A father injected his son with HIV-tainted blood to get out of paying child support. A man killed a 4-year-old whom he felt was gay. (I realize this man wasn't really the child's father but the leader of a cult, and I'm sure making the toddler call him "Dad" would not be the craziest thing he would have asked the baby to do). Congresspeople proudly vote to make their own gay children second-class citizens and are even praised by their staffers for doing so. (Honor thy mother and father, but take a giant dump on thy own children). I teach my children that being gay is nothing to be ashamed of, even when that someone is them.
Somehow I'm a parent to add to this list.
The unexpected thing about Amelia writing her blog these past eight months has been the interaction with all the commenters. Most have been wonderfully supportive; their comments have been insightful, and the several commenters she has interviewed for blog posts have been warm and genuinely nice people.
Then there are the trolls. They all know so much about our gay-identified son:
"He can't be gay!"
"There's no way he could know he's gay at such an young age!"
"He is going to hate you as a teenager when he turns out straight!"
"You're horrible parents to be doing this!"
Their comments are reactionary hate, a reflexive reaction to anything positive about homosexuality, a way of protecting themselves from catching "the gay."
Most of these troll droppings are easy to ignore. But the one thing that gets me is the claim that we're horrible parents. This is something my wife and I talk about a lot, both before she started writing for The Huffington Post and many times since: Should we do this and risk exposing him -- and the whole family -- to public scrutiny? What if he does turn out straight? Could this harm him? Are we starting him out in life with a great cross to bear?
And while we do talk about all this, we also discuss other issues: What if he continues to identify as gay when he's an adult? Should that even matter? What are we doing to better the world for him and his brothers? How can we look at ourselves in the mirror every morning and say, "Yeah, the world sucks for our gay friends and family, but our sons are doing OK; we don't need to do anything to change the status quo, right?"
We do need to change the status quo -- smash it to bits, really. Is there any harm in raising kids who treat gay people with respect? There has been a lot of talk about kids coming out as gay at younger and younger ages. If our son turns out to be straight, there is still a very good chance he will have a gay classmate or a young gay neighbor. Do we want him to ridicule this child or sit by and watch others do it? What kind of life would he live if his friends are constantly sad? Right now he is a happy, life-loving little boy, and I would love it if he could always be that way, but I know that won't happen. Sooner or later he will learn that people hate other people because of their skin color, the place they were born, the language they speak, or whom they fall in love with -- even what sport team they like, the music they listen to, or the way they worship the same god the hater worships (people hate for a lot of stupid reasons). I can't stop him from learning this, but I can prepare him for when he does experience it.
So I will keep raising my children the way I have been, the only way I know how: with an open mind and heart, accepting of others' differences, and willing to stand up for what is right when hate appears. I try to show him in my actions how to live, and how to treat others he meets. And if I'm being honest, he has learned that gay people are just people to be loved and treated with respect; that to be a good father is to be a good partner to your significant other, even if it means not getting online and yelling at all the trolls in the comment sections of her or his posts; and that the best way to deal with all the stupid drivers on the road is to yell impotently at the windshield, just like all the other good parents out there do.