We’re in the car, and a song comes on the radio. Now Hungarian radio is absolute crap, and it generally serves as simple background noise (a phenomenon I’ll get to in a later post), so it was unusual for me to be actually listening intently to this one. But this one was different.
Kids are walkin’ around the hallway
Plagued by pain in their heart
A world so hateful
Some would rather die
Than be who they are
And a certificate on paper
Isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start
Holy same-sex hip-hop, Batman, here’s a guy who’s laying it out there in a massively macho genre. No bitches, no smack-that, only an artist who’s taking a stand and saying what he thinks about gay rights.
Turns out, I’m not the only one who’s listening. “Daddy, what’s he talking about?” my seven-year-old asks.
Wow, okay. Here’s a teaching moment if there ever was one. I don’t want to blow this – I need to be clear, age-appropriate, correct. I take a deep breath and say, “I have no idea.”
I’m kidding, of course. It’s time to have this conversation – especially since we’re moving to Sitges, the gay capital of Spain – and I want to get it right. “It’s about gay rights,” I tell him. “Do you know what I mean by ‘gay’?”
This time I do take a deep breath. Here goes. “Well, most people love and are attracted to people of the opposite sex. Men love women and women love men. But there are lots of people who love others of the same sex. Men who are attracted to men and women who are attracted to other women. And that’s totally normal and natural and cool. Are you with me?”
“For example, our friend Jacques is a man who’s married to another man, and they have an adopted daughter. Men and women can get married anywhere, but there’s a lot of debate these days about allowing people of the same sex to get married. Lots of countries in Europe, like France, Spain, and Sweden allow gay people to get married, and now lots of states in the US also allow it. For me, I think that gay people should be allowed to get married just like anyone else.”
Silence. I’m not sure where to go from here. I think he’s just processing the information, so I give him a minute before I ask, “Do you like that song?”
“He was just talking with music playing.”
“Well, that style of music is called hip-hop, and that’s kind of what they do.”
“I don’t like it.”
So my first big foray into the issues of homosexuality and gay rights has resulted in my son concluding that he doesn’t like hip-hop. Well, fair enough, but I’m wondering if the rest of the conversation has registered at all with him. I don’t really know if I’ve given him too much information or too little.
I think that these kind of moments are incredibly important. How you approach a topic will probably have a lasting affect on how they feel about it. I wanted to be casual about it, to let him know that a person’s sexuality is no big deal, that it’s just one aspect of their character like any other personal trait. But I also wanted him to know that gays have to fight for many of the rights that are routinely given to straight people.
The song, by the way, is called “Same Love,” and it’s by a hip-hop artist called Macklemore. I admire the fact that he’s taking a stand, that he’s calling his own genre out: “If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me/Have you read the YouTube comments lately?”
I sometimes see the gender stereotypes that my son picks up at school – his violent aversion to pink, his ideas about what it means for a man to be ‘strong.’ I have no doubt that he’s going to hear a lot of homophobic horseshit in the playground and the classroom. My hope is that he doesn’t buy into it, that he has the strength and the courage to call it wrong. And if by chance it turns out that he’s gay, then I would most fervently wish that he never was made to feel lesser because of it, that he would have a happy and healthy attitude toward his own sexuality. But I’m getting ahead of myself. He’s only seven years old, and sex and sexuality are still dim, distant ideas for him. I’m not sure I’m looking forward to the day when they become reality.
So I’m curious – have you had this conversation with your kids yet? How did it go? If not, what are you planning to say when the day comes? And believe me, it will probably come sooner than you think.