S. L. Price, writing in Sports Illustrated, May 6, 2013, quotes Patrick Burke on the subject of Burke’s brother’s coming out. “When your brother comes to you and tells you, ‘I’m gay,’ if you say anything other than, ‘Great, I love you, I don’t care,’ that’s where the problem is.’” (SI, p. 46) This is a common progressive response in our culture. A person comes out, and the most common decent responses people make are I don’t care, and I’ve always known you were gay. SI quotes Jason Collins’ aunt giving the second response (SI, p. 36). The trouble with someone saying either of these is that the person coming out has more or less struggled with this issue, gotten up courage, told you he or she is gay, and before he has a chance to get a real response from you, you tell him you don’t care about what has troubled him. A better response would go along these lines: Great, I love you. I bet it’s been hard. I want to hear all about it. I want to know everything, because you know how much I love you, don’t you? Tell me everything about how it’s been for you. I love every single part of you.
Looking back on my youth and younger ages, I don’t think I often actually was subjected to homophobic abuse, but what I did get, very often, was some statement that subtly told me the other person didn’t want to know what I knew. Jason Collins’ aunt told him, “I’ve known you were gay for years” (SI, p. 36.) Collins tells us that when she said that, he no longer had to worry about his aunt. But he doesn’t tell us what happened to that conversation after his aunt told him she had known he was gay for years. Why didn’t she tell him she knew? Why didn’t she help him? Why wasn’t she proactive? This response leaves the gay person with nowhere to go with his experiences of the years he spent closeted. But I wanted to tell you.
I suppose what the person means, who says, I don’t care, is that I don’t care about those people who disapprove of you. But whatever the three words mean to the person who speaks them, the person who hears them thinks, Jesus! What she doesn’t care about is a huge part of my life. And How can she say she loves me, if she doesn’t care about this part of my life? A person who cares about you, who ‘loves’ you, is going to care about every part of your life, is going to want to know about everything that has ever happened to you, is going to feel as full of joy as you do, now that you have come out, because now you are both released to share all of your life, not just the smaller, censored part of it that you could share before.
She’s going to care a lot.