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October 13, 2010 at 6:18 am (Parenthood) ()

October 11th is* National Coming Out Day.  I have to admit it’s an occasion I’ve never marked on my calendar before.  This year it’s getting more attention (at least according to my Facebook page) due to the publicity of Rutger University’s Tyler Clementi’s untimely passing.  All the attention has got me thinking, too.

Acceptance of LGBT persons is honestly something I haven’t considered much recently.  I socialize with people who express no discriminatory thoughts, or at least don’t dare express them in front of me.  But I also don’t have any friends that we see regularly who are (openly) gay, so I don’t have much regular second-hand knowledge about what it’s like these days.  In some respects, I feel like I’m overstepping my bounds writing a blog post about it.  But on the other hand, another message advocating R-E-S-P-E-C-T can’t be a bad thing, right?

My first friendships with anybody gay began, oddly enough, in East Africa.  Most of Africa remains an extremely homophobic place.  But amongst the group of twenty or so American college students that I went with to study at the University of Dar es Salaam, being gay, questioning whether you might be gay, and beginning to come out were much discussed.  Discussed and discussed and discussed, in the way that college students, who stay up late nights and have little else to do, can.  A few were amidst the beginning of their Coming Out Journeys, for a few it was college experimentation in a straight person,  and the others were along for the ride.

When I returned I brought up the subject often.  Enough that the people around me probably got tired of hearing about the gay majority in a small community of Hall Seven at UDSM.  But it did have at least one positive effect.  I was honored when a housemate picked me to be the first person she came out to.  I’m happy to report she’s now happily married to the woman she had just met back then, and she’s pregnant with their third child. 

For my part in spreading acceptance on National Coming Out Day, I decided on the spur of the moment to bring it up with one of my six year olds.  I’m not sure how I haven’t explained what gay means to them before.  I guess who a person dates and marries hasn’t come up too much, period.  Where babies come from, that subject has been questioned and read about and talked about ad infinitum.  But not attraction and falling in love.

It’s a completely anticlimactic story.  Casually I ask Twin 2 while setting the breakfast cereal bowls out, “Have you heard of the word ‘gay’?” 

Twin 2: “Uh, no, I don’t think so.  Say it again.”

Me: “Gay.  Have you ever noticed that sometimes instead of a man and a woman being a couple there can be couples with two women or two men?  That’s what the word gay means.”  (They did go to preschool with two kids with gay parents, one who had two mommies and one who had Daddy and Papa, but my kids never brought it up to me and I never pointed it out.

Twin 2: “No.  So it rhymes with ‘day’?  Guh, guh, it starts with G?”

Me: “Yes, it starts with G.  Well, I just wanted you to know that sometimes people fall in love with somebody that’s their same sex.  Do you have any questions about that?”

Twin 2: “G… A… any more letters?”

Me: “Y.” 

And that was that.

Clearly this isn’t something that has hit his radar.  And clearly his learning-to-read/spell brain is in high gear.  But I’m glad I brought it up before somebody other than me did.  A seed was planted for him to think about.  Any topic is best explained in small pieces.  He may bring it up again in a few days, he may not.  Certainly, though, it will come up again sooner than later.  And he will know it’s something he can talk to Mom about.

I decided not to initially explain that we think being gay is okay.  One because he didn’t seem interested in further discussion, but also because it seemed wrong to present it as a debate.  It’s not to me.  Someday we’ll talk about what other people might think, and what they could say to them about it.  For now, Twin 2 knows a new word, and that it’s spelled G-A-Y.

*was and is ongoing- I wrote this first paragraph yesterday, but then dinner got in the way.


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