I think every parent has those discussions they don't want to have with their children. There are definitely a few I'm not looking forward to. Like the conversation we'll have to have the day one of our "friends" gets a big mouth and tells our kids the story how my husband and I really met. Or the one we'll have to have when my father starts telling stories of what I was actually like as a teenager. Or the ones we'll have to have about more serious things, like why my mother isn't a part of our lives. Now that my oldest son, at 7 years old, identifies as gay, I find myself facing a whole new set of things I just don't want to say to him.
"Baby, your blood isn't good enough."
In this country it is still illegal for gay men to give blood. And there will come the day that I will have to explain to my son that his blood is considered too risky, too likely diseased (despite his personal health) to be used to save lives. That if one day someone he loves, like his father, one of his little brothers, or me, is an accident and the family is asked to donate blood, he must stay behind.
"Sweetheart, you can't help other people have babies."
My husband and I went through years of infertility before our son was born. Although we didn't choose a path that involved donor sperm, many other people do. If he wants to help another family create children with a donation from his own body, I will have to explain to him that no, such a gift of his body is illegal because he's gay.
"Honey, you can't wear your 'Likes Boys' T-shirt today."
Although we live in a great, progressive, and liberal neighborhood, we also live in the Midwest. Gatherings like family reunions, float trips, and camping excursions aren't in our neighborhood. They are sometimes in places where my son being open about his orientation could be coupled with the very real risk of physical harm. Merely thinking of asking my son to "het it up," even if for his own safety, makes me sick to my stomach.
"No, baby, they aren't actually married, and you can't be, either."
We have many gay couples in our lives who have been together as long as, or longer than, my husband and I have been together. The kids have always referred to them as "married." After all, in every sense except the legal (the importance of which should not be downplayed), they are married. But the longer real marriage equality is not the reality of our state and country, the more likely it is that I will need to explain to him how people blinded by fear, hate, and religion can influence the law.
"Yes, darling, I'm sorry, but they can fire you."
In our state and many others, it is still legal to fire someone simply for being gay. If, in his teens, my son gets a job as a camp counselor, restaurant worker, or whatever else, he could legally be fired for wearing that same "Likes Boys" T-shirt I was worried about him wearing on our camping trip on his down time.
No, it is not fair. No, it is not right. But right now those facts don't change what is.
I have already had to explain to my kid that some people don't like it when people are gay. We told him that those people are wrong but that that doesn't stop them from feeling that way. It was a conversation we didn't want to have, but we had to have it. My husband and I felt we needed to warn him about the reality of the world and arm him with a response should he be faced with such hatred: We told him to stop what he's doing and run to get us immediately, and that if we're not there, he should go to another trusted adult, like one of his teachers. I hated this conversation. It was wrong, so wrong, to look into my baby's brown eyes and essentially tell him that a group of people already hated him. It pissed me off so much, but I was trying to be a good mom, and we were trying to be good parents, so we had it. And while we were having it, I distinctly felt that he didn't believe us. Homophobia is not something that is part of his life, his experience. It is so foreign that it could not possibly be true. A big part of me wishes he could believe that forever.
And that's the thing with all these conversations. I don't want to have them. I don't want what I will have to say to be true. My child is guilty of nothing but simply being. But there are big consequences to his being in a society that denies equal rights to some of its citizens. He won't be able to believe for much longer in the myth that America is a place where all people are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. No, he'll live in the real world, and sometimes the real world sucks.
But in these conversations, when he gets as frustrated and angry as I am, I will be able to tell him that I am fighting for change. That I am fighting for his civil rights. That I am not content to sit by and wait for the world to catch up with logic and fairness. I am not quiet in the struggle for his equality and the millions like him. And if enough of us fight, there is always the chance that I won't have to have these discussions. That I will get the satisfaction of crossing them off the list, one by one. Because they aren't fair, they aren't right, and they shouldn't be.