Friday, October 8, 2010

The Twink In My House

It is almost midnight and I cannot sleep, because I know that I have screwed up once again.  Being a parent is not easy and reigning in my personal privilege has once again proven to be a difficult thing.  Destruction has been very actively considering Halloween costumes.  Last year he went as Indiana Jones, and while it was not my first choice, considering how bodies of colour are "othered" in the Indiana Jones series, I could see why it would be an appealing choice for a young boy.  This morning he approached me when I was having my morning green tea full of excitement.  After weeks of deliberation, he had finally come to a decision.  My boy looked at me with a huge grin on his face and announced that he wanted to be a twink for Halloween.  I immediately choked on my tea.

"I think I would make a great twink," he said.  "When can we go shopping for a costume", he asked.What I didn't know at the time, is that he thought that twink meant soldier in the army.  We have been doing a lot of talking about D.A.D.T. as well as his grandfather and great grandfather who both served in the Canadian military. I must admit  that I took a ride on the heterosexist train to oblivion.  I told him not to call himself that and that it was not appropriate.  It was not helped by the fact that my neighbor, who I have written about before pipped up adding, "You don't want to be that.  If you were a twink you would be a man who thought he was a woman.  You would be like a dude with boobs."  There was my opportunity to open my mouth and challenge not only homophobia but transphobia and sexism and I dropped the ball huge.  Once it was clear that he wanted to be a solider, I told him that we would check out an army surplus store and not to call himself a twink.  I didn't elaborate on why I didn't want him to take on this label.


All day my silence has plagued me.  At the dinner table I tried to start a conversation about what I did wrong twice and yet the words would not pass my lips.  Finally, sitting on the porch with the unhusband, I confessed that I messed up and that together we needed to talk to Destruction tomorrow about how my silence enabled transphobia and homophobia.   I have tried really hard to teach my son about acceptance and respect for all people and yet I know that my silence sent the message that I have limits, which is not the case.  I failed this test.  I have had many LGBT friends in my life, but when it came to my son, my mind went on auto pilot.  I don't think that I was actively thinking don't be gay, but I do think I was thinking just be like everyone else -- and that is most certainly a problem.

One of the biggest lessons that I will walk away with from the year 2010 with is that when it comes to the LGBT community, I have a lot to learn and that I am up to my eyeballs in unacknowledged privilege. I have come to understand that my best intentions don't mean much, when I seem to keep making mistake after mistake. You don't have to consciously teach children homophobia in the home, for them to learn to internalize it.  This as we have seen, far too often leads to extremely tragic results.

Tonight when Destruction returns from school, we will sit at the table as a family and have yet another conversation in which I reassure him that no matter what his sexuality eventually is, his father and I love and accept him.  I also hope that by admitting my mistake to him, he will learn that even those of that are committed to change mess up because we all have privilege.  I don't hide my mistakes from children because I think it serves as a wonderful example that we all carry with us a knapsack that is overloaded with negative messages.  I will chalk this up to parenting mistake number 1001 and hope that the next time I am called to rise to the challenge, that I will not fail so miserably.