December 12, 2010

I watched this clip of What Would You Do?, where they stage a teenage boy coming out to his parent (mom or dad) in a coffee shop and the parent being extremely upset about it. The point of the scene is to see how the other people in the coffee shop react when they hear the parent say things like, “my son is not gay”. As you can guess, some people step in, and others do not.

I would not – at least I wouldn’t say anything to the defense of the boy. The fact that I don’t agree with what the parent is saying does not give me the right to butt into their family business. It does not give me the right to tell other people my opinion without being asked or berate the parent publicly. Being a straight female with no children of my own – I have no realm of relatable situations. What could I say that would actually change the parent’s opinion? Nothing. They’d look at me and say “Who are you to tell me how to handle this? You have no idea how this feels.” And guess what – I don’t. However, in the situation on the show, I think it is appropriate to say that their discussion is offending you and ask them to refrain from being so loud or public – as the man who told them to take it somewhere else did.

So I spent a lot of time trying to determine if this (my preference to not say anything) is bad. Am I assisting homophobia by not saying anything? Does the situation change if it were a different kind of intolerance – say racism? For example, what if the boy is telling the parent he’s in an interracial relationship and the parent is commenting that it’s unacceptable because <enter terrible stereotype here>? What happens if that race happens to be Asian? I don’t have answers, but what are yours?


  1. I don’t think I’d step in unless for some reason it turned violent. Otherwise it’s a personal problem in my mind.

    Also, it’s questionable if in reality the kid would actually want someone to step in. I mean let’s say you’re having a heated argument with your parents. Would you want some random stranger to join in on the conversation, even if s/he’s supporting you? I’d just be annoyed.

    • It is a personal problem, but on some level, isn’t homophobia and other prejudice a societal problem too? And does violence make it less of a personal problem, or does it just make the harm more visible? I guess my point is I know that kind of bias is wrong, just like physically hurting someone is wrong or stealing is wrong. But it’s so much easier to brush it off as something that doesn’t have anything to do with me, something I can just ignore – someone else’s problem.

  2. I don’t like to get involved in other people’s business. It’s why I walk around with headphones 99% of the time.

    However, I’d be much more likely to get involved if it were about race or ethnicity (particularly if it pertained to Latin/Hispanic prejudice) because I care about that more.

    It’s selfish/somewhat egotistical, but the causes I’m most likely to champion are the causes I’m most involved with.

    • It only makes sense that you could champion causes you’re involved with or that you care about. I’m most concerned that it would be hypocritical if I were to get involved if it pertained to prejudice against Asians and not if it were about Hispanics. And honestly, I’m not sure I would say something if I overheard an offending conversation about a race that didn’t pertain to me. But it’s uncomfortable to me to think that it’s almost the same as saying “I don’t care if you’re racist as long as it’s not directed at my race”. And that’s not right.

      • Totally not right. Perhaps what I meant to say is that I might not feel like I have enough knowledge or experience with topics like homosexuality that don’t pertain to me.

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