I had a long conversation with my daughter recently which was sparked off by a couple of things that had come up at school. It started with her recounting a conversation that took place when the word “gay” was used an insult by one one of the boys to one of Caitlin’s friends, the friend responded by asking him if he knew what gay meant and he replied “Yeah, it means happy”. Caitlin’s friend said “No, it’s when 2 boys or 2 girls love each other” and Caitlin chimed in with “Well, there’s nothing wrong with that”. Then Caitlin’s friend came out with “Yes there is, it’s disgusting and wrong!” (I believe that after a couple more “no it’s not/yes it is” exchanges the subject was dropped without resolution.)
Next came the revelation that one of Caitlin’s friends had told her that she (the friend) believed that other kids at school didn’t like her because she looked different to everyone else.** This friend is Chinese. I was, rather naively I suppose, quite surprised and very saddened by this, as was Caitlin.
Anyway, it all led into a long discussion about the problem of prejudice and the issues of homophobia and racism. David joined in too after a while. Both the kids were coming up with some great ways to explain their understanding of the issues. I even overheard them going over the same ground amongst themselves – Tom included this time – at the breakfast table the next morning (which had me calling out “Less talking, more eating, we’re going to be LATE!).
Let me share one of the arguments they came up with.
They’ve learned about how left-handed kids used to get into trouble for writing with the “wrong hand” at school through their history studies, so when I explained that some people are just made differently when it comes to sexual orientation, they made a connection.
“Being homosexual is like being left-handed, you’re just made that way, it’s not wrong, just different. People used to believe that being left-handed was wrong, it’s not, they were wrong. There’s nothing wrong with being different.”
I was proud that Caitlin was willing to take a stand against homophobia, I hope all my kids will be willing to speak out against hate and bigotry and I dare to hope that their doing so might help their peers to understand a little more and hate and fear a little less.
*I have gay friends and family, the kids are pretty disgusted by the idea of homophobia.
**My kids’ school is a bizarrely homogeneous Anglo-Saxon enclave considering that there is quite a large proportion of Asian and other immigrants in the surrounding areas. There’s a Chinese church one block from our house for one thing.