Last week, when the big Chick-Fil-A kerfuffle was reaching a fever pitch, I tweeted a couple of jokes showing support for those who, like myself, are upset over the amount of money Dan Cathy donates to anti-gay causes. The tweets took off, and before I knew it I was receiving a flurry of responses. I was proud to see that many people agreed with me, thought my tweets were funny, cheekily hit on me, or just generally stayed positive about a bad situation. But of course there were plenty of angry responses too. I received my fair share of hateful, angry attacks, calling me a fascist, suggesting I do inappropriate things with myself, and perhaps worst of all, lumping me in with those scourge of the right wing: leftists activists.
Let's get one thing straight: I am not an activist. I may be a lefty, bleeding-heart liberal. I may be pro-equality, pro-gay rights, pro-animal rights, and, yes, even pro-religious rights. I'm pretty much what you'd call
pro-everybody-live-your-life-however-you-want-as-long-as-nobody-gets-hurt, but I don't think standing up for basic human decency makes me an activist. And let's be clear: believing in the right for humans to love one another and have their rights respected under the law is about as basic as human decency can get.
So I'm not really an activist; I'm just a dad. That's the first priority. Of course I'm also a husband, son, brother, and uncle. I'm a beer enthusiast, fan of weird music, amateur stand-up comedian, and all sorts of other things. But being a dad? That's the big one. That's the one that changed how I live my life and what I want for the future. It affects how I see everything. I have three children, all under 6, and as I look around at the world in which they're growing up it's not hard to realize that there's much more at stake than just my own personal pursuit of happiness.
My oldest son is what one might call "gender non-conforming". That's just a PC way of saying his favorite color is pink and he likes getting a mani/pedi. Is he gay? I don't know. He's 5. Likely he doesn't know yet either. But it's safe to say if the day should come that he does realize he is, his mother and I won't be surprised. We also won't be disappointed, horrified, or ashamed. We'll be proud of him for being a strong, self-aware person. We'll celebrate that he is able to be truthful to himself and to us. We'll hope he was able to be honest with us as soon as he knew. We'll love him every bit as much then as we do now.
In the meantime, we're happy just letting him be himself. Next week he starts kindergarten, a big step for him, and perhaps an even bigger one for my wife and me. We couldn't be more excited, even if we are a bit sad, to see him embarking on the next journey in his life. But we also recognize that he is a prime target for bullying, whether the overt kind that comes from other children, or the more subtle variety that comes from adults. If he picks a pink piece of construction paper to draw on, will his teacher say "Oh, you don't want a pink piece of paper. How about this blue one?" When they go to the playground, and he goes with the girls, playing pretend at My Little Pony or Disney Fairies, will the teacher tell him to go play football with the boys?
I can do my best to prepare him for being teased by other kids, but how do I explain to him that adults, who he's taught to trust and obey, can be just as harmful? And when I see events like last week's chicken sandwich bonanza play out all around me, it's hard not to worry about what messages all three of my kids will get from various adults in their lives.
But the thing is, having a son who is into princesses isn't what makes me wish for a more accepting and encouraging society. Just simply having a son at all, two of them in fact, with a daughter in between, is. Because it's not about equality for boys who want to wear pink, or girls who want to play football. It's not even just about equality for marriage rights and respect under the law. Equality isn't an issue that only benefits one group or another. When we treat each other as equals, with equal opportunities and equal rights, everyone's chance to find happiness improves. Above all, most parents want their kids to be happy and healthy. We want them to be treated as fairly as possible, even in a world that is notoriously unfair. We want them to have every opportunity to succeed, not just in their careers, but in every facet of their lives.
Of course I'm not really offended to be called an activist. But it's hard for me to see myself that way, when all I'm doing is what parents all over this great big planet of ours are doing: trying to leave a better world for their children. Hopefully it'll be a world where people don't join together to spend an outrageous amount of money to show appreciation for a restaurant that openly supports bigotry while people all over the world are suffering due to lack of food, water, shelter, and healthcare. Hopefully it'll be a world where major political candidates don't voice support for the so-called biblical definition of marriage while ignoring the many variations of marriage referenced in the Bible. Hopefully it'll be a world where no group, regardless of their skin color, religion, sexual orientation, or lifestyle is targeted by the law to have their lives and rights hindered in any way. And if that's not the world my kids inherit, they can at least know I was on their side.
Follow Cory D. Byrom on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cdbyrom