I am annoyed.
OK, I have to be honest and say that's not really abnormal. I'm human; I get annoyed. If you want to see me get really worked up, cancel my new favorite television show after its first season. (Have you seen Wonderfalls? Seriously, it's awesome... and on Netflix.) But this time it is different. I am getting annoyed at a some of my friends and family.
When my 7-year-old son first announced to us he was gay, the response from the people in our lives, the people who are important to us, was overwhelmingly positive. Our kid was adorable, and, of course, we should support him. But now that time has passed, about six months, a few people are starting to change their tune. Now, these are the exceptions, but they have been popping up lately.
It started with one of our relatives. She was visiting our house and hanging out with the boys in the living room as they played Wii, while I was in kitchen. I heard her ask my oldest son, "What does gay mean?" I stopped in my tracks. Our house is not big, and she had to know I could hear every word. Instead of rushing into the room and demanding, "What the hell?" I stood at the hall and waited for him to answer.
"Boys who want to hold hands and be boyfriends with other boys," he told her.
Not satisfied with just that, she went on: "Do you know any gay people?"
My son never took his eyes off the game but still managed to shrug while jumping and shaking the remote, answering, "Well, me."
Thankfully, she dropped the subject there, which was good, because I was ready to pop. When I approached her later, she informed me very casually that she was just checking in. Um, what? When did it become her job to "check in" on my son's orientation? And what did she expect to hear? That he had forgotten what the word "gay" meant? I made it clear that I would not appreciate any of her "check-ins" in the future.
I left the conversation unsatisfied. It was almost as if she wanted some kind of proof from him that this was still really happening. It wasn't OK for her to demand that from him, and he shouldn't have had to put up with it. I don't think he needs someone in his face every two weeks saying, "By the way, are you still gay?" And I don't think it is anyone's place to ask for "proof" of orientation. What kind of proof could someone really give? (Minds out of the gutter, please; we are talking about my kid here.)
Another comment that took me aback was actually from one of our gay friends. We were over at his and his partner's house for the day, playing with the boys in the swimming pool and generally exhausting everyone. We had decided it was time to go home and feed our growing kiddos, and my husband took them inside to change out of their swimming clothes for the short journey home.
When they were out of earshot, my friend turned to me and said, out of nowhere, "I don't think he is."
"Don't think who is what?" I asked.
"I don't think he's gay," my friend clarified. I caught up in an instant. He went on: "He doesn't set my gaydar pinging."
"Yeah, but I should be able to tell," he insisted.
"Well, he would disagree with you," I said, not really knowing how to respond to this statement.
"Yeah, well, he's too young to know yet."
Before the conversation could go any further, my boys, all dry, dressed, and ready to go, were rushing in on us, asking if we could get ice cream on the way home.
I have heard the he's-too-young-to-know argument more times than I can count. Yes, my son is young. Yes, he might come to me at some time in the future and tell me he's not gay. And he might not. It's my job to love him. Period.
In any case, the he's-too-young-to-know argument is a slippery slope. If 7 is too young, then how old is old enough? Is 10 old enough? Does he have to be in puberty? If so, then what stage of puberty? Is 13 still too young, or does he have to be at least 15, or maybe 18? Does he have to be 21 to really know his orientation? The reality is that kids are coming out younger and younger. And while some people casually dismiss the thoughts and feelings of children, I don't. He knows what he feels, and he expresses it.
And gaydar? Really? Gay friends told me they "knew" my kid was gay before he ever mentioned anything to us, and now I've had one tell me he "knows" my kid isn't gay. The last time I checked, gaydar wasn't foolproof with adults, much less with children. My son is the only 7-year-old I know who has come out, and we have yet to see a research study on the accuracy of gaydar on the under-10 set. The fact is my son is going to be who he is, and nothing anyone does or says (or whose gaydar pings or not) can change that.
Sadly, I think this is only the beginning of seeing people in our lives openly questioning our son instead of openly affirming him. I hope that, like now, the number of people important to us who accept who he is, and who he declares himself to be, continues to exceed those trying to overthink him or expecting him to prove himself. But no matter what happens, I know he'll always have us behind him to say, "Baby, we love you just the way you are." And if we tell him and show him enough, he may just believe it.
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