“That’s SO gay.”
Do you remember that saying? “That’s so gay” was used to describe anything that was negative or gross or undesirable. I used this saying growing up, I heard it daily until Hilary Duff taught me that it was really hurtful to use that language.
I remember once a friend of mine went to a wedding where two women were married. She came back and told us about how GROSS it was – they had the AUDACITY to KISS in front of everyone at their own wedding.
Like many people my age, I was raised in a house where homosexuality was really even talked about. Those were the times. That’s the conservative Midwest.
The first character I can remember being openly gay was Kurt from Glee. I will never forget the episode where he came out to his Dad. That was such a pivotal moment in the series. It was so well done. It was the first moment I felt empathy for an LGBTQ+ person and I was a 9th grader. I didn’t personally know anyone who was gay or what they might struggle through. This was in 2009 and 2010.
Times have changed since then. Some of my best friends fall into the LGBTQ+ category. They’ve taught me so much about what love can look like. I’m so grateful to call them my friends.
I’ve been extremely intentional about conversations I have with my 5 year old son. Carver came home from preschool the other day. He had gotten in an argument with a classmate. His classmate insisted that boys could not marry boys and girls could not marry girls. Carver said that’s NOT true “because my mom said” that anyone can marry anyone.
I explained to Carver that some people think it isn’t right for boys to marry boys or girls to marry girls. Carver was baffled. He didn’t even register that it could be perceived as a “bad thing” to be gay. He’s always known it’s an option. It’s hard to believe that gay marriage has only been federally legal for 6 years (some states it has been legal much longer.)
Just a side note – In prepping for this post, I sent it to one of my dearest friends, Jen. She and her wife Dawn have two little boys around my boys’ age. When Jen was pregnant with their oldest son (who is now almost 7), they lived in Wisconsin. At the time, Iowa (surprising to me) was one of the most progressive states in the country, even more so than California. They packed up and moved to Iowa so they could both be on their son’s birth certificate. Had he been born in Wisconsin, Jen (who was carrying their son) would have had to surrender her rights and together they would have to pay thousands of dollars to readopt their own son.
Carver and Gannon have had a baby doll, my nephew Jasper has a doll and LOVES to play with his baby. When I was growing up, it was NOT cool for boys to play with dolls, and I specifically remember it was because “it might make them gay” as if that’s the worst possible outcome. What if they love to pretend to be a Dad or an Uncle?
He came home after wearing a pink shirt and was frustrated because someone at school told him pink was a “girl color.” Carver didn’t know that boys “aren’t allowed” to like pink.
When I ask him about his future, I ask if he thinks he’ll marry a boy or a girl.
Sometimes I ask Carver if he thinks he will take a dance class or want to wear makeup someday. Carver LOVES to do my hair and makeup. He loves to paint fingernails with the girls at daycare. Carver doesn’t like to get his fingernails painted but he does like to paint his cousins Georgia’s fingernails!
I’m intentional to introduce Carver to transgender and non binary individuals on instagram (my favorite is Jeffery Marsh!) for him to see and hear from people who look different than us and understand their experiences.
These conversations aren’t always easy for me. It doesn’t come natural for me to introduce these topics. It’s awkward sometimes. It’s not how I grew up, these conversations weren’t happening at my house. Craig sometimes gives me some side eye when I ask Carver if he has a girlfriend or a boyfriend.
We didn’t grow up in this world, but Carver will be.
I’m not raising Carver to live in my generation, I’m raising Carver to be a part of his generation.
I’m raising Carver to live in a world where it’s common practice to ask someone their preferred pronouns.
I’m raising Carver to live in a world where there isn’t a “coming out of the closet,” just loving who you love.
Of course I want Carver to know he is loved and supported no matter who he loves or how he lives, but most importantly, I’m raising Carver to learn to love others.
I don’t want him to be confused the first time he sees two men holding hands in public.
I don’t want the first time he sees a man wearing makeup or a dress to scare him.
I imagine a day where his classmate with two moms is just his classmate.
I imagine a world where homosexuality is not strange or weird or unnatural as it would have been presented to me in my day. It’s not a topic of conversation, it just is.
For this to happen, these conversations have to start with us. If they are raised knowing there are LGBTQ+ people in this world, that’s all they know. It isn’t shocking or scary or confusing or traumatic, it just is a part of life.
The first time I showed Carver a video of a man doing his makeup, it was weird for me. I had to fight the thought of, “Men don’t wear makeup. Men don’t wear dresses. Men are masculine. If I show this to Carver is he going to want to do his makeup?” Carver didn’t pick up on any of that. Now, for as long as Carver can remember, he knows makeup is for girls OR boys.
When I showed Carver a video of a man wearing a dress, it was weird for me. I had to fight the thought of “Dresses and skirts are for girls. He’s too young to understand this. Men don’t wear girly things or wear high heels.” Carver didn’t pick up on any of that. Now, for as long as he can remember, he knows anyone can wear any clothes and it doesn’t take away from their value as a human.
When I ask Carver if he has a boyfriend or a girlfriend, it’s weird for me. I have to fight the thought of, “Am I encouraging this? Why am I talking to my preschooler about this?” But now, for as long as Carver can remember, he knows that everyone has the option or choice of loving who he wants to love.
I hope he can carry that understanding through his life when his friend tells him they are gay. I hope he carries this understanding when his classmates are making fun of someone who dresses more feminine. I hope Carver can remember this when he’s struggling with his identity or questioning his own sexuality one day. I hope he carries these “awkward for me” conversations with him through his life to know he is loved and everyone is worthy of love.
I’m born straight, I refuse to hate. I’m raising my babies to love your babies. I hope you can do the same.
I know I mention Carver a lot in this post, of course these conversations will also be had with Gannon however Gannon’s world only revolves around tractors these days. He hardly notices anyone else in the world exists but we will be sure to include him in due time.