A Totally Gay Conversation

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

No law’s gonna change us
We have to change us
Whatever god you believe in
We come from the same one

Strip away the fear
Underneath it’s all the same love
About time that we raised up

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’?”

“No.”

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?”

“Right.”

“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.

19 thoughts on “A Totally Gay Conversation

  1. My husband and I have chosen his lesbian cousin and her wife as guardians for our son, should anything happen to the two of us. Sexuality aside, we feel they would give him a loving home and raise him to be a good man. They have also unsuccessfully tried to have children of their own, so this was sort of a way for us to give them a tremendous gift, if ever… Even though my son is only 6 months old, my husband and I talk to him often about love and marriage, and tell him that if someday he loves another boy, we’ll still love and support him. We hope that when he encounters the topics of love, sex, marriage and relationships amongst his peers or at school, that he will approach them with an open mind and ask us questions, rather than adopting the narrow-minded prejudices plaguing our society. Although we are raising him in a Christian home, we are teaching him that God loves all of us, and because God loves all of us, we should love everyone too.

    Kudos to you for being so blunt with your 7 year old. I firmly believe that if parents withhold information or deliver it in sugar coated packaging, kids won’t have the info they truly need to make their own educated decisions. They will instead turn to the ignorance offered by their friends or society and adopt hateful ideas instead. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

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    • Yours sounds like a very nice home in which to grow up! I applaud your parenting philosophy – with there were more folks like you.

      I’m glad that you like the blunt approach – I have very little patience with beating around the bush, and find that just being honest is not only pretty much my default setting, but is what the kids respond best to. Thanks for visiting and leaving your thoughts!

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  2. My children have a gay uncle and we have several gay friends. Somehow, the conversation was still necessary to combat those social norms. It comes up from time to time when we boycott companies based on their LGBTQIA views. Chick-Fil-A was a big one. It also came up as a reason we didn’t vote for Romney after discussing the election at school.

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    • I’ve never even seen a Chick-Fil-A, but I’m quite sure I’ll never visit one. Yup, there are lots of things that you need to discuss with your kids because they get opposing information elsewhere – and that’s a good thing; they should be exposed to all points of view – but it’s talking about these topics rationally and repeatedly that allows them to filter everything and come up with their own conclusions. Which, hopefully, are the same as yours – otherwise you need to break our the hose. 😉

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      • Haha. I agree. It’s funny because once I explain something like that to her, her automatic reaction is usually to be horrified that anyone would dislike or discriminate against another for such a ridiculous reason. We may be suspicious of the unknown naturally but hate is taught.

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  3. Hey ho, the tricky questions ALWAYS come in the car!! First up, good on you for being frank. I’m pretty big on this concept to be honest, but getting it age appropriate can be a tricky one. Here’s what I’ve used with all my kids, and it seems to still be relevant to the 17 year old and the almost seven year olds!
    “Is love a good thing? Is there anyone we shouldn’t love? Men can love women, women can love women, men can love men, parents can love their children, children can love their teachers. Love is love, and the more of it in the world, the better place the world will be.” I often follow up with the statement that if any of them are gay, that is just great, as long as they’re happy with it, and that I want them to be able to find love in their lives.
    Don’t get me started on the “what’s an orgasm” question or the explanation of motherf****r that I gave my then 9 year old to stop him using this cool new swear word he’d picked up from schoolmates. There’s a wee tip – there’s nothing more guaranteed to stop your kid from swearing than explaining the meaning of the word and then making him repeat it 10 times to his mother! I kinda love car questions, and I kinda dread them, because even after 6 kids, I’m STILL not ready for some of the questions!!!Thank goodness my dad is a retired vicar, because when one of the kids asked for an explanation of how the world was in God’s stomach, I was completely flummoxed!

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    • Okay, I’m still trying to figure out how they got the idea that the world was in God’s stomach, but if it is, then the next logical physiological stage for the world is… My dad was a Methodist minister, by the way, so we have that in common.
      I really like the way you’ve dealt with the whole gay situation – the focus on ‘love’ in its various forms was way better than my explanation. But why do they spring these things on us when we’re least prepared?

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      • When are we ever truly prepared for all that parenting throws at us? Just do your best, make it up as you go along, and hope you don’t mess the kids up too bad. Lol!

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        • Too true, too true. (I also think it’s pretty hard, despite the near-panic many modern parents feel about ‘breaking’ their kids, to mess kids up too badly.)

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  4. Having had three kids, and been asked these sorts of questions, and being told by the youngest, that I was giving her “too much information” I think you did well. Kids absorb what they need to know and then anything extra just rolls off like water off a duck’s back. But as you never can be quite sure how much they want to know, it is indeed good to give as much as you think they are asking. I too think it gives them good grounding in moral values appropriate to the world in which they will live.

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    • Agreed, Amanda. Scaling explanations and explorations to their age is the wonky bit, especially when you have kids 7 and 3 in the same car. I tend to talk to my kids in a fairly adult way – that is, I try not to talk down to them, but simply to talk to them. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Hopefully one day there won’t even be the need to explain things as it will become common place and equality will finally be achieved. My son is still an infant so I have not received and questions yet but know one day it will come. Should anything happen to my husband or I the person we have chosen to be his guardian is gay. I know we want to do as a previous poster and make sure equality is taught from the beginning.
    I applaud your straightforward approach I think we all need to be more like that.

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    • Thanks, fieldofdayzzz! The day will come, I think, at least in many places. And the change can happen quickly – in about a decade the US went from having a large majority of people oppose same-sex marriage to having a majority support it.
      And if you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ve probably realized that I’m a pretty straightforward kind of person. 🙂

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  6. Was a very good read and it made me start thinking about when all my girls start getting older and asking these same questions.

    I have time though to begin crafting a good response.

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    • That’s my problem. My son chucks these questions at me when I’m totally unprepared. Like when, at the age of three, he asked me how humans mate. As I wrote, the questions may come sooner than you think.
      Thanks for your comments!

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  7. I haven’t had the chance yet, although my German uncle is gay and when he visits he always comes with his partner. I think my son might still be a bit too young to comprehend the whole thing but when he does ask I will be 100% honest.
    I am glad you are so open about this. I was petrified when I came across this article on huffington post yesterday. Here is the link if you care to read it (although, be prepared, you might get pretty emotional):
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/linda-robertson/just-because-he-breathes-learning-to-truly-love-our-gay-son_b_3478971.html?ir=Parents

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    • What a sad story that is. His parents really believed that they were doing the right thing, but they blew it pretty much every step of the way.
      Thanks for sharing, Tatu!

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  8. Good for you for being so straight-forward with him! If only more parents were.

    My son is 5, and we’ve done our best to make the concept of marriage inclusive from the start (I think we read a book about a kid attending the wedding of her two mommies before we even read one about a heterosexual wedding.)

    Although he keeps coming home “engaged” to different girls from his class, when we talk about his future relationships, I always talk about both sexes as equally valid options.

    He asks a lot of really good questions, and I love it.

    Thanks for this post! I enjoyed it.

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    • Thanks for visiting and leaving your thoughts! Yup, I’m pretty honest (i.e., blunt) with the kids, but I just don’t see obfuscating as a viable option.

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