It happened shortly after dinner last night. The boys were watching an animated series about a group of misfit teenage superheroes, most of the PG-13 humor going straight over their heads. The scene featured a boy and a girl sharing a plate of spaghetti, a riff on that classic moment in Lady & the Tramp. At the point where the would-be sweethearts are set to kiss, a second boy popped into the scene locking lips with the first boy.
“Excuse me,” I said to my nine year-old son in my best oh-hell-no-you-did-not inside voice. Time stopped.
I considered the moment. It was a cheap joke. Two boys kissing. We’ve all seen it employed before – on television, in the movies, even in the hallowed gay halls of musical theater. (Boy + Boy) x Kissing = Funny. The lazy math of straight comedy writers. The joke being on us.
I asked my son – who on numerous occasions has witnessed his two fathers share a loving lip-lock – why it was gross, these two boys kissing. He searched for an answer, but could find none. Silence. This was a teachable moment. I could wait.
Eventually he confessed that the other kids at school had told him that two boys kissing was – in the schoolyard vernacular of adolescence – gay. Like fat and retarded, gay is the all-purpose go-to insult of children everywhere.
You’re not okay. You’re different.
I gently reminded him that he had two fathers who were gay and that there was nothing wrong with being gay. It was no different than being born white or black; it’s just what you are. He apologized for hurting my feelings. Of course this was much bigger than my feelings.
There are people in this world who think we should not be married, who think we should not have children, who think the children we have should be taken away from us. For those people the word gay is a weapon. A word that once meant happy, now made dirty, passed on to their children to fight the fight in schoolyards everywhere.
Ew. Gross. When you say it, you make those people credible. You give them power. You let them win.
We talked, well past his bedtime, because there was much to talk about. You need to stand up for yourself. You need to stand up for your family. Be proud. Always.
My son clings to me, announcing to everyone that I am his dad. On a recent trip to the beach he proudly told all the kids that he had two dads. Two gay dads. The issue was never that we were gay. The issue was never two men kissing. Ew. Gross. was learned on a playground. A cheap joke passed down from parent to child turned into a weapon and used to make a little boy feel not okay. Different.