Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Brown Eyed Rules & Other Homophobias

“Oh, hey, did you know the owner of the Montessori school we send Glenn to, hates gay people?”

My wife was confused and wondered why I was bringing it up right before bed.

Granted, it was kind of a strange time to bring it up, but it had been bothering me for a couple of days.   I was ‘friends’ with the teacher/owner on her Facebook page, and as each new story arose out of Arizona and Florida, I became more and more uncomfortable with her beliefs. 

Once I was able to verbalize my uncomfortable emotional state, I fell right asleep.  My wife only contributed her attention.  Just saying it out loud made me more certain how I felt about it.

Then, as if to demonstrate my psychic powers, the following Friday the boy was sent home from school with a letter.  It laid out a situation of a same sex couple being turned away.  Well, first they were accepted, and then they were turned away for their “lifestyle.”  I imagine the owner sitting in her office stewing over their smug gay faces, and deciding that it was her turn to take a stand for…well I don’t know who or what she thought she was taking a stand for. 

I had only briefly had some time to digest the letter, and barely time to bring the wife into the loop, before the lead teacher called.  She asked if I had any questions and I assured her that I did, but I wanted to talk to my wife before I vocalized my questions.  She seemed confused, even going so far as to say she had gay friends.  In my head I wondered if I should ask her for their numbers.

In the end I cut her off, “I understand they are your personal beliefs, I’m just not sure I want to financially support them.”

It wasn't any easy decision.  The boy really loved going there, and we had seen so much growth.  However, as conflicted as I was, I knew, even at that early stage, where this would end.  As my wife said, and then repeated to herself many times in an effort to make herself feel better about taking Glenn out of an environment he had blossomed and excelled in- ‘It is not enough to TALK about tolerance to your kids, we needed to TEACH this.’

You see, I have always struggled with my thoughts on same sex marriage, even though I think of myself as a tolerant person. (Who doesn't though?  No one thinks they are a bigot)  When possible I would avoid the topic, and try to keep my beliefs in the closet.  I’m the type of person that loves to talk politics.  So, as you can imagine, keeping my thoughts to myself, was like hiding a part of who I was.

See what I did there?

Honestly, it has just never been my fight.  I've met a lot of good and bad people in my life.  The only time I have endeavored to discover what their sexual preferences were, was when I was trying to get a girl to take her pants off.   My zeal to discover her interest would only be matched by my zeal to convince her to take MY pants off.

But this was real life discrimination, taking place not only in front of me, but also in front of my son.
I crowd sourced the situation to my Facebook Dads group, and they helped me work through it. I wasn’t willing to ignore it.  If I couldn't ignore it, then I either had to explain to my son why her actions were ok, or explain to him why he was moving schools.  We always tell our kids to use their words, but without action behind them, those words become hallow.  Now thanks to this jackass, I had to teach my son about discrimination. 

As soon as I was done being angry, I was embarrassed. 

Here I was working through my anger with a group of dads.  Many of which were in happy same sex marriages with children, and one of which is getting married this week as I write. 

I was mad because I had to explain to my five year old about discrimination.  It was ridiculous self-made white man feelings about discrimination.  I should have been happy he made it THAT long.

I would venture to guess that in most minority families discrimination is a conversation that happens early and often.  How about the family that was turned away? You think that two year old little boy doesn't notice the looks his moms get when they go shopping?  By the time that boy is my son’s age, he will have seen more discrimination first hand, than either my sons or I will experience in our lifetimes. 

It is well past time for a shift in the conversation.  In order for a shift to take place we need to understand that we don’t know what we are talking about.  We know what discrimination is, but having never truly experienced it, we cannot comprehend the implications of it. Discrimination for white middle and upper class people is like a Wisconsin winter to my Texas family.  We should be upfront about this, and open to learning.  We should defer to people who live with discrimination as part of their daily lives.  We should also be given a break, when we don’t understand how the words we use are offensive.

Hell, you could say that Glenn’s brief brush with discrimination was a net positive.  Most of his friends moved over to his new school.  I would say about 70% of the parents pulled their kids.  I know…Texas, who knew?  Most of the teachers and support staff got hired on at the new school, as well.  They also provide food for breakfast and lunch.  Even better, they only charge me an extra $60 for this godlike feat. 

Isn't homophobia grand!

I think he got it, but I really have no idea.  I tried to use eye color to explain it.  We both have brown eyes, while his mom and brother have blue.  As we were playing I started enforcing ‘brown eyed rules.’  He thought it was fun.  His brother did not.  Eventually he got the point that the brown eye rules weren't fair and didn't even make sense.  Then I was able to have a larger conversation.  I tried to teach him, through example, that although we are different, we are the same too. 

Later when a same sex couple came over to visit with my wife and have the kids play.  He was shocked when he found out the little boy with them had, get this, a spider man T shirt.  He loves Spiderman TOO! Glenn couldn't care less that his friend has two mommies. 

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