Wednesday, February 24, 2010

HATE--From Beyond the Grave

(Note: The following blog appeared originally on "In Cold Blog" a true-crime blog for which I am a regular monthly contributor).

This post was published originally You hear a lot these days about hate crimes against GLBT people. What you don’t hear about so much is hate crimes perpetrated by someone who is dead.

Let me qualify that. This is not a story about an actual crime that could be prosecuted. It’s more a story about a hateful act made against a gay man thirteen years ago that is only now slapping that man in the face. Hard.

A little background first. This is a true story about a good friend of mine. For the purposes of this story, we’ll call him John. John recently attended the funeral of his stepmother. Funerals are always sad occasions, but this one wasn’t overly sad for John because his stepmother had married his father late in life and the two had never been particularly close.

But when John’s stepmother passed away at a ripe old age after a long illness, John knew that he and his siblings stood to inherit some money. His father, who had passed away six years before had left all of his assets to his wife, with the understanding that when she passed away, the remaining money, property, and real estate were to be divided equally among the children (both his and hers).

The reading of the will is where this story gets interesting…and takes its slap-in-the-face turn.

John and his siblings and stepsiblings inherited a nice chunk of change.

But John’s amount was less than everyone else’s. $13,000 less.

Why? Because thirteen years ago, John came out to his father. The coming out was a watershed moment coming after years of struggle (and a marriage to a woman and two children). But John, like many gay men who marry and hide in the closet, could no longer live a lie.

John’s father didn’t see it that way. He saw it as a choice, a choice that was morally unsound and that would surely send his own son straight to hell. Never mind that John was an upstanding member of his community, a devout Christian, a caring and loving father (both before and after his divorce), and a loyal and compassionate friend to all who knew him. Because he accepted himself for who he was, John’s father wouldn’t accept his own son any longer.

One might think that the old man would have carried his hate with him to the grave. And one would suppose that hatred would have no way of harming our John long after the old man was buried.

But the old man, besides being “conservative” (as we say these days) in his views toward homosexuality, was crafty. He put a stipulation in his will that John was to be penalized $1,000 for every year he continued to live his “debauched lifestyle.”

You can do the math. John has been out for thirteen years. John’s inheritance was $13,000 less than his siblings. He had no idea this was coming and he described its effect as I did: a slap in the face. The hateful act by his father pained him deeply…more than the money lost, so much more, was the fact that his father went to his grave not only never accepting his son, but intent on hurting him, even after he was gone.

In the figurative sense, I would call this a hate crime.

The kicker? John’s brother is also gay, but since he came out after their father died, he was not penalized.

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  1. I can't imagine treating your child like that. I am so thankful for my kids with every breath I take, no matter who they fall in love with or what they do with their lives.

    Give John a hug for me.

  2. I say John's father up above is now crying and ashamed of what he did.


  3. It was a very cruel thing to do. In many ways, I suspect that it hurts worse than merely being excluded would (something with which I do have experience of), because it's so deliberately calculated not just to punish, but to draw attention to a precieved fault, to shame.

    And it can be hard not to feel embarrassed and humiliated - not for being gay, but for being considered lesser by a parent, and thus worthy of public ridicule. And even if everyone involved is sympathetic, who wants to be an object of pity?

    And, of course, then there is the rest of the money, and how you feel about it, and how it makes you feel when you go to use it. I can imagine it being a rather lingering issue.

    Yes. I'm sure the money would have been useful (when isn't it?), but I think being excluded is probably easier.