you are doing raising such amazing kids. Keep moving forward. In our own capacity we are with you and support you, even if it is limited at times to some cheer-leading in the comments section of a blog.

  3. genderkid August 5, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Totally agree with this part: “Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A aren’t the cause of oppression for the gay community, but the kind of words they speak and the organizations they support are at the root of the oppression that the gay community faces on a daily basis.” It reminds me of Andrea Gibson’s poem “Walmart” when –in reference to Matthew Shepard’s murder– she says “that might be a crime you would never do but those killers had teachers and preachers and neighbors like you”.

    I used to be afraid to be loud about my pro-queer, feminist thoughts for fear of scaring people away, but I’ve been slowly drifting away from people who are sexist or anti-LGBTQ anyway (or maybe we mutually drifted apart :-P) Still, I admire people who try to be diplomatic about it, like you tried to do with your old friend. It’s a tiring job but someone has to do it, otherwise how is anyone going to change their mind?

  4. Eileen August 6, 2012 at 10:22 am

    I sympathize with your frustrations, Karen. As a mother of a transgender son, I observe the extreme right’s violent reactions to anyone who doesn’t conform to their binary gender roles and wonder what can be done to transform their thinking.

    It seems that as more people accept LGBT individuals, the extreme right becomes louder and more insistent in trying to suppress them. I hope those of us who are pro-LGBT can make a difference.

    Thanks for this post, and sorry for the disappointment you experienced concerning your friend.

    • transbeautiful [Karen] August 6, 2012 at 11:02 am

      “It seems that as more people accept LGBT individuals, the extreme right becomes louder and more insistent in trying to suppress them.” I definitely think that’s the case. They know their side is losing this battle in the culture war, and they are getting desperate. And i know that their religion teaches an awful lot of scary things that will happen if gays & lesbians are fully accepted into society. But at some point, human compassion must kick in and they must realize that people are more important than dogma.

    • transbeautiful [Karen] August 6, 2012 at 11:04 am

      Oh, and i’m sorry i forgot to add this, but thank you for your reply, Eileen. I just found your blog today after your post and am now following. It’s great to talk with you!

      • Eileen August 6, 2012 at 11:24 am

        Thanks so much, Kathy. I read your “About” page and I am envious of the speed with which you accepted your son’s transition. My husband and I, while supportive of our son, anguished over the transition for many months.

        I’m glad I found your blog.

  5. purplemary54 August 6, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Thanks so much for this post. I find it interesting that so many of Cathy’s supporters are saying that it’s about 1st Amendment rights. And Cathy certainly has the right to voice his opinion and spend his money however he wants. What the Cathy supporters seem to forget is so do the people opposed to his stance. The LGBTQ community and its supporters are exercising their 1st Amendment rights by protesting and refusing to spend their money at Chick-Fil-A. I’ve added them to my own personal boycott list, even though I think their food is great.

    • Eileen August 6, 2012 at 8:28 pm

      While I find Dan Cathy’s opinions to be inexcusably loathsome, in all fairness, the real controversy resulted from the mayors of Chicago and Boston declaring that Chick-fil-A should be banned in their cities as a result of the company’s support for the “biblical definition of the family unit.”

      I am in support of calling for boycotts — the threat of lower revenues seems to work against corporations who take anti-LGBT issues — but the company is entitled under the constitution to their opinion and they are entitled to express it. I think it was a serious mistake for the mayors to even suggest that Chick-fil-A be banned based on their stand on LGBT issues. All that does is provide ammo to the extreme right.

      I think a full-scale boycott would provide a much more effective outcome. And it would be “market forces” at work, something the extreme right claims they believe in.

      • transbeautiful [Karen] August 6, 2012 at 10:26 pm

        purplemary, that’s one of the things that has really irked me in this whole thing: the folks who claimed their support of Dan Cathy was about 1st amendment rights, while in the same breath criticized the “appreciation day” protestors for protesting. And in many cases these were the same folks who had themselves boycotted JCPenney, Oreo, Starbucks, etc. The hypocrisy is really frustrating.

        Eileen i totally agree that the mayors suggesting the store be banned from their cities was a mistake, and i think that’s where the whole boycott lost momentum.

        • purplemary54 August 6, 2012 at 11:35 pm

          You guys are both right. I got annoyed when I heard about people saying the restaurants ought to be banned. That’s not what America is about. Now I can see why any Chick-Fil-A’s in the Castro district or West Hollywood might suddenly be struggling for customers, but that’s just people exercising their rights to go somewhere else.

  6. Clare Flourish August 7, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    One facebook photo had it right.

    “Food and Protest. Gandhi fasted for peace: doing it right. Chick-fil-a supporters stuffed themselves for hate: doing it wrong.”

    Would those mayors have any right to ban CFA from their cities anyway?

    • transbeautiful [Karen] August 7, 2012 at 6:07 pm

      I don’t think a mayor could ban a chain from operation just on that basis; the only ordinances i’ve known of for banning a business are for things like indecency used to keep strip bars and “adult” book stores out of various localities. If a store refused to serve GLBT customers, then yes, but on the basis of their charitable arm’s donations — i don’t think that would get far legally.

      • Clare Flourish August 7, 2012 at 9:44 pm

        It seemed ridiculous to me, too. So it is in no way a free speech issue. Of course I want this man to be able to say what he likes; people have to be able to say ridiculous and disgusting things, or “free speech” has no meaning, and sometimes the apparently ridiculous and disgusting things are right; but others have to be able to say, “That is disgusting and I will have nothing to do with you”, as the LGBT boycotters did. The supporters are supporting the words, and the right to say those particular words.

  7. Meike August 8, 2012 at 1:48 am

    Very well put!

  8. Pingback: reblog: Defriended Over a Wedding, a Straight Man Gains Perspective « Trans*forming Family

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