September 30, 2010

A Hard Day

(photo courtesy of Stuart Seeger, via Flickr)

Yesterday our son came home with terrible news.

A dear friend and fellow third grader had explained that his parents had said the boys couldn't be friends anymore.

Both boys are confused and sad. We don't know what precipitated this declaration, but based on our son's story and some other prior interactions, we suspect that homophobia may be at the root of it.

As a lesbian parent, I'd been warned that this day was coming. But nothing really prepares you for trying to explain the inexplicable to your wounded child.

I'll be reaching out to my Muslim and African-American friends today for their advice and support. There are too many of us who live in fear of the day our children will come home with a broken heart.

And we'll be talking with our boy about civil disobedience again... for as much as we want him to respect the adults in his life, we also want him to understand that he is ultimately in charge of who his friends are.

Mostly, though, we're going to listen with love and empathy as he tries to process this.

If you know our son and you're reading this, please don't mention it to him unless he brings it up. We think there's a chance that the boys will "forget" the nonsensical edict and continue to enjoy each other's company at school, at least.

This is the kind of private situation I would typically refrain from blogging about. But in honor of the memory of Tyler Clementi, who should have been celebrating his first month as a college freshman today, I am speaking out.

Homophobia and other forms of prejudice are fueled by fear of the unknown. As much as I believe, as a Quaker, in the power of centered and prayerful silence, I also believe that we have a responsibility to speak our truths as we are able.

So this is my truth: we all deserve to feel safe, respected, and loved.

Please join me in taking a stand against racism, homophobia, sexism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and other forms of soul-chilling discrimination in your schools and communities. Talk with the people in your life about the challenges you've faced and the steps you've taken to overcome them. And hold a good thought for my son and his friend.

(See the good news update here!)


JAXTER said...

I will be keeping this close in my thoughts today, sending energy out and hoping that you, T&D will find your way through such a horrible situation, ohhhhh, I am so sorry for D.

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing this - jody

MemeGRL said...

Oh, no. I am so, so sorry. My heart breaks for the little guy. Both of them, really. Thanks for sharing this, as a reminder that even in crunchy towns like ours, these things happen.

Robin said...

I'm so sorry, Shelly - what a terrible thing to happen to you and your family.

Wanted to say that you were the first person to show me a positive representation of gay people and to make me rethink my casual not-very-pro-gay thinking (not actively homophobic, but having absorbed some mild prejudiced views from school). You gave a talk at college my first week there that made me think "Of course! why think being gay is a bad thing? that's stupid! Of course people should be free to love who they want to love."

Basically, you changed the course of my life in how I think about gay people and therefore how I treat them and argue for their equality, etc. I'm sure you changed many other people's views as well. It doesn't help your situation now, but I hope it might be a bit of a balm for you.

Deborah Blicher said...

Oy! I'm so sorry. I have been holding you in my thoughts all day.

I guess this is a primo teachable moment, eh? If not for the other parents, then for your son. As an adoptive parent, I think often about the wounds my kids have received and will receive because their life narrative isn't "normal." Perhaps the best we can do is (meager) preparation and then, as you say, listen with empathy and love. It's so hard to watch kids learn that the world isn't as benign as they had thought.

Stacy said...

In the end, it's the kids who lose out when the grown ups are silly to the point of stupidity.

And my money is on D and the other boy to rise above the ignorance. The arc of history may be long. But it is just. It is.

Thinking of y'all.

Anonymous said...

This is somewhat unrelated, but check out Dan Savage's YouTube project, username: itgetsbetterproject.

The idea is that gays and lesbians speak out about their difficulties growing up and share the good things that have happened to them since.

No, it's not great advice for your particular situation, but I think it might cheer you up a bit. There are so many great gay rolemodels that submit videos, and it's a nice reminder that while some people may be difficult, you can surround yourself with support and tune all that out.

Anonymous said...

I am sad to read about this... I have to say I am shocked and saddened. I look to the depth of your love of life, and the example you set for your son and for everyone, every day - to give myself strength. What can we do to make this easier for you all?

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Chelle said...

Holding you all in the light. It's so hard to think of anyone thinking that you or D aren't worthy role models, let alone friends.

Shelley said...

Dear friends, thank you so much for your support and love. Today was a better day, in large measure because we had so many reminders of the ways in which our family IS honored and respected in our community.

Also, the inclement weather meant no outdoor playground time, so the boys didn't see each other... time to just "be" and maybe process and heal a bit.

Thanks to the commenter above who led me to it, I'm glad to share with folks the link to the "It Gets Better" project; can we all make sure the possibly questioning tween and teenagers in our lives know it's out there?

George Swain said...

All the best to you. Kids are amazingly resilient, but I'm so sorry for the anguish this must cause your family. The depth of stupidity in this world seems boundless some days. Know that there are millions of people behind you every step of the way.

Shark Butt said...

I am sorry for D's pain. I know ya'll will find your way through in strength and love

Dorit said...

Dear Shelley, Things have got to change in our world. I'm so sorry for D's pain as well as your own. You guys are in my heart and mind.As I travel throughout the world I find people are the same in different ways. We want Peace.Love you Tante Dorit

'n said...

Just reading this now. Sorry for D, and for you. Tonight I am organizing my first demonstration, a rather big deal at a town board meeting. I have been working very hard to bring people out to stand up for what is safe, responsible, fair, and honest, in this town. Your story and comments only make me focus more keenly in these last hours of organization. Thanks for sharing your life and challenges. Sharing these things helps you and everybody else at the same time.

kerrdelune said...

I am so sorry... Keeping all of you in my thoughts

Anonymous said...

I am so incredibly sad.

Aunt Tracy