By Kelly Fondow
I had â€śthe talkâ€ť with Eva last week. She was sitting at the island in the kitchen while I was chopping away at what would become one of my less inspired dinners. Halfway through the onion that was making a valiant effort to blind me, Eva drops the G bomb. â€śWhatâ€™s Gay?â€ť Now, let me be clear. Eva knows what gay is. We havenâ€™t been raising her in a barn â€“ although I have had many a daydream about turning a barn into an amazing house â€“ Nor have we been raising her from the confines of the closet. We are as openly gay as a family can be.
My immediate reaction would not have won me mother of the year. I did though manage to bite my tongue and refrain from blurting out â€śwhat do you mean what is gay?!?â€ť Using the evil onion as a stall tactic I wipe my eyes, washed my hands, took a breath and answered her. The answer was predictable and straightforward. Gay is when a girl loves a girl, etcetera blah blah. I gave her a dozen examples, including her very own parents. No doubt, by her reaction, she did indeed already know all of this. Once we got through the dictionary definition portion of the discussion her real concern emerged. â€śEmma says that she doesnâ€™t want to be gay just because her moms are.â€ť
Emma, the daughter of good friends of ours, is in 3rd grade â€“ a year older than Eva.
Apparently some boy in Emmaâ€™s class has been taunting her by telling her that she will grow up to be gay because she has two moms.
So it begins. We have made a lot of very deliberate decisions about how to raise Eva. One of the most significant of them was to raise her in Oak Park, Illinois. It is as politically progressive a place as they come. The children who attend our elementary school are diverse in every sense of the word, ranging from ethnicity to wealth or lack of it, to the sexual orientation of their parents. Kids of gay parents are not a rare thing in this school. And yetâ€¦ here we have a 3rd grader slinging his best insult at another 3rd grader by suggesting sheâ€™ll grow up to be gay. Apparently gay bashing, at least in its more quiet forms, will not be avoided, even here in our little utopia.
Eva and I had a good chat. We talked about the fact that oneâ€™s parentâ€™s sexual orientation has no bearing on their childâ€™s sexual orientation.
Again, I was armed with some examples here, including myself â€“ I can assure you that neither of my parents is gay. Interestingly, Eva seemed not at all concerned about whether she will grow up to be gay. She was most definitely intrigued by Emmaâ€™s worry, but she didnâ€™t appear to understand what there was to worry about. For now, that gives me some satisfaction. We are doing our best to raise Eva in an openly gay family, where she learns by example that there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about when it comes to having gay parents.
With that said, it is becoming clear that our carefully hatched family plan will most definitely come up against some heavy artillery.
Apparently a kid canâ€™t even get through half of 3rd grade before the gay taunting starts.
There is a not-so-subtle lesson buried here. We as parents cannot become too comfortable. No one in this community would dare insult me for being gay. I suppose that if they did I would simply laugh in their face. Our kids though, have not yet built that muscle. For many kids being even the slightest bit different can be an incredibly painful thing. Our kids will always be different where their parents are concerned.
So how do we arm them?
I am an optimist. I would much prefer to walk through my days assuming that all is well here. We live in a friendly place, surrounded by friendly people. Weâ€™re raising a beautiful daughter. We are as welcome as anyone. Having just had â€śthe talkâ€ť though, my optimistic blinders have been removed. No matter where we live, we are all raising our kids in a society where some factions continue to believe that it is OK to ridicule gay people. So I soldier on. I have â€śthe talkâ€ť. I turn the insult on its head. I hug my daughter. I talk to my partner about whether to have a chat with the school. I tuck my blinders safely in the back of my sock drawer, not quite ready to dispose of them completely.