I'm gay, I provide for my parents, and they're voting Republican!

The party my parents support considers my marriage invalid -- so how can I keep giving them money?

Published September 19, 2008 10:29AM (EDT)

Note to Readers: The column will not run Monday or Tuesday, as I will be be putting on our first Creative Getaway up at Marconi Conference Center on Tomales Bay. The column will resume Wednesday. Cheers! --ct.

Dear Cary,

I am a gay man and I help financially support my parents. They say they are registered independents yet are voting Republican for the third straight presidential election, in a swing state no less. This hurts me because, as we all know, the Republicans make discrimination against gays part of their party platform, and use us to drive their base to the polls. My parents make excuses, usually related to fiscal policy, to justify their decision, but it feels like just that, an excuse. My question is, am I justified in cutting off the money?

I am well paid in my profession (education even) and have certainly worked my way up to where I am now. I work tremendously hard. I send my parents a lot of money each month, enough so that I have to curtail my lifestyle in order to help them out. They have always been supportive of me, at least to my face. They seem to be supportive of my husband (thanks California!). However, their support of the Republicans feels like betrayal. How can they support a party that openly discriminates against their own child?

I feel like I should tell them to stop taking handouts and pull themselves up by their bootstraps, Republican style. Technically the money is a loan, but there is no way they can pay it back any time soon. At this point it is in the five-figures range. My siblings also A) vote Republican, B) live close to my folks and C) don't help out. My father is getting more hours at his current job and the hope is that they could be financially independent soon. One of my siblings just got a substantial raise at her job. I'm not the only option, I don't think. I'm just convenient and dependable.

I am starting to resent the whole situation. Selfishly, I want to have more money to spend of course, but also I feel that on some level I am supporting those who are working against me and my husband. I'm also hurt that they would aid our oppressors; it causes me to get very upset. Is this irrational? Am I just being an ungrateful son? What is my responsibility here? Help, Cary. What should I do?

Thanks, BD

Dear BD,

What a great question.

Your letter gave me reason to read both the Democratic platform and the Republican platform statements on the Defense of Marriage Act and related issues. The Republican platform supports the Defense of Marriage Act, while the Democratic platform says, "We oppose the Defense of Marriage Act and all attempts to use this issue to divide us."

There are also sharp differences on the issue of homosexuals in the military. The Republican platform affirms the "incompatibility of homosexuality with military service," while the Democratic platform supports "the repeal of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' and the implementation of policies to allow qualified men and women to serve openly regardless of sexual orientation."

This has got to cause you great internal conflict. You know, in a straight business deal there could be strings. You could say, I give you this money only under the condition that ... but this is not a business deal. This is family. You've got filial duty on the one hand, but in doing your filial duty you are cutting your own throat. They are contributing to something that is hurting you. How can you possibly contribute to that, even indirectly?

In order to deal with this, I think you have to compartmentalize. You have to separate the support you are giving your parents from the support they are giving to the Republicans. Otherwise -- if you withdraw your support or attempt to hold it hostage on the basis of your parents' politics -- it takes on the color of coercion of the worst sort. It calls into question your motives. It seems like a power play, and most unlike the kindness of a loving son who appreciates, and wishes in part to repay, all the support he has been given.

So what I think you need to do is ignore the money but make a rhetorical appeal to your parents, as their son, in a loving, impassioned and honest way.

You might put it this way: You might ask them to consider how they would feel if their political party decreed that their own marriage was invalid. Would they vote for such a party? You might ask them if, even if they liked everything else about that party's platform, if it decreed that their marriage was invalid, would not that be a deal breaker? What if that party decreed that the marriage of one of their kids was invalid? Wouldn't that be just as much of an outrage, if not more so? What if one of their "normally married" kids, with children of their own now, perhaps married for a number of years and "normal" in every respect (don't you wish we'd all just "stop asking what is normal"?), what if one of those marriages was determined invalid by the political party that was vying for power? Wouldn't that be outrageous? Ask them to imagine this and then see if they can perhaps get a hint of how you might feel about it. Even if you can't get them to change their political view, perhaps you can at least achieve a sense that they get where you are coming from.

Then just ask them for their vote. That's what I would do. Make your case and ask them, as their son, if they will vote, just this one time, in your interest rather than theirs.

And, uh, if they can't bring themselves to do that, well, then, maybe your next generous check to them sort of accidentally bounces.

(Just kidding. Take the high road. The view is better.)

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