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 Post subject: How to handle a foreign friend saying something unacceptable
PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2016 9:00 am 
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I'm not sure how to handle this, and I'm looking for some insight.

I have a friend (or maybe a "friend-like acquaintance") on a language-exchange app. I've talked about it in the Living Room—i met this person on HelloTalk, and we've been chatting for months now. I help her with her English, she helps me with my Korean, and we just, you know, text about stuff. Her job, her kids, my family, my stuff.

She told me she was watching the (American) show "How I Met Your Mother." I told her I knew of the show, but I'd never seen it. She asked if it was popular in the US. I said, yes, and Neil Patrick Harris is famous. "Oh, which one is he?" she asks. I look it up and tell her he plays Barney. Can you guess where this is going?

This morning I see a message from her (in English): "Oh my god! He's a gay! Why?"

My heart sank.

What do I do? What can I do? Is this her own shittiness? Her culture's shittiness? Does that difference matter? A generation ago, her attitude would have been totally common here, too. Does that matter?

Does she get a pass because Korean culture has not "caught up" on this? Is that a cop-out? Is that a stupid idea? Is it racist?

Do I ignore this? Stop being her friend/friend-like acquaintance? Tell her she's wrong? Lecture her? Tell her she can think what she likes, but I don't want to hear that stuff?

What does this hand-wringing mean? Am I overly sensitive? Not sensitive enough? Just afraid of confrontation? Looking for a way to wriggle out of having this conversation with her?

Ugh.

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 Post subject: Re: How to handle a foreign friend saying something unaccept
PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2016 10:07 am 
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Could you frame culturally? I'm guessing part of your conversation is about the differences in your cultures? I wouldn't drop her automatically without at least trying to get my point of view across.

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 Post subject: Re: How to handle a foreign friend saying something unaccept
PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2016 10:26 am 
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I think there are a couple of ways you could address it somewhat casually/non-confrontationally.

1. Adopt a "yup, he is gay, no big deal, moving on" attitude. Then ask if she's seen Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.

2. Use it as a real cultural exchange moment. Let her know that using the phrase "a gay" would be seen as outdated and offensive in most places in the U.S. Ask about what people generally think of homosexuality in Korea, does she know any people who are out, are the stereotypes there the same as the stereotypes here, (and perhaps add something about how limiting those stereotypes are, even when they're not negative in and of themselves) and talk about how in the past 20 years mainstream attitudes here have changed so drastically.

I don't think you have to stop talking to her, or make it seem like she's a terrible person, to address it and let her know that you don't share the idea that there's anything wrong with being gay.


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 Post subject: Re: How to handle a foreign friend saying something unaccept
PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2016 10:41 am 
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2. This sounds very smart. But I don't think her English is good enough for this. And my Korean? Ha ha ha! Good one.

1. This might be best I can do.

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 Post subject: Re: How to handle a foreign friend saying something unaccept
PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2016 10:56 am 
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What about "He is gay. I'm glad that in the US he can be open about it." so you're at least expressing that you disagree and discussing culture in the US?

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 Post subject: Re: How to handle a foreign friend saying something unaccept
PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2016 11:18 am 
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Although what your friend said was certainly offensive and disappointing, it threw the doors wide open to a teaching moment. When I worked at No on 8 we knew that a huge factor in changing people's minds about marriage equality was how well they knew the gay/bi people in their lives (including whether they even knew those people were gay/bi) and how Prop 8 would affect them. I think that approach has been very effective in changing public opinion in California since that extremely narrow vote, and if we had to vote on it again today I think it would be a handy defeat for Prop 8.

I love srock's response, it's very simple and upbeat and sends a clear message without necessarily putting her on the defensive.* Maybe you can work in a reference to your gay best friend/babysitter/in-law/neighbor/college roommate/whatever so that she understands that she's not just talking about "a gay" in an abstract concept but as a person loved and respected by you, and in general as people who are loved and respected by allies and supporters.

*which, I know, I hate the idea of coddling people who say ignorant things like this, too, but as frustrating as it is, patient understanding and coaxing is just far more effective than putting them on blast. I'm sure I don't need to tell that to a bunch of vegans, though!

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 Post subject: Re: How to handle a foreign friend saying something unaccept
PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2016 11:50 am 
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Thanks, people. I went with a modified srock, as this tack is known.

I said, yes, he's gay and it's good that he can be honest about that. And I said people in the US are accepting (because all Americans are so accepting, you know), and I acknowledged that attitudes about homosexuality have been changing quickly in the US.

Now we'll see where this conversation goes.

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 Post subject: Re: How to handle a foreign friend saying something unaccept
PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2016 12:18 pm 
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Assuming you're not actually going to listen with an open mind to why being a gay is bad, I wouldn't ask for details about her opinion or the general opinion in Korea. It's just going to be aggravating and is not necessarily going to help having a conversation.

I like strawberryrock's suggestion. In these situations that's the minimum I feel obligated to say (something like "I don't think being gay is bad, I'm happy for him" and change the topic). I try not to frame it as a cultural issue on either side because that's so easy to compartmentalize ("oh ok, it's fine for Americans to be gay, but not here"). If I'm going to continue the conversation, I try to be as candid and genuine as possible - talk about my beliefs, not my country's, how I got them, the gay people I know, etc. I try to avoid using clichés or soundbites. I find they don't really help.

You probably won't change someone's mind in a single conversation. Say what you can, and move on. Maybe she'll think about it. If she doesn't get that her words are unacceptable and it keeps coming up, I would eventually say something like "What you're saying is really not ok, it's upsetting. Let's not talk about this anymore".


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 Post subject: Re: How to handle a foreign friend saying something unaccept
PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2016 4:21 pm 
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Well, I think maybe I just misunderstood everything. Judging by her response, I think she meant something like, "Why does he have to be gay? He's so great, and now we women are missing out!"

So maybe I'm the bad guy, assuming that those "conservative Koreans" are all like this or that.

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 Post subject: Re: How to handle a foreign friend saying something unaccept
PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2016 6:55 pm 
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You could say yup, and hes married and his family is adorable. And see what she says?

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 Post subject: Re: How to handle a foreign friend saying something unaccept
PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2016 8:19 pm 
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I think we're good now.

(I'm afraid to probe further!)

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