Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Teach your children well


My little eight y.o. niece (second grade) had her first 'sleepover' last weekend. I was asking her about it over the phone. She had a great time.

ME: Were all your friends there?
SHE: All of them except one girl from the dance team, but I don't think we wanted her there anyway. We think she's gay.
ME: Really? Do you know what that means?
SHE: Not really. Just that she's weird and she might wanna kiss me.

She doesn't know what gay is, but she already thinks it's a bad thing. Per my sister's wishes, she doesn't know her uncle is gay. The uncle she calls a few times a week is gay. The uncle she reads her poems to is gay. The uncle who takes her to the movies is gay. The uncle she tried to trade her sister for so he could be her godfather is gay.

When is a kid old enough to know? Wonder what she'll think about 'gay' by the time she finds out?

PS I'm not judging my sister. Far from it. Just today someone at work tried to fix me up with her daughter and I took her number, so I'm not in a position to judge.

18 comments:

maddie said...

If it were me - and I'm not judging your sister either because 1) I don't know her and 2) everyone has their own reasons for doing things - if it was my child, I would introduce the word and concept (at least a little) very early on, so that the child would grow up hearing "gay" and other words relating to it and hopefully by the time they are adults, that has been part of their world for their whole lives, so it is a non-issue with them, in an ideal situation. I can't help what hits them when they go out into the world, but I can at least instill some good in them before they go.

Total stream of conciousness... might not make that much sense... but I think it starts with kids. Sounds cheesy, and I tend to get a little preachy, but if you teach kids tolerance and acceptance - each generation could get a little better.

freakgirl said...

Wow. I'm sorry, Michael. I'm sure that made you feel pretty crappy.

My nieces aren't quite old enough for that to be in their consciousness. Of course, if they had stayed in Key West, it would be a fact of life.

Just out of curiousity, at what age do you think your sister will find it appropriate? Because I would feel terribly marginalized if I had to hide an entire part of my being to my nieces, the two children I love more than anything in the world.

Sigh.

So, when are you going out with this girl? ;)

Michael said...

It doesn't sound preachy at all, Maddie. I agree. Each generation can and SHOULD get a little better. Part of what I'm struggling with now is that I'm not advancing the cause by adopting what is basically a self-imposed don't ask-don't tell policy in my personal life and a full-on lie in my professional life. Maybe that's why this blog is so gay...it's an outlet.

Michael said...

We were all with the simultaneous commenting, fg.
I'm not sure when she'll feel it's OK for her girls to know. I'm a silent accomplice, though. I think that since I'm not completely open in my life, she feels no compunction to be open about me with them.
Things are changing fast for me though. I feel like I'm waking up after hibernating for a decade. This is gonna be a big year for me! Is that dramatically queen-y enough for y'all?
Oh, and my big date? See, this is another reason I have to make changes. I get fixed up with AWESOME people. She's from India and is HOT..a med tech...likes to read...a runner....only drawback is the whole 'one too many X chromosomes/no Adam's apple' deal.

freakgirl said...

Slip some testosterone in her drink.

Michael said...

Yeah, that, or just use my old standby: back door/eyes shut.

Maggie said...

I had a great opportunity to explain gay to Alex when Chip and Reichen were on TAR. Their little bio described them as married and he just took that at face value. Like Maddie, I want Alex, as an adult, to have always known about homosexuality, just like he's always known about trees. You know what I mean?

May I ask what it is about your being gay that your sister doesn't want her daughter to know? Because I can understand not wanting to explain particulars, but Alex was very happy with the explanation that some people like to be with members of the opposite sex, and some people like to be with members of the same sex.

I'm usually very open but pretty general until he asks me a direct question, and then I tell it like it is. So far we've managed a lot of pretty heavy discussions without the slightest bit of embarrassment on either of our parts.

Michael said...

You talking about your kid just made me tear up a little. Parent-child things just kill me. A nice straightforward open dialogue...things like that.

My sister is conservative and she's a bit overprotective. She always feels her girls will be traumatized by things and is inevitably surprised when they barely even notice those things. I never spent much time even thinking about it since I haven't been in any real relationship for them to question. That little conversation did give me pause, though.

Jen said...

Oh honey, I'm sorry.

luscious loulou said...

I knew about Gay from very young myself and because sex was still a far-off thing it was just something that was... like the previously mentioned Trees. And Love.

So maybe if your sister knows you'd like to give Maggie's little anecdote a try "...some people like to be with members of the opposite sex, and some people like to be with members of the same sex." Maybe bring up Siegfried & Roy. And the tigers. And it's all about the love. Whaddya think?

The Other Andrew said...

Reading this made feel bad too Mikey, I'm sorry. There's nothing worse than feeling invalidated like that. I guess I understand where your sister is coming from though, although I think she's wrong. She risks her kids feeling lied to by her when they eventually find out the truth. They'll work it out, kids aren't dumb.

My two little nephews have two gay uncles (me and my brother-in-law's brother) and are beyond cool about it. Once my sister overheard the youngest explaining to one of his friends how Uncle Scott won't be having any kids because he's gay and he and Uncle Matt are 'married'. She said it was very sweet and funny. Secretly I think one of them is gay, always have. He pinged my gaydar at a very young age. My sister is not phased by the possibility at all, she thinks he might be too.

Michael said...

Thanks for the input, guys. It mainly made me feel bad because she'll eventually feel realize I was lying to her. I guess all I can do is make my life authentic and leave the rest.

The Other Andrew said...

"I guess all I can do is make my life authentic and leave the rest."

Word.

Maggie said...

I don't know about the lying, Michael. You're just respecting your sister's wishes. You have a relationship wiith your sister and with your niece, and I can't imagine that when the time comes for her to either be told or realize it herself, that those relationships would change. Don't feel bad. I think I understand why you're so torn, though. It must be difficult to play into the idea that being gay should be hidden when what you really want to be doing is showing everyone that regular, wonderful people can be gay and remain regular, wonderful people.

Andrew, about your suspicion that one of your nephews might be gay: I was 19 when Alex was born and at that time I wasn't very comfortable with homosexuality. I wasn't against it, but it wasn't something I was taught about. I didn't "get" it. My parents are eastern european immigrants and have always thought of gay people as amusingly crazy and slightly horrifying. "They can do whatever they want as long as they don't do it in front of me!"

Anyway, one of my friends asked me what I would do if Alex turned out to be gay. I was distressed by the very thought of it. Over the years, my distress has changed. I'm still worried about it, but not because of how I would feel. I don't want him to be gay because I'm afraid of how difficult life would be for him because the world still sucks. As it turns out the kid isn't exhibiting anything that would make me think he's gay, but if he was, if he actually was gay and told us, my first course of action after telling him how much I love him would be to move us back into the city so he could explore and be part of the gay community there. We live in a rural area right now where everyone is conservative and I fear being gay up here would be a truly horrifying experience.

Michael said...

Maggie, you had to go and make me cry. Again. You're like the fucking Canadian Barbara Walters, only much younger and much prettier and without the delusions of grandeur. I'm talking about you saying you'd move to the city if you found out your child was gay. That's one of the most awesome things I've heard in a while.
I am respecting my sister's wishes and at the same time I can't expect full honesty and disclosure from other people until I practice it myself. I live in one of those rural and unaccepting communties that you're talking about. People around here don't think I'm gay. Stop laughing! I'm not as flaming as I might seem. That's why I'm forever whining about getting out of here. It'll happen. And soon. Well, for now I'm going to the dentist, but soon!

luscious loulou said...

You know what goes through my mind when I read this stuff about you, michael?

I want to pack up the hybrid Suv with my dog and some chic city clothes and a Patagonia or three (for skiing and sipping espressos in an open-air cafe) and zip by your place and pick you up (with a coupla' hours notice) and just drive you somewhere where I can release you into the wilds of Bentville, Big City.
I figure, you just need a wee push in the right direction and I'll bet you could take any city by storm.


ps no hybrid suv yet. still got the accord. but that's part of my dream.

luscious loulou said...

Oh here's the comment I wanted to add.

I read this great description of Heath's character: “But the movie belongs to Ledger, who turns in an astonishing, Oscar-worthy performance as a man who knows he's drowning but won't swim. His words choke in his throat from fear of what they might express.”

I'm hoping that your little rural enclave isn't quite this bad but it sure made me think of you, darlin'. So.

Michael said...

Somehow I missed this, you precious thing. No, it's not so bad for me. I'm a grown man for chrissake and it's not like fucking 1970. It's just so easy NOT to change, isn't it?
Can we spoon?