Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Lessons On Homophobia

Or maybe I should call it fixing what stupid, ignorant people have messed up. 

Several weeks ago, back at the beginning of February, Daniel attended a birthday party for a neighbor friend.  During the party, the child's 25 year-old uncle was being teased by another adult and a 10 year-old child about looking like a girl.  Apparently, this guy's hair was getting long, or maybe he was just feeling effeminate that particular day, I don't know. Daniel, wanting to be in on the fun, called the guy "gay".  I suppose it's partly my fault for not having that conversation with my son sooner, but he was only 10.  It's not like you get into the real details of what it means to be gay with a child that young.  So somewhere along the way my son had picked up on the idea that the word refers to a man who acts like or looks like a woman.  So in the context of this conversation, he was just playing along.  I'll have to work on that whole "belittling someone else just to fit in with the crowd" thing at another time, but that's not what this blog is about.

Now one would think that the masculinity of someone who, by most accounts, is an adult (at least the government recognizes him as such) would not be threatened by the silly remarks of a ten year-old boy.  Not so with this moron.  He mutters something about getting back at him for that one.  Then, as Daniel is on his way back home from the party, he is knocked down by this dickhead's nephew and then kicked at least twice in the ribs by the "adult".  I wasn't home when this happened, but there were still marks when I examined the injury almost four hours later.

Then the following day this "adult" threatens my son again.  He tells him that if he ever uses that dirty word again, that he will call the police on him.  WTF!?!    So now my son believes he has done something majorly wrong and that saying the word "gay" is an offense punishable by law.  How screwed up is that?
So we had the talk about what it means to be gay.  We also explained that there's nothing wrong with it, but that some people think there is, and that because of that there is a lot of hate associated with the word.  I thought we had made headway on the subject, and I was feeling rather pleased with myself.

Fast forward to last night.  I'm dishing up ice cream in the kitchen, which is always an occasion to break into singing Broadway tunes at the top of one's lungs.    I'm singing my own version of a great hit from West Side Story that goes something like this...."I feel Creepy, oh so creepy.  I feel creepy and sleepy and gay!"  Of course on the word gay you just have to break into your most loud and obnoxious operatic vibrato, because that is just what scooping ice cream and singing Broadway demand. 

Daniel asks me about using that bad word.

Damn.  I thought we had covered this.  So I explained that in that song it means happy.  Which leads to questions about why people think it is a bad word.  Which leads me into a long dissertation about how being gay is not bad.  There's nothing to be ashamed of.  I know some fabulously wonderful gay people.  It's the people that think it's bad that have the problem.  Yadda, yadda, yadda.  *sigh*

Now I'm pretty secure in my son's heterosexuality.  He lingers far too long over the exercise magazines at the bookstore to not be attracted to women.  But that's not the point.  I don't want him to grow up to think that people that are gay need to be ashamed or embarrassed or punished because of it.  And it's all because one stupid asshole can't handle an offhand comment from a child.

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