It has been a long week of correcting Term 2 final essays. I'm spending many hours pouring over words and deciphering what was meant and what was actually said. Words are my life.
At the end of my day, I sat next to my third-grader son on the school bus. I tend to be a little quiet at 3:30. The rest of the bus, as you can imagine, is not. There are the kids, the bus matron, and the radio all competing for the highest decibels.
"Mom," said the little voice next to me. "What's 'gay'?"
My eight-year-old son wants to know what 'gay' is.
That's not something I saw coming. It's been a long day and he's a little young and---
yet, I can't mess it up because it means the difference between clarity and confusion.
I'm honest with my kids and always have been. I learned this from my biologist father who always told scientific facts as they were.
"Where did you hear that word?"
"I just did. I don't know where."
Deep breath as the bus starts up and I begin. "Gay is when a woman doesn't want to be together with a man as a partner; she wants to be together with another woman. That's not me. I wanted to be with a man for my partner so I chose Baba. Baba chose to be with a woman for his partner (me) and not another man. Neither one of us is gay.
That doesn't mean that someone who is gay is bad. Sometimes people use the word, 'gay' like it means, 'stupid.' I don't want to think like that. Just because someone is different from me doesn't mean I have to call them names."
My phone was in my hand, and I realized that I had a photo on it that I had loaded, in order to show it to my eighth graders. It was a picture of my best friend in the Virgin Islands. I had used her photo in talking about memoirs but also as a segue to our current book about the Civil War (and issues of racism). Now, I would use it once again.
"Did you ever see this picture? This is my friend from the islands. She decided that she didn't want a man. She is gay. She was really nice to me that year so I can't be mad at her for being gay. That would be dumb of me. She is who she is.
I have another friend, Ben, and he's gay too. He has been very nice to me for so many years. Should I hate him because he's gay? I really can't."
El-Kid has been taking it in and then says, "I don't want to get married. It's too much work."
I laugh, "Yes, it is a lot of work but it's nice too. Baba and I are so different. We're like salt and pepper. I know it would be easier if we were the same but I like how he's got things that I don't have and I have things that he doesn't have. It's kind of like having a right arm and a left arm; we work well together. Wouldn't it be hard to have two right arms? You'd look weird!"
"Allah made men and women perfectly for getting along together. Allah made us differently so we can marry and have families."
"I don't want to marry a woman or a man. I want to marry the TV."
Ya, he loves the TV.
"They don't have a word for that. Besides, you're only eight. It's not like I'm going to marry you off at 10 or something. You've got time."
Yes, he has time but I didn't. I was really on the spot today about a tough subject for grown-ups, let alone for kids. I hope to God that it was what needed to be said.
May God bless all of those struggling as Muslims parents.
May God also bless all those gays and lesbians who have shown kindness to me over the years.
Lastly, may the two groups not see each other as enemies.