You can educate, spread awareness and do as much as you can, but sometimes you can’t change a homophobe’s mind.
But sometimes you can, as the following people who posted on Reddit have shown.
Some have left religion, and some just realised how warped their views were. Some have just grown up. And some, well, they’re gay now.
‘I was raised to see homosexuals as evil, sinful, deceitful people who molested children and had a secret agenda to infiltrate our homes and lives and degrade the quality of life itself and our nation’s belief in God. "Fucking fags" were terrible people, possessed with demons and waiting to pervert whoever would crack first,’ one said.
‘Then my parents got a divorce. A nasty one, where my father’s hypocrisy was made painfully apparent as he was sent to jail for downloading so much child porn at work he clogged the servers, and my mom was revealed to be a judgmental, paranoid psychopath who sought to degrade and demean everyone around her except her son. She kicked me out of the house when I was 18 for sleeping with my then-fiance.
‘Just like any acceptance of any sub-culture, the rest was eventual. Slow, embarrassing, and awkward experiences as I gradually realized that these people didn’t want to molest little kids or turn me into "one of them," they just wanted to be. Multiple encounters with multiple people helped me slowly branch the void. The half-drunk man crying to me on the plane about how he wished to God he wasn’t gay. The lesbian couple that took me to their family’s home for Christmas, since I’d be spending it alone. The "gay ninja" that slipped in under my radar and (drunkenly) taught me to dance, sighing each time at how hopelessly white I was.
‘They were people, just like me. These "possessed, compulsively-lying pedophiles" were really just people that liked to take it up the ass, or sometimes dress a little different, or adopt an abnormally large amount of cats. But hell, who doesn’t do those things?
‘I’m still pretty ashamed of how I was and how I thought in the past. I was so intentionally hurtful to so many people, and I didn’t need to be. Growing up in a repressive, conservative household will contribute to that, but really, so much of it was just my own small-mindedness and lack of exposure to reality. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it is something I’ve overcome and learned from, and it’s no hyperbole to say that it’s made me question the way I see things ever since.’
Another user said they were brought up in a ‘very conservative family’ and attended weekly bible studies on Wednesday nights.
‘It was open to people of all religions, races, sexual orientation, etc., and focused on the history of events in the bible, rather than the theological aspect,’ they said.
‘There was one obviously gay young man who enjoyed the class so much he asked if he could start attending service at the church. The pastor said "of course you can. Everyone is welcome in God’s house.’
They added: ‘Over the next 6-8 weeks this young man was welcomed into the church by all.
‘Invited to every post-church BBQ, flag football game, etc. He finally came forward one Sunday and said that he was ready to be baptized. The pastor gave him a week so that he could invite friends and family, and when the big day came, invited him up on the stage where baptisms were performed.
‘As he stood in front of the congregation, the pastor announced that we were gathered to watch the miracle of Christ as this young man "renounced his sinful homosexual lifestyle and welcomed Christ into his heart." This was a complete shock to him, as no conversation about his sexual orientation had taken place. When he refused, he was immediately asked to leave the church ASAP.
‘It was that very moment when I realized that maybe church didn’t have the answer I was looking for in life. Nobody deserves to be called out like that.’
But not all adult figures are the ones to make them homophobic, sometimes they are the ones to stop them from going down that road.
‘When I was a child, I used it as an insult,’ one said.
‘That changed in 5th grade, when I called my male babysitter "gay," as an insult, in front of my mom. She stopped me, and asked "Do you know what that means?" I was throwing a temper tantrum, and wasn’t really aware of where she was going, so I just said, "Yes. It means he likes men. He’s a homo!" All stuff I had picked up in school, etc.
‘But she pushed me, and asked, "So, is there anything wrong with him liking men?"
‘I didn’t have a good answer for that, because I had never thought about it before. But she made me think about it right then. I haven’t used "gay" as an insult since then.’
But it doesn’t have to be family, one guy said John Barrowman made him see that being gay was clearly OK.
And another guy said he started following this hilarious dude on Twitter.
‘Every now and then I would reply to his tweets. He would reply back frequently. We start messaging about jokes and music, eventually becoming decent friends. Turns out he’s gay. It wasn’t a surprise, but just a fact,’ he said.
‘The entire experience helped me realize that being gay didn’t make a person less of a person somehow and that everybody’s a human etc.
‘Fast-forward a couple years: my little brother comes out to me and I was able to be the supportive older brother I’m supposed to be. Incredibly thankful that I met the Twitter dude.’
Some grow up. One Redditor said he didn’t really know any gay people when he was young but thought they were a ‘weirdos’. But when he moved to Washington DC, he realised all his opinions were based on his religious upbringing, popular media and the people in his social group.
He said: ‘You go from "civil unions are fine, it’s just a piece of paper" to seeing the absolutely fucked up situation where your friend isn’t allowed to visit his live-in partner of 4+ years in the hospital because he’s not technically family. You see your gay friend always taking about his "girlfriend" at work because he knows the VP in charge of his division is a religious homophobic nut, and it’s easier to pretend than to risk anything (this was before sexual orientation became protected in DC – it’s still not in most states).
‘This is just a small sampling of some of the horrible shit we and our legal system do to these people, and when it’s happening to someone you’re friends with you realize how fucked up it is.
‘Now when someone says something homophobic or just ignorant like "why can’t they be happy with civil unions" you get pissed. You’ve seen this shit affect your friends, you know it’s real. You care. And that’s how you go from being homophobic to the opposite.’