KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Straight Gay Pride

My husband and I will be taking our sons with us this weekend when we help staff a booth at the Long Island Pride Parade. We'll be at the New Century Singers booth, wearing our NCS and "Another Presbyterian for GLBT Rights" T-shirts. We're huge NCS fans, and one day when our sons are bigger and need less of our time, I'll audition to join the NCS.

But we're going so that we can do more than support the NCS. We want our sons to see that we live our beliefs. We want the world to know that straight people of all ages are in favor of gay rights—in favor of human rights for everyone.

Our oldest, Neil, who's 10, understands this. In fact, he got into a fight with some boys in our neighborhood because they were putting down his gay uncle, my brother Wally. Now, we teach our children that physical violence is wrong. But Neil couldn't stand what was going on. The neighborhood boys,* Tom, and his brother, Bill, have seen our gay rights bumper stickers and have seen Neil wearing his "Another Presbyterian for GLBT rights" T-shirt.

One afternoon, Tom, Bill, Neil, and another boy were all riding their bikes together and playing. Tom and Bill started arguing with Neil, telling them basically that they hate gay people and gay people are bad. Neil argued but didn't make a move until Bill started saying bad things about Wally. (Neil had told them, when the issue came up on another day, that his uncle Wally is gay.) That was the last straw for Neil, so he rammed his bike into Bill's. Bill got off his bike and punched Neil in the stomach, and Neil punched him back. Now, Neil never hits anybody, no matter how angry he gets—because we're always talking peacemaking in this house—but he was extremely angry that Tom and Bill were putting Wally down.

Just then, my husband Ed came home and saw what was going on. Tom had already left, and Bill disappeared quickly when he saw Ed. Ed talked to the rest of the boys about discrimination. Then he said that each person is entitled to his or her own opinion and that no one should tease another person about his or her beliefs or physically fight over them.

Then Neil and Ed came into the house and talked the situation over with me. I said that I thought Neil should go to Tom and Bill's house, with Ed, and apologize for starting the physical fight, but that I didn't mean he should apologize at all for his stance on gay rights. We told Neil that we understood his anger very well, but that hitting people isn't the way to convince people of his viewpoint.

Neil did this, and Ed told the parents what led up to the fight, saying that both Neil and Bill did things they shouldn't have. It turned out that neither Tom nor Bill had told their parents about the fight. The parents had Bill apologize for baiting Neil. Ed said that the parents looked very puzzled and said, "Do they even know what 'gay rights' means?" But yes, the boys do know about sex between gay men, which they've heard about from other children at school; they were telling Neil just how "awful" it is.

Ed and I imagined that the dinnertime conversation in that household was extremely interesting.

But we envision a time when being gay is no big deal, when all parents teach their children that gay is just another version of normal, when gay people legally marry and no one raises an eyebrow. And one way to make that time arrive sooner is for straight people to join in the fight for gay rights. We're all humans, gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender or straight or somewhere else on the spectrum. And that makes us each worthy of respect and honor.
*The neighborhood boys' names have been changed here to protect their privacy.


Lila said...

Hey, right on! Thanks for your progressive Christianity and pro-GLBT rights stance!

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

:-)) You're welcome, APPP. Jesus was a radical liberal. It's just that a lot of people remade him in their hate-mongering, discriminating image.

erinberry said...

Our UU Congregation is sponsoring a gay pride picnic this weekend - I agree that it's important for straight people to join in the cause!

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

And you're in Tennessee, Erinberry! I have to admit to a prejudice: After having grown up in an extremely conservative area of Texas (which I was glad to escape as an adult), I tend to think of Southern states' inhabitants as more prejudiced than other states' inhabitants. But would my New York Presby church hold a gay pride picnic? I wish! Can you send some of your UUers up to my church?

erinberry said...

Katharine: In my experience, you're corrrect - There are more prejudiced people here in TN than there are in other states. I've heard things here that I never heard in my 24 years in Florida, even though that is also a red state. At times it has been very hard living in the Deep South (I moved here four years ago).

erinberry said...

oops, 22 years (lived in NJ for the first two years of my life!)

Peter K Fallon, Ph.D. said...

How refreshing to hear Christians actually living authentic Christian values. Blessings on you all!

Handy Fuse said...

First a word of praise and thanks for handling the situation so sanely.

But you brought out another point that I wish the adult world could learn-- that children talk about sexual matters a lot, frequently misunderstanding what they they're discussing of course, but interested and aware nonetheless.

The idea of the "innocence" of children has been coopted by the Christian Right to mean something that it doesn't mean in order to generate support for their agenda of social control.

Thanks again for your thoughtfulness

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Thank you for your kind words, Handy Fuse.

Yup, I think it's very ignorant of parents to think that their children aren't curious about bodies and sex.

That's why with all three of my children, I've always talked openly about all body parts and their functions and used the proper names for them--no cutesy words here. And I haven't waited until they've asked where they "came from" to talk to them about sex. I've always talked about the physical and emotional aspects of sex and about society's attitudes toward it.

It's hard to make something hurtful or taboo out of sex if it's always discussed openly and calmly and without shame.

And I've always told my children that I don't care who they choose as a life partner--opposite sex, same sex, black, white, or green--as long as the person is good to them and they're good to that person.

I want them to see sex as a normal part of a healthy life, and that sex isn't the same thing as love. I want them to know that who you love isn't what matters--it's how you love: with honesty and kindness and your full heart.

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