A couple of weeks ago, my boyfriend and I were talking about Girls Scouts and how they donate to LGBT rights organizations. My daughter over-heard and asked what we were talking about, so I explained. For the first time, I gave her the terms. She’s known the meaning behind the terms for a while now, but she’s never had the vocabulary . . . the labels. But since she overheard me use the acronym, I thought it was appropriate to explain what those letters meant.
She, once again, expressed her belief that two people who love each other should be allowed to get married . . . even two boys or two girls. That’s pretty much as far as the issue went with her. She doesn’t know about anti-gay bullying and the discrimination that exists on a daily basis. I’m not ready for her to fully know that world, but I did explain that there was a lot more to it than just being able to marry someone of the same gender. I specifically mentioned how some people can actually lose their jobs. I wish I could have taken a picture of the look on her face . . . a look that just screamed, “THAT is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.”
And you know what? It probably is the stupidest thing she’s ever heard.
I don’t believe in using children to make political statements. Children will believe as they are raised to believe. My daughter believes in equality because I’ve raised her with the values of equality. Some of her thoughts are her own . . . some are just mirrors of my own. I do believe in open and honest communication with children . . . and I believe that when left to truly share their own thoughts, they have so much to teach us.
My daughter does not fully understand a world where someone would discriminate against another person for any reason. So for her to hear these things, it sounds stupid . . . because it is stupid.
A few days ago, we received rainbow bracelets in the mail. They were made by Pete Shea, dad to one of the founders of The Gay Dad Project. I knew my daughter would love the pretty-colored and sparkly bracelet without any explanation, but I didn’t want to give it to her without her understanding the meaning behind it.
I explained to my daughter that some people take a long time to tell others that they are gay, that some are afraid of discrimination or that family and friends won’t understand and will turn them away. I explained that some people try to pretend that they’re straight just so they can fit in and even sometimes get married to someone of the opposite sex and have kids. I told her that that’s exactly what happened with the dads of a few of my friends. I told her how it was difficult for them when their dads finally came out later on.
We talked about how divorce can be hard no matter what and she nodded. She added, “Well, sometimes it can be fun because you get a whole birthday month!” (referring to the multiple celebrations between both families) I smiled and said, “Yes, that’s true.” We talked about how having two families is pretty normal for her considering her dad and I split when she was only 2 ½ and that sometimes it can be more difficult when a child is older because that child is used to both parents being together. I added that it can be even more difficult to find out that one of your parents has been hiding something out of fear.
Then I told her that my friends started this project to help families like theirs and that one of their dads made these bracelets for us. My boyfriend asked her why she thinks a rainbow is used and she thought for a little while before saying, “The colors are all different and beautiful.” We talked about how people are just like the colors of the rainbow . . . all different and beautiful on their own, but something truly special when they all work together.
I put the bracelet on her wrist and the conversation was over.
I led this conversation much more than I usually do. There’s not usually a purpose to our conversations . . . I just like to hear what she’s thinking. This required more explanation on the part of my boyfriend and me, but we stopped often to ask her if she understood and to demonstrate that understanding in her own words.
She’s growing up and continuously learning more and more about the world around her. I’m not always comfortable with that. I want to protect her from harsh realities. I want her world to always be filled with understanding, acceptance, kindness, and love. But she shows me time and time again that she’s capable of taking in this new information without losing her innocence. With all those harsh realities come some truly amazing people and organizations who stand up for what is right, who speak out against discrimination and hate, who make an effort to have a positive influence on the world. The more my daughter learns that people can make a difference, the more she’ll understand that she can make a difference as well.