A reader writes:
In 1984 my daughter was in the second grade and outed us. How? It was Valentine's Day and she drew a big heart with an arrow through it that said, "Dad loves Ted".
I still have it.
P.S. Her teacher was *horrified* and told the school principle. Another teacher who had a gay son told me that my family was the subject of ridicule in the teacher's lounge. I try to forget that.
In response to your video posting today, I just want to reiterate that yes, kids do get it. A friend of mine has a 7-year-old son whom she asked if he wanted to attend the Pride parade with her and some friends. He said yes and got very excited about being in a parade, but the morning of the parade, he was quiet and seemed confused at breakfast. When my friend asked him what was wrong, he asked her what "gay" meant. She explained it to him, in an age-appropriate way, and he pondered this for a moment before saying, "Yeah, that makes sense," and went on eating his breakfast. And, incidentally, had a great time at the parade.
The Christianist Right in this country knows this. Why do you think they're so terrified of the normalizing effect of gay marriage, and gay marriage being "taught" in schools?
My partner and I have been together for over 20 years now. My partner's sister has a now 21-year-old son who has never known anything other than my partner and me being at all family functions. We were visiting his family and he wanted to take us to a free wine tasting. At the wine tasting a woman started a conversation with the nephew and it soon became apparent that my partner and I were with him. She asked, "Who are these guys?" Without any hesitation he answered, "These are my uncles."
It almost brought a tear to my eye.
Three of my nephews live in southern West Virginia in a town with a lot of bigotry, much of it tacitly accepted. I've made a project of taking them out-of-state on my visits and eventually succeeded in bringing the eldest out to San Francisco, where I live, after overcoming the amorphous fears of his parents.
At about age 13 or 14, on his first visit, John told me that he hated gay people and thought they should be put in jail because they are "against the Bible." No amount of discussion between us or even fussing on my part could change his mind.
I live in an apartment building with a shared courtyard and we're a pretty friendly group of tenants who enjoy spending time together. One rare sunny day, John and I went out to the courtyard to play chess in the garden's 'chess corner.' Two couples were already there, Will and Darren, Jade and Janice. I realized my nephew was thrilled to be hanging out with the grown-ups without knowing that most of the grown-ups were gay. I went inside.
About two hours later, he stomped into the apartment and without preamble announced, "Aunt Michelle, I don't hate gay people any more. And did you know that the clitoris is just for pleasure?"
For maximum funny, my story should probably end there but I have to add that John, now 23, is recently back from 13 months in Iraq serving in the U.S. Army. Of course he has gay friends in the Army. Hate in the abstract is easy. Thanks to some caring and generous adults, my nephew got that monkey off his back pretty early and I hope the experience continues to serve him well. I am so proud of him.
(Photo: my and Aaron's nieces as ring-bearers at our wedding in 2007.)