How TV Helped Me Talk to My Kids About "The Gays"
Recently one of my daughters and I were making dinner and had some sort of home improvement show on in the background from Bravo, HGTV or something to the like. In it, a male couple was looking for a new house and saw a stunner of a master bedroom closet. One of the gentleman exclaimed, “Well, you know how the gays love their closets!”
I glanced over at my daughter, but she didn’t even blink. I had never talked to my children about homosexuality, transgender issues or anything to do as it relates to sex. I had a whole speech ready though, if the issue came up, and it was good. But nothing was said, so I just went back to chopping my onion.
That show turned into another detailing amazing beach houses. A few minutes later, a woman with a British accent was showing the most luxurious closet I had ever seen. That’s when my daughter turned to me and said, “Wow, Mom…the gays would totally love that closet.”
“Wha-, what did you just say?” I stammered. This was not the way I thought we would be entering the conversation. Did my own daughter just mock homosexuals?
“The Gays. You know, that family from the last show. The Gays family, the ones that loved their closets,” she said without taking her eyes off the television.
God bless that sweet child. She thought “The Gays” was their name. It was hard to contain my laughter.
But later that night I decided that I wanted to discuss the issue of homosexuality with my children. I wanted to do a preemptive strike to ensure they understood how I felt about it, before anyone else did it for me.
Family watching television together photo via Shutterstock.
You see, I was raised in a very socially conservative family. Despite being the most generous person I have ever known, my dad also never proclaimed to accept nor understand a person who had a varying sexual orientation than his own. And I proudly followed in his footsteps.
I read books from Ralph Reed from The Christian Coalition and Rush Limbaugh (please don’t stop reading yet!). I believed homosexuality was wrong, because the Bible said so (despite the fact that we only went to church a few times a year). Now, I did not espouse these views publicly or participate in any agendas to stymie the LGBT movement, but it’s what I thought. Even though at the time I did not know anyone who was outwardly gay. Or so I thought.
When I moved to D.C. right after college, I lived with a friend of the family for a few months. Each Sunday she met one of her friends for dinner, and sometimes I joined. And sometimes so did his life partner. They were awesome, funny, generous and smart, and had been committed to each other for more than 20 years.
Then I met a woman who was outspokenly gay and equally awesome. So were the handful of other people I met that had differing sexual orientations. But they also liked to drink wine, have fun, and all wanted to start a family. I started to get it. They were more like me than not. And they liked to drink wine.
I started paying attention to the rash of ridiculous Hollywood marriages that lasted all of a millisecond, including Britney Spears and Jason What’s-His-Name-Again, Carmen Electra and Dennis Rodman, J-Lo and Chris Judd, and Julia Roberts and Lyle Lovett, among the myriad of others. Was I seriously going to defend that only heterosexuals should be married? Talk about taking the moral low-road.
And then I joined Facebook, and saw so many of my favorite people from my past living happy and full lives, and a few were now living it openly and honestly. I was so very happy for them.
And I was ashamed for what I used to think. I still am. I have opened up my mind, but more importantly my heart. I now believe that human rights are for all humans, not just the people who believe what I do, or act the way I act. Most importantly, I believe that everyone is entitled to be with whomever they want to spend their life with, because that is the only true path to happiness. And everyone deserves to be happy.
So, I know first-hand that as a parent my views—politically, spiritually and socially—impact how my kids will see the world. A lot. I don’t believe my father was a bad person. I think that, like me, he was unaware, underexposed, and just thought like his parents did, because he didn’t know any differently. If he had the experience I did, I think he would have expanded his views. It was pretty hard not to.
Fortunately, my kids have grown up watching strong gay couples on television, and even Disney recently showed a two-mom family on Good Luck Charlielast season.
That’s why when one of my other daughter’s exclaimed loudly at the end of an episode of Property Brothers, “Are they kissing?”—I knew it was because she always says that when she sees people kiss, not just because it was two women that just moved into their dream home.
But this time I seized the opportunity.
“Yep, they’re kissing, because they are married. Boys can kiss boys, girls can kiss girls, and boys can kiss girls. Love is love, and you should kiss and marry whomever you love.”
I expected some questions or dialogue about it, but instead all I got was, “Yeah, I know. Can we watch the Disney Channel now?”
I sighed, and begrudgingly switched the channel to yet another episode of Dog with a Blog or Jessie or some other mind-numbing show. It was okay though, because I didn’t need a big speech for my kids to accept other people. I realized that simply by my husband and I not talking poorly about any “group,” my kids have learned to judge by behavior…not race, creed, religion, or even (unknowingly) sexuality.
I wish I could say it was some part of our master parenting plan, but it wasn’t. Apparently sometimes the best parenting tactics do come out of dumb luck.
And that was how I talked to my kids about “The Gays.”
Have you had conversations like these with your kids? How did you handle it?
Are you wondering how to discuss this issue with your kids? I encourage you to read this article written by gay dad Jerry Mahoney in the blog Scary Mommy awhile back. It offers honest, humorous, refreshing tips on how to answer any questions your kids may have.
Disclaimer: I understand that this post will not appeal to everyone. I know that I have friends, family and readers who feel and believe differently than I do, and I can only say that I respect your right to your own viewpoints, just as I know you have always respected mine.