A Non-Homophobic Home
My faith impels me to teach my children that love comes in many forms, both straight and gay.
"Mommy, do you know what a fag is?" my 7-year-old asked.
I sighed; I was tempted to rest my head on the steering wheel of our minivan, but that's hard to do when the car is moving. Remain calm, I told myself.
"Actually, honey, there's no such thing as a fag. It's a mean name that folks call men who love other men, to make them feel bad," I told Allen.
Through the rearview mirror, I could make out his puzzled expression.
"But I love my daddy, and he's a man," he said.
"That's true. But I'm talking about two men who love each other the way Mommy and Daddy do."
"Oh. OK." And he went back to playing his Gameboy.
That's as far as the conversation went on that particular afternoon, but it pops up again periodically. In a society as highly sexualized as this one, many of us find ourselves talking to our children about things we thought we'd have years to discuss. True, I first discussed with my oldest son the basics of sexuality when he was three and a half. Why? Because I was pregnant with his little brother, and Allen asked me how the baby got inside me. But there are few experiences equal to attempting an explanation--in a public place--of why so many magazines have pictures of women on the covers with "just their bras on, Mommy--you can even see their nipples!" I told them that some magazines--and some people--will do anything to get attention, and that showing women's bodies that way was one of them. That answer worked for now, but I know that the questions, prompted by radio, TV, and the kids down the block, will continue to emerge.
Whenever I talk about matters of sexuality with my children, I try always to place it the context of love. It is a deliberate choice--I want my kids to hear someone in this world talk about love as one of the best parts of sexual expression, and I want them to hear and see that love in their lives with my husband and myself. When Daddy gives me a big old kiss in the kitchen, and the two of us are looking mighty pleased with ourselves, and Allen and Daniel are laughing and trying to hug us too, that's groundwork in sexuality education.
I want them to know hugs and kisses and other physical expressions of love are good. I tell them that one day they might marry someone who will make them feel as good as Daddy makes me feel. And I make it a point, whenever I can, not to give that someone a gender; as likely as it seems that they will be heterosexual, I can't know that for sure. Allen or Daniel might come to me in a decade or so, and say, "Mom, I'm gay." I would fear for his safety and peace in a world so hostile to gay people. But more than anything, I'd want to make sure my child was in a relationship that was truly good for him, one in which he was at least as loved as he'd always been at home.