A reader writes:
As a straight man, I've found that the best answer to my children's questions about gay couples is the simplest: they love each other just like mommy and me. They have accepted this observation without any confusion on their part.
That's certainly the case with the kids in our family. I remember the first time my young niece and nephew came to Provincetown to visit me and Aaron (before our marriage). We never sat them down and told them we were gay. We didn't tell them what our relationship was (they were 8 and 11 respectively). But after a couple of days, my niece asked about a trip we were planning: "Is uncle Aaron coming?" She got it instantly. Kids not told that gay people are evil do not see us as evil; and they see our marriages as like any others. My niece can actually recite by heart the vows we took at our wedding, which is more than I can do any more. But this is still obviously a work in progress across the country and the world. Another reader writes:
With regard to your reader's comments, my partner and I own a home in a typical neighborhood on the South Shore of Boston. Every Halloween we carve a pumpkin and buy candy for the trick or treaters. And for the past eight years we have lived here, we watch as several families with little ones visit every house on our street except ours. We have watched families literally cross to the other side of the street of the street and glare at our house as they walk by. We do not know these people, but clearly they have been informed about us, the homosexual couple who lives down the street. This happens in Massachusetts; this isn't even Oklahoma.
I am willing to entertain the notion that parents are generally uncomfortable about discussing sex, and especially homosexuality, with their children, but do they vote against gay marriage because of discomfort? Let's be very clear about this: the anti gay marriage crowd repeats the false argument that homosexuality will be taught in school because it alludes to age old myths and smears about homosexuals as recruiters, corrupters and predators of youth. That's bigotry. Perhaps it appeals to a subconscious form of bigotry, but it's bigotry all the same.
Another British reader writes:
In my experience children are extremely pragmatic and totally unburdened by preconceptions and prejudices, unless these have been previously inculcated by adults. Instead they find it more difficult to grasp arbitrary rules and distinctions for example, the five year old son of a black friend of mine thought she was joking when she gently introduced the subject of racism. Adults may find some concepts embarrassing or awkward, but if they’re presented in a no nonsense, strictly factual way, kids will accept them at face value.
When she asks questions, my five year old daughter is told matter-of-factly that she can marry anyone she wants outside her own family (we choose not to differentiate between civil partnerships and marriage at this stage and hopefully that will be irrelevant when the time comes); and that while most people choose to marry someone of the opposite sex, you can choose to marry the same sex if you want. As a result she didn’t bat an eyelid when she found out that a little boy in her class had two mommies’, though most of the parents found it intriguing.
For the record her current plan is to marry her best friend (another little girl, as she is currently very disapproving of boys in general), become a palaeontologist and have six kids.
Good luck with that!