When your 8-year-old openly identifies as gay, people ask questions. I get it. Most people don't associate being gay with children. There's one type of question I get a lot. It always comes from straight people. Sometimes they are being sarcastic and snide, and sometimes they're just concerned, even worried. It goes something like this: "What if your son isn't really gay? What if he comes home one day and tells you he likes girls?"
My answer: "So what?"
Then they usually follow it up with something like this: "Would you be OK with that? Would you be able to cope? Aren't you going to be embarrassed at all the fuss you've made? Or regret it?"
It's something that always makes me shake my head. It's almost as if people think that I'm emotionally invested in my son being gay. I love my son, and it shouldn't be more complicated than that. It really shouldn't. But for some people it is.
Because my son openly identifies as gay (he sees no shame in it, nor should he) in the society we live in, my husband and I see it as our job to take certain extra steps. We've talked to his school, close friends and family, etc. All these conversations take place away from him. We don't want him to feel like we're drawing any extra attention to the fact that he's gay, but we want people to know where we stand: We firmly believe that there is nothing wrong with our kid. And it does come up. Our philosophy has been to clear his path while trying not to get in his way.
If our son realizes at a later date that he isn't gay, I won't be embarrassed or regret any of these actions. I will never tell him to "not be gay" or imply to him that being gay is something negative or bad that he should keep secret. No matter who he is, we want him to know that we love him. And whom he loves and is attracted to doesn't change a thing. If anything, we are setting an example to all our kids that our love really is unconditional.
But that doesn't mean that sometimes I don't wonder. I admit that all the questions can get to me. And another question people often ask ask is whether we are somehow pushing this on him or "encouraging" him somehow. Now, logically, I know that that isn't true and doesn't make much sense, but emotionally... well, all the comments from the peanut gallery sometimes take their toll.
For a couple of months well after he'd told us that he's gay, the subject never came up. He didn't talk about being gay or his TV "boyfriend." My curiosity got the better of me, and I did something that would royally piss me off if anyone else did it: I asked.
We were alone in the car together (I find this a great time for conversations with my kids). "Hey, babe," I said. "Do you remember telling us you're gay?"
He looked at me as if I had grown an extra head. "Yeah?" he answered in that tone that clearly communicates that I'm the stupidest mom alive.
"Do you still feel that way? It is great if you do, and it's great if don't." I didn't want to sway him one way or the other.
"Mom," he said as if he was explaining something complicated to his baby brother, "it doesn't change."
Firmly and completely put in my place by my 8-year-old, I shut my mouth, put on some music he liked and went about our day. Since then, I've been content to let him lead the way. Soon after that the election season heated up, which led to some hard conversations about our country's harsh realities when it comes to equal rights for LGBT Americans. He related every one of the those conversations back to himself as a gay person.
And as if that weren't enough, a few weeks ago I was driving our two older boys home from school (cars are magic, I tell you!), and my middle son told me all about how he and a little girl in his kindergarten class had decided to get married. This decision was based completely on the fact that their names were only one letter apart. Even so, they were both very happy about it and had even already decided to have three children after they grew up.
At this point we stopped at a light, and I turned to look into the backseat area and saw my older son staring, horrified, at his little brother.
"Married to a girl?!" he said as if he had never heard of anything so gross.
"Now, honey," I said, trying not to laugh, "your brother is allowed to like girls. We all like who we like. Boys or girls, it's all OK."
My middle son beamed at me as his older brother shook his head.
So, yeah, things can be a little different because my elementary-school kid identifies as gay. I have conversations that I had never dreamed of having, and I've said things that I never expected to say. But do I regret it? No. Not for a second.