On Loving Family Enough to Challenge Them

Juliet writes at Feminste that it wasn't easy to get her grandfather to recognize her trans identity. But progress is sweet.

By Julianne Hing Jun 24, 2011

We’ve all heard the throwaway bigoted comment, the casual racism and homophobia played for laughs, the proud displays of unexamined prejudices and unchecked privilege. These words sting the worst when they come out of the mouths of the people we love the most. Compassionate and progressive-minded folks are often left with the choice: slide away from the moment quietly, or engage the person and address it directly?

Juliet, a white trans woman, wrote for Feministe this week about nearly giving up on her beloved, aging grandfather. Juliet had learned to accept that her relationship with her grandfather would forever be scarred by his unintentional, but no less painful, lapses when he’d call her "buddy," or "grandson," or "good man." Juliet felt it impossible to call him out in those moments, and chose to stay away from him in the interest of self-preservation.

Juliet writes:

Calling out is difficult. As we’ve all experienced, it can get quite vicious and painful for everyone involved. In our rush to protect ourselves, we so often forget about the humanity and vulnerability of the person we’re debating. But it’s worth it. Because the alternative hurts, too. And even if that hurt isn’t nearly as visible, the cost of complacent silence can be so much higher.

But eventually with the help of her mother who took on the responsibility of educating Juliet’s grandfather and keeping him in check, things got better.

That’s why we watch our privilege. That’s why we call others on all their ignorance. Because even if it might be acrimonious at the time, it’s not about tearing us apart. It’s about creating a space where we can stay together.

The one-on-one personal work of educating loved ones can be a painful and awkward process that’s sometimes easier to avoid. Juliet’s essay is as much a defense of the tiring work of calling folks out when they misstep as it is an ode to her grandfather and her mother and the love that’s kept her strong. Educating family members is crucial to progressive activism. It’s also, Juliet seems to argue, a worthwhile endeavor when we want to hold on to the people we love.

Here’s to love, and patience and courageous and compassionate family and friends everywhere.

We’re ending the day as often as possible by celebrating love. We welcome your ideas for posts. Send suggestions to submissions@colorlines.com, and be sure to put Celebrate Love in the subject line. You can send links to videos, graphics, photos, quotes, whatever. Or just chime in to the comments below and we’ll find you. Be sure to let us know you’ve got the rights to share any media you send.

To see other Love posts visit our Celebrate Love page.