photo © 2008 Kevin Wong | more info (via: Wylio)
Yesterday Destruction had a sleep over, and so I decided to take the boys to the local pool to swim the afternoon away. On the way home, as the two boys were playing the dozens, his best friend called him gay. Destruction looked at him laughed and said, "you think that's an insult?" When his best friend protested that it was indeed an insult he told him, "if you think calling someone gay is an insult, then you are jackass. Gay people are just like us and there is nothing wrong with being gay. That's what my mom said and she knows alot. Tell him mom. Tell him it's not an insult."
Of course I confirmed everything that Destruction said to his friend. Even as I was doing so, I knew that I was doing an absolute good, but I also wondered what his mother would think when she learned what I had to say. It's one thing to stop a child from being hurt, and another to try and teach them your morals. All in all, his best friend is a really good kid. He is polite and sweet, but I think that as part of embracing his burgeoning masculinity, he has come to believe that being a man or being masculine means attacking gay men and expressing strict heterosexuality.
The common phrase is that it takes a village to raise a child; however, in more practical terms, most parents don't want the kind of intervention that I did yesterday. The vision of masculinity that I see for my sons is one that is not threatened by sexuality or gender. It includes tolerance of people that are different from himself, and the courage to be who he wants to be no matter the cost. It is much easier to teach your child to conform and oppress those that are already marginalized.
As my boys age, they will interact with more people, and bring more people into our home, and I will have to confront the issues of ableism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia etc., with children that are not my own. More than anything, I need my home to a safe space and though these visitors are friends of my children, I will be forced to educate these children, and alternatively ask them to leave if they violate our family morals.
When I first started having conversations with my children about social justice and equality, it was very murky water. I wasn't sure how much they would understand, and I had to deal with the naysayers who claimed that I was ruining their childhood. Now my worry has shifted to those that they interact with. Peer pressure is a difficult thing to negotiate and coupled with the approval of other adults, I worry that my children will find it far too convenient to let go of the lessons that their father and I have taught them out of our presence. I worry that their friends won't feel comfortable in our home with restrictions on language that we have placed, and lastly I worry that their friends parents will forbid interactions because of conversations like I had yesterday.
I thought about this repeatedly, and I don't see what else I could have done. I know that it was a positive in terms of teaching this child about privilege, and that all people are equal, but at the same time, I know that there could be problems in terms of my child's friendship. It is one thing for me as an adult to decide to limit my social interactions based in my moral objections to someone's speech or behaviour, but another entirely for a child. At some point, my kids need to learn that to truly have the courage of their convictions, that there is a price to be paid, but at what age is this hard lesson to be taught? Thus far, each time my son has spoken to his friends about our family morals, nothing has happened, but I don't believe that our luck can hold out forever.